By Jen Mulvihill
“I don’t know how to play a musical instrument, recognize classical music composers, or have a beautiful singing voice, so there’s no way I could teach music to my children!”
As a long-time music teacher and home educator, I have heard this sentiment from countless parents. We all recognize the importance of musical instruction for brain development and making connections between multiple areas of study. But if you are not musically inclined, teaching music can feel intimidating due to abstract concepts and the wide variety of content within musical genres. If you feel unqualified or overwhelmed in this area, be encouraged that even the most non-musical person can incorporate meaningful, insightful, and God-honoring musical instruction into their home.
As Christians, we must approach everything from a biblical worldview. In our homeschool, we use the Bible as the foundation from which we teach. For example, in math and science, we begin each year by reading Genesis and reminding our children of God’s perfect creation. His orderliness, attention to detail, and the evidence we see around us affirm that the Bible confirms math and science. Our homeschool education is rooted and grounded in this book, and our study of music should not be an exception.
Music was important enough to be included in the Bible, so it should be important to us. Consider the following ideas to incorporate more music into your day.
Use the Bible as Your Primary Resource to Teach Children the Value of Music
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with music. I can easily imagine the beautiful music that could be heard in the Garden of Eden, from birds singing in harmony with creation. As early as Genesis 4, we read of the first musician and musical instruments, “His name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and the flute.” God intentionally gave men the ability to know about and enjoy musical instruments from the earliest days.
Use the Bible as a model of how and what to sing. Singing out loud in worship was a common practice in the Bible. In Matthew 26:30, we read that Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn together after the Last Supper. Paul and Silas sang in prison, and David sang to the Lord when he was delivered from the hands of his enemies.
While the Bible is not a songbook, it contains over 180 songs. One hundred fifty of these are written in the book of Psalms. There are songs of victory, lament, praise, deliverance, battle, thanksgiving, and even love songs. You may be excited to find that many of these songs have been written as contemporary praise and worship songs. See if you can match songs from the Bible with songs your family already knows.
Use Music as a Tool to Memorize Scripture
“What is sung by song will be remembered long!” This is a phrase I tell our children regularly, and it is true. We all have experienced hearing a song on the radio or a tune in a store and recalling the lyrics later. The same is true of old commercials heard over and over during our childhoods. Musical memorization is powerful.
God knew of music’s unique power to help us learn and memorize. God used music to teach many generations of the Israelite people: “‘Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.’ So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel” (Deut. 31:19-22).
What Scripture passages or Bible truths would you like your children to memorize? Whether it is the Ten Commandments, the genealogy of Christ, or the Westminster Catechism, excellent resources are available to use music for instruction and memorization. I highly recommend Roots Kids Worship, a ministry that has set core Scripture passages such as the Days of Creation, the Romans Road to Salvation, Psalm 23, and The Lord’s Prayer to music. Seeds Family Worship has an excellent collection of albums available to teach Scripture, including what I consider the best song for memorizing the books of the New Testament.
Use Literature, Not Textbooks, to Teach Music
I will never forget the winter we read through Eleanor Estes’ beloved classic The Moffats books. Our read-alouds were a delight as we belly-laughed when the children in the story learned to dance the Sailor’s Hornpipe and when their ill-prepared organ recital went awry. These were memorable moments in literature and served as a springboard to learn about music. We watched videos of the fancy footwork involved in the dance. We laughed until we cried while reenacting the story and dancing for Dad that evening and many evenings to come.
Music is everywhere in literature, and reading the best books will make music come alive for your family. From Little House on the Prairie to The Lord of the Rings, look for the music, and you will find it! Some of our family’s favorite literature with musical themes include Fiddlestrings by Marguerite de Angeli, I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge, The Story Orchestra books by Katy Flint, and biographies by Opal Wheeler. Give one a try and enjoy the musical curiosity and conversations that follow.
Give Your Child the Opportunity to Learn a Musical Instrument or Sing in a Choir
The Bible tells us in Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” Taking piano lessons, learning an instrument in a band, or singing in the church choir gives children the opportunity to do this. In fact, in Psalm 33, we are instructed to play with skill as an expression of praise.
Quality musical instruction need not be a time-consuming, financially costly endeavor. Many homeschool groups now offer piano lessons for beginners and musical ensembles such as bands and choirs. If you do not have a program in your area, consider starting one or partnering with a local church to offer ministry-minded, biblically based musical instruction to children in your community.
Music has profoundly impacted my life and my relationship with Christ. It is a joy to teach music both professionally and to my children. Like most people, my parents were not musical people. They did not play instruments or have a deep knowledge of classical music. They did, however, give me access to excellent music and great books, faithfully took me to piano lessons and band practices, nurtured my love of Jesus Christ, and encouraged me to use my musical gifts to serve Him.
To God be the Glory for the good things He will do in your home through music.
Jen Mulvihill is a veteran educator and mom to five children. She is married to Josh, and together they are passionate about training children and families to know and love Jesus Christ. Jen has a degree in music education and has taught music for twenty years, most recently launching The Wings Homeschool Bands. Jen is the co-author of two books: Discipling Your Grandchildren and 50 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home.