In my early days of home education, I often wondered if I was really cut out for this. I had quit my teaching job already, and I had purchased my homeschool curriculum. I was committed. Or at least I was supposed to be. But as I stood looking around at my messy home after a sleepless night with a newborn, knowing that my 5 and 6 year old would soon be awake and running full speed ahead, I wondered if I could really do it. As a teacher, I had always had a heart to teach students in a meaningful way. I wanted to come up with impactful lessons and meaningful experiences. Like every new teacher fresh out of college, I always said I wanted to make learning fun. And what more important students could I possibly have than my own children? And yet, as I stood looking at the pile of dishes I never got around to from the night before, holding my newborn infant, and looking at the stack of curriculum I was supposed to crack open that day, I seriously doubted my ability to carry out this dream.
Fast forward a few days, and not much has changed. I was trying to juggle keeping the house clean, an infant fed, and my oldest children educated. I worried that my daughter was falling behind in math, that my son would never read, and that I was completely failing to foster a love of learning in my kids. I’ll admit, I cried more than once during these early days. I knew I didn’t want to live the soccer mom lifestyle. I had tried it briefly, the year that I was teaching and also enrolled my kids each in school and a sport. I felt more like a chauffeur than a mom. Dropping them off at school and picking them back up didn’t feel right for me. I knew that l wanted to be more involved that that- to teach my own. But now I wondered if I would really be capable of being the kind of teacher I wanted to be for my kids.
One day, I had a revelation of sorts. It seems rather simple, but I asked myself, “What do I remember from my own elementary years?” Immediately, a Song popped into my head “George Washington, John Adam, Thomas Jefferson” and on and on. Sure enough, I remembered every president with the exception of the few that took office during my adulthood. That day, I began singing that song with my children, pointing to the president’s faces on a printout as we sang. Soon enough, they caught on and were singing the names on their own. I caught them singing the song randomly while they were playing or during a car ride. They had no idea, really, who they were singing about or why, but they could identify the faces of the presidents and they could sing them in order. They began to recognize the faces on different dollar bills and ask questions about the presidents in the song. One simple song fostered an interest in presidents which, to this day, exists. More recently, my kids began to ask about the upcoming election. They want to know which name will be added to their song. I had no idea when I started to teach them the song that it would foster the interest that it did.
How the Brain Works
I wondered if I could teach them more using songs. I began to research, and lo and behold, I was not the first educator to come up with this idea! In fact there was already an entire school of thought behind this method of teaching. Entire school systems are based on this theory. They are called classical schools. There is a science behind using Music to teach elementary school children. The main idea is that a child’s brain soaks up information differently from an adult’s brain. When a young child memorizes something, it automatically goes into the long term memory. Of course it takes a lot of repetition to get the information into long term memory, but once it’s there, it’s there to stay. The classical school of thought focuses on a child’s ability to memorize in the early years, and capitalizes on the unique ability to memorize during this short window of time. Students are given a lot of memory work. Even thought they don’t always fully comprehend what they are memorizing, the idea is that students will have that information in their long term memory, making it much easier to learn about those facts later on in life.
Many home educators who adhere to the classical school of thought will use a lot of music in their teaching. There is something about music that helps people of all ages to memorize more quickly. Think about the last hit song you learned by heart. There are probably dozens of songs you can sing all the lyrics to. But if you had simply heard someone speak the same lyrics, or looked at them written on a page, it would have taken a lot of time and effort to memorize them. Information put to music goes right into a child’s long term memory, and it usually takes minimal time and effort for a child to memorize a catchy song.
Researchers David Rainey and Janet Larsen published their findings in the University of California Press. Their experiments revealed that when people memorize information in song or verse, it is stored in long term memory and can be recalled more easily than information memorized without music.
I personally choose a hybrid form of homeschooling, where I work in music as much as I can, but also teach my children using real life experiences as well as some more traditional curriculum. We go on field trips. We learn about chemistry as we bake bread. We sing the scientific method song as we prepare our experiment materials. We sing songs about history, and we sing our skip counting songs. We also sit down with worksheets occasionally.
It feels like just yesterday that I stood in my kitchen with tears filling my eyes, wondering if I would ever really succeed as a homeschool mom. A few short years later, the kids and I are happily singing history songs, preparing experiments, and working through math facts. I still wear a baby strapped to me in a carrier, and at times I still feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into caring for children and keeping a home, but I have gained a confidence in homeschooling that carries me through the day, and in a lot of ways that confidence began with utilizing music to make learning fun and effortless for me and the children.
Citation: David W. Rainey and Janet D. Larsen. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 20, No. 2 (Winter 2002), pp 173-186
Giveaway Time for the Holidays
Well, 2020 has been quite a year. It’s definitely been one for the books and one we will likely never forget. We have made it to the holiday season – a time for gratitude, togetherness, and celebration. And to celebrate the holiday season and the year 2020 coming to an end, I’ve teamed up with some of my favorite bloggers for the 7th annual Christmas Blessings Giveaway with the hopes of making this holiday season even more memorable (in a good way) for TWO families by giving away $500 in Paypal cash to each family.
While we wish we could bless many more families, we were able to come up with a big prize for TWO families – $500 each (delivered via Paypal) – that we pray will make a big difference in their lives this Christmas season – whether it’s to fulfill their kids’ Christmas wishes, pay off some bills, or to help build some savings, our prayer is that it helps to lessen any financial burden and/or fills a specific need, or simply brightens your day.
There are lots of entry options in the Rafflecopter form below – the more you enter, the better your chance of winning! I know it can seem tedious and time consuming to go through all the entries, but isn’t a chance at $500 worth it? I think it is! Plus, all of these amazing bloggers donated their own money toward the cash prizes, so this giveaway wouldn’t be possible without them. I hope you’ll take the time to check out each one. Who knows, maybe you will find some new blogs to follow.
The giveaway will run from Monday, November 16th through Wednesday, November 25th (ends at 11:59pm EST). Winner will be notified by email shortly after the giveaway ends and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize or another winner will be drawn. You must have a Paypal account to win. By entering this giveaway, you agree to be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers. Please be sure to read the Rafflecopter terms and conditions upon entering.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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