Making music education a priority at home

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  September 9, 2009 09:09 AM

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Many Massachusetts schools -- as well as schools around the country -- are dealing with budget cuts by axing fine arts programs, including music, leaving parents struggling to bridge the gap on their own.

Some families are able to supplement with private classes, but most of our household budgets are feeling the crunch as well. If your school has done away with music classes for kids, how can you help them learn about music at home when you're as cash-strapped as the schools are?

The benefits of music education are well studied. High school music students score higher on the SAT than their non-musical peers. Carolyn Phillips, former executive director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony in Connecticut, writes that playing an instrument can help the development of areas of the brain devoted to language and reasoning, and reading music can help children understand fractions and proportional math, both of which are necessary when it comes studying technology and science. Playing in a group teaches kids about teamwork, and performing in front of a crowd helps them learn how to evaluate risk and handle anxiety.

Practicing music underscores the ideas that mistakes can be fixed, instant gratification is rare, and perfection usually comes with dedication and hard work -- all ideas that apply to everyday adult life. And just listening to familiar tunes while you work can help boost productivity.

So why deny kids such a valuable educational tool? According to some experts, school districts commit resources to subjects that are on the MCAS test. Since the arts aren't tested, they're often the first courses to get cut, John W. Hooker, an art education teacher at Bridgewater State College, told Wicked Local. But even if programs aren't cut to save money, a February report by the Boston Foundation shows that while 70 percent of the students in Boston's 143 public schools get "some type of arts instruction during the school day," middle- and high-school students are "less likely to receive adequate amounts of arts instruction." The report also points out that while experts recommend twice-weekly, year-long arts education, only 5 percent of elementary-school students and 6 percent of middle-school students in Boston get that kind of instruction.

You don't have to be able to play an instrument yourself in order to help your kids learn about music. Playing games like Rock Band or Wii Music can teach rhythm, improve hand-eye coordination, and foster a love of music from The Beatles to Beethoven and everything in between.

If you had to cut out private lessons, but still want kids to practice at home, you can download sheet music for kids at Children's Music Workshop, or take advantage of their online music theory helper. A free 10-day trial at Lesson Planet gives you access to more than 600 classical music lesson plans for students in kindergarten on up.

Try using your computer to create your own compositions: The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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4 comments so far...
  1. I worry less about everyone getting exposure to music than about the kid who that is there "thing" not having the opportunity. Sometimes kids aren't great at school but are excellent artists or musicians and that is what keeps them interesting in school and builds there self esteem. I live in a not so great school systems, some people would never consider living here but their fine arts are excellent and, knock on wood, have not been cut during these tough times.

    Another less expensive option for lessons is college kids. I just arranged for my daughter to get some guitar lessons from a college student who wants some spending money. There are always lots of reasonably priced instruments on Craigslist and such.

    Posted by Jayne September 10, 09 09:38 AM
  1. Comcast's On Demand cable feature has guitar lessons for free (well, free if you have their cable service). And enchantedlearning.com has basic music-awareness type worksheets for little kids to use, too.

    Posted by MusicMom September 11, 09 10:55 AM
  1. Hi Lylah -- great post. For those who may be looking for the not so easy to find Instrumental Music instruction in the virtual world, visit viaAcademies at www.viaAcademies.com.

    I created the academy to provide a complete, and convenient option. Our curriculum includes written content, quizzes, practice assignments (graded by a live teacher), unit tests and 1:1 live lessons. Materials are accessed via our online Learning Management System, as well as a few local applications necessary for communicating with our teachers.

    We are in the process of rolling out new "packages" this week. So, anyone who visits should drop me an email to discuss other options that may fit their budget and needs.

    Thanks
    Mark Burke
    viaAcademies

    Posted by Mark Burke September 21, 09 09:27 AM
  1. If you are a member of a church, see if the church musician is willing to start a children's singing group. It doesn't even have to be big enough to be a "children's choir". I have seen as few as 4 kids singing in a group. And they don't even need to have great voices.

    Posted by Ideas October 19, 11 07:36 PM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. I worry less about everyone getting exposure to music than about the kid who that is there "thing" not having the opportunity. Sometimes kids aren't great at school but are excellent artists or musicians and that is what keeps them interesting in school and builds there self esteem. I live in a not so great school systems, some people would never consider living here but their fine arts are excellent and, knock on wood, have not been cut during these tough times.

    Another less expensive option for lessons is college kids. I just arranged for my daughter to get some guitar lessons from a college student who wants some spending money. There are always lots of reasonably priced instruments on Craigslist and such.

    Posted by Jayne September 10, 09 09:38 AM
  1. Comcast's On Demand cable feature has guitar lessons for free (well, free if you have their cable service). And enchantedlearning.com has basic music-awareness type worksheets for little kids to use, too.

    Posted by MusicMom September 11, 09 10:55 AM
  1. Hi Lylah -- great post. For those who may be looking for the not so easy to find Instrumental Music instruction in the virtual world, visit viaAcademies at www.viaAcademies.com.

    I created the academy to provide a complete, and convenient option. Our curriculum includes written content, quizzes, practice assignments (graded by a live teacher), unit tests and 1:1 live lessons. Materials are accessed via our online Learning Management System, as well as a few local applications necessary for communicating with our teachers.

    We are in the process of rolling out new "packages" this week. So, anyone who visits should drop me an email to discuss other options that may fit their budget and needs.

    Thanks
    Mark Burke
    viaAcademies

    Posted by Mark Burke September 21, 09 09:27 AM
  1. If you are a member of a church, see if the church musician is willing to start a children's singing group. It doesn't even have to be big enough to be a "children's choir". I have seen as few as 4 kids singing in a group. And they don't even need to have great voices.

    Posted by Ideas October 19, 11 07:36 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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