I often get asked if I am going to do anything musical with my children. I find this question quite difficult to answer, I mean, it would be really hard to avoid doing musical things with children. I am relatively certain that there is not one parent who has got through the first few years of life with a new baby without singing a nursery rhyme, or humming a lullaby, or dancing to music. But the question is actually about whether my children will be signed up for music groups, classes, or instrumental lessons. And I usually answer no. Its not that I don’t want to, I just haven’t worked out what I think is best yet.
Some of my friends with young children are keen to know the answer to this question, as they want to do the same for their children thinking that I will choose wisely. They say ‘if you do do something let me know so I can do the same’. I often wonder if the motivation with these enquiries is completely focussed on the benefits of music for their children, or whether it is about not wanting their child to miss out on anything someone else is doing. Anyhow, I’m going to have a think now about what the question really means, and what my answer should be.
Am I going to do anything musical with my children? Well, to ‘do’ something has to be an active engagement for a start, a means of purposefully engaging in something. I do that all the time with my boys, playing music to sing along with, getting the instruments out and playing along to music with all our instruments, singing and dancing together, or actively listening to music on the radio, and chatting about it. So to that end I am going to do something musical with my children – and always recommend those type of activities to other mums who are wondering what to do.
Am I going to do anything musical with my children with respect to lessons. I do imagine at some point that my boys will have instrumental lessons of some sort. But when to start. I began playing violin around 9 or 10, dear husband began learning guitar at 8. There are many music educationalists that would say we started too late, though I would invite them to explain to me too late for what? The age 7 rings in my ears as what I have been told is the correct age to begin, or that i have been indoctrinated to believe is the correct age. As I sit and ponder I realise that this age must have come about as the age you learn because that is the age lessons started at most schools in my home county when I was learning. So in fact this perceived correct age to begin learning an instrument was based on local authority policy in the 1970s, and will undoubtedly have been financially rather than educationally driven, so that age is irrelevant. I know a number of people who began learning the piano at age 5, and when I was studying myself I used to feel envious of those who had been playing all their lives, and of course the suzuki method can begin as young as 3. But learning an instrument at such a young age is very much driven by the parents, and it relies very much on learning by rote. Learning an instrument teaches self discipline, but at such a tender age it would almost certainly be parent discipline rather than self discipline.
I am fully aware that both of my boys have such a determination, and bid for independence that there would be a risk of putting them off learning an instrument if I am required to sit over them and push them. I firmly believe that they have to catch music first, and from there the desire and discipline will grow and seed itself. So I guess my answer to the question ‘Am I going to do anything musical with my children’ is at the moment is yes, but in a very passive way, with no didactic input until they have caught music, and that burning desire.
So the real question should be how do they catch music. They may catch music through everything that I am actively doing to provide musical experiences for them, but they are just as likely to catch music through everything they are experiencing that is naturally occurring as musical. Indeed it is a hypotheses that they will become more musical if they absorb from the environment around them rather than being taught. I think it will be the blend of a musical environment, enhanced with musical activities that are purposefully added in that will give them the best start in their musical lives and will lead them to feel the desire to play an instrument.
The best way to provide this musical environment in which they can catch music, is simply just to make music fun. We have a wealth of instruments in our music corner, and both boys love playing there and exploring the sounds they can make – both have a particular penchant for the toy piano. And we let them lead and learn and play by themselves. As delighted as we are when they are playing or singing or creating music we sit back and let them continue by themselves and experience the pleasure of music and being musical and wait for them to find, discover and catch.
Posted by: karen