Music for little learners a curriculum for homeschool.
I decided to homeschool my oldest son when his first grade teacher was fired for tying a child to a chair with a scarf. The class slid into academic and emotional decline because of multiple substitute teachers and the lack of a long term sub willing to take this unruly class. At the time I was teaching half day kindergarten in a local public school. I was freaking out! How on earth was I going to homeschool and still keep my job! I couldn’t just quit in the middle of the year.
To my rescue came a mother of eight children who couldn’t wait to add one more child to her teeming household. That was the beginning for me of a wonderful journey into the world of homeschooling. In exchange for homeschooling my son in the mornings my friend asked if I would teach two of her children how to play the piano. I was thrilled! We finished out the year with this sweet arrangement. Summer hit and before I knew it I had fifteen paying piano students, most of them from homeschool homes. My husband and I rejoiced! While my friends and I were together our curriculum’s buzzed along. We were all happy and satisfied.
Then my husband got a call to a pastoral position in another state. Over coffee and a round of Phase 10, while our 15 children played riotously around us, I shared the news. “How will we ever find another piano teacher like you Joleen!” one of my friends sighed. “Yes,” said another, “It’s almost impossible to find someone who will teach in the middle of the day and not charge us an arm and a leg.” My friends were right. It’s heartbreaking for me to know that none of my dear homeschool students ever had another piano teacher.
Almost eleven years later, I believe God has helped me to create the first in a series of music kits specifically designed to help the homeschool parent fill that crucial music niche in their curriculum.
When I hear parents say, “I can’t teach music to my kids, I don’t have any musical background.” I ask, when you decided to teach Latin or Calculus or Biblical history were you an expert? No, you found a curriculum and you learned all you could by reading through it and then you knuckled down and taught those subjects. It’s the same with music, you’ve just been waiting for something that is specifically designed for you.
This first kit is meant to help any age student, but especially young students ages 4-8yrs old, learn the fundamentals of music. This includes recognizing musical symbols and structures, reading the notes of the staff, identifying key names on the piano and learning the patterns of the first six major scales. The lesson book has 35 short lessons and a boatload of games, crafts and hands-on activities to make learning music fun!
I hope you will purchase a kit and experience the joy of making music for yourself and your children. Click any of the picture links below to go our website and store. How about you? What has your experience with finding reasonably priced piano lessons for your children? If this has been positive please share with us. Also, if you’ve found other music resources for your kids please share them here as well. With joy! Joleen
It is possible to compose a song with a group of piano students! It’s even better if you have students of varying abilities.
My students have been working through our Music for Little Learners kits #1 and #2. Because of this even my youngest students can play the first six scales C,G,D,A,E,B. They also know the major chords and arpeggios. This is the foundation of our group composition.
So, now that students have the proper foundation, we can start composing.
Group Composition Lesson #1
I LOVE these little roll-up pianos for group lessons. Obviously they are inadequate for every-day piano lessons. But, they are the best tools for creating an exciting group composition lesson.
You can do this with up to three students. You should sit at a piano as well. You are chair #1.
Each student is assigned a chair. When you give instructions it is to their chair. Students love this.
For example: “Chair #2 please play the C scale for me.”
then, “Chair #3 please tell us what three notes make up the C chord.”
“Yes, C/E/and G/”
“Today we are going to create a song together using only the three notes of the C chord. Listen….” Teacher plays a simple two measure song in four four time using only C/E/G.
“Chair #4 what can you create with C/E/G?” -Ask the student to play it twice. Go around the table and have each student create their own two measures using the same perameters.
“Now we are ready to put it all together! I am going to play my song and chair #2 you need to watch carefully and start your song as soon as mine is done. Then Chair #3 plays and then #4. Ready everyone! Try to play the same thing you played before.”
My students were absolutely beaming as we finished our first group composition. I took it to the next step and moved to the key of D. We used the new notes of D/F#/A. Each student put on their headphones and had a minute to create their own two measure song with the new notes. I was thrilled to see some using arpeggios, solid chords, broken chords and even inversions…all a result of our Music for Little Learners Curriculum.
I am planning a composition camp for this summer. I can’t wait to hear what my student’s come up with. I promise to post pictures, ideas and maybe even a little video of our composition concert. So, there you have it! Group Composition Lesson #1. Easy Peasey!
This lesson is so simple I almost hesitate to post it. But, I know we just need something simple sometimes to inspire us again as teachers so here’s a little something to boost you this week.
Charlie was having the worst time holding her half notes. Nothing seemed to work. She and I were getting frustrated. So, I took my advice and got up from the piano and said, “Let’s go play a game!”
“Yay!” said Charlie.
“Great job! Now write a one under it to show it get’s one beat!”
I then asked Charlie to draw a half note. She made a face and said, “That one bugs me! I can’t hold it right.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “Let’s draw it and see if we can’t get it to quit bugging you.”
We then drew another quarter note as well. I asked Charlie to put all the notes in a row. Then I said, “If we were counting these notes in four-four-time what number would go under the first quarter note?”
“One, of course,” said Charlie.
“Great! What number goes under the second quarter note?”
“Yes, and now here’s our half note it gets the last two numbers. What are they?”
“UMmmm, 3 and 4?”
We then tapped on each number and said, One, Two, Three Four. We held our four as it was the second beat of the half note. We did this tapping several times before I said, “Okay, so what if we mixed these notes up and put the half note first?” We numbered the beats and then tapped together. This time holding down beat two.
Finally we moved the half note in between the two quarter notes, wrote the beats and tapped.“Okay Charlie,” I said, “Now you’ve got it. let’s see if we can hold down our half notes in the song you’ve been playing.”
“I think I can do it now!” Charlie exclaimed. Jumping up ,she ran to the piano.
I smiled as she played her song and held her half notes down every time. Once again, I was reminded of how important getting away from the piano and teaching something in a different way can be.
How have you simply taught your student lately? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas as well.
Summer is coming. At New Song Music Studios that means group lessons. Families have busy summer schedules and often need to take a break from piano lessons. New Song has discovered that holding piano camp is a great way to provide concentrated lessons in a group setting. Parents love the flexibility and students get to experience the joy of making music with their peers.
If you live near me please contact me to sign-up your kiddos’. If you follow me from afar, seek out piano camps and teachers seeking to offer short term group lessons. If you are a teacher then you need our Music 4 Little Learners Kits to make your group lessons the best ever!
Also, here’s an example of my piano camp flyer. Feel free to use it, copy it, share it!
Note Stems: UP or DOWN?
One of the questions my young students frequently ask me is, “How do you know if a stem should go up or down on the staff?”
The answer may seem simple to those of us with musical experience but to a youngster just figuring out this new language it is much like trying to decide where the apostrophe goes on our english contractions. Also, there are exceptions to the rule that will have to be saved for another lesson. Beginners, however will do well to learn this basic concept.
So here’s my lesson on note stems for you.
Step One: Create the staff on colorful paper (just because kids love color)
Step three: Have student place the tiles from your Music for Little Learners kit on each of the five lines.
Step four: Identify line three and trace it using a highlighter
Step five: Place a note on line three and say, “Any notes on line three or above have their stems pointing down.”
Step six: Direct student to place notes, stem down on line four and line five. Say, “If you think of line three as the water mark or the ocean, notes on line 3,4,and5 are keeping their heads above water.”
Step seven: Place a note stem up on line 2. Say, “These note is below line three, therefore it’s stem is pointing up. You could think of the notes below line three as scuba divers. The stem is their snorkle.” Direct student to place a note on line 1, stem up.
Step eight: Now place the number tiles on each of the four spaces. Direct student to place a note in each space with stems going in the correct direction.”
Step ten: Direct student to glue notes onto the staff in their correct positions. As you are gluing together say the rule over several times together.
Rule: “Notes on line three or above keep their heads above the water and their stems down. Notes below line three dive down and put their snorkles up above the water.” If you’d like to, write the rules out on the paper staff.
So, how do you teach a young child the circle of 5ths and the order of sharps?
Step 1: Instruct student to draw a large circle on a piece of paper. Remind them the first scale they learned was the C scale. It had zero sharps. Write it at the top of the circle in the 12:00 position. Say, “The circle of 5ths is named this way because you can tell which scale is next by counting five notes up from the previous scale learned. So what note is five notes up from C? Yes! It is a G. Now G has one sharp, can you remember what the name of that sharp is? Yes, it is an F#.”
As you can see from the diagram below my student and I wrote the name of each scale on the inside of the circle and the name of that scales sharps on the outside of the circle. This is not traditionally how the circle of fifths looks but it made writing easier for my young student.
If you’ve read my post about making a key ring of the circle of fifths you’ll recognize the key ring on the piano in the picture below. This activity reinforced our previous activity.
Step 2: Say, “Okay, so now we’re ready to talk about how to remember which sharps each scale has. If you notice there is a pattern. The G scale has an F#. The D scale also has an F# and then a C#. The A scale has the F# and C# and also G#. See how each scale in the circle keeps the sharps from the previous scale? So there is a silly sentence that helps us remember the order of sharps: It is, Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle. But, I think we can make a better sentence than that.”
Step 3: Divide a piece of paper into 8 rectangles (There will be one left over rectangle as there are only seven # scales): See below. For each sharp name we thought up a word. Be sure to tell your students that C# needs to be an animal or name of a person so the first word F# should describe what C# will be. For example Father Charles or Fearless Candice or in my student’s case Feathered Cows!
I decided to keep the words Go /Down /And to make things simpler and then asked my student what did the feathered cows go down and do? She laughed and said.. They eat Burritos!
Step 4: Student should now have a foundation for understanding the structures and patterns of the circle of 5ths. Pull out your Music for Little Learners scales cards and instruct your student to play each scale and announce it like so… “G scale. One Sharp. F#” or ”B scale. Five Sharps. F#,C#,G#,D#,A#, E#.”
Here’s my student doing just that! If you are a home educator learning along with us. Then you may be asking about those last two sharps in the silly sentence. E# and B#. This is for another lesson but suffice it to say, there are two more scales to learn on this part of the circle. The scale names are F# major and C# sharp major. They have six and seven sharps respectively. Theses scales are not in Kit #1 but will be available for download at a later date. You can also go to your local music store and buy a scales book. I recommend Bastian: Scales, Chords and Arpeggios.
Being a full-time music teacher is the best job in the world.
Unfortunately it also comes with paper work! UGH, I hate paper work. Thanks goodness I married a super organized guy who has helped me figure out some easy ways to keep the paper to a minimum. Even Tax season doesn’t freak me out the way it used to because of these useful charts and tools we’ve created together. Thanks Hon! You are the best!
So I have a binder that I carry in my car. I keep track of student’s cancellations/payment and book fees. I have a mileage chart and then a student progress chart for my reference.
#2 Mileage Chart Since i travel to my student’s homes I needed a way to keep track of my miles for tax purposes. The little mileage book always seemed to get lost. But now that the chart is in my binder, keeping track is easy.
#3 Student Progress Chart Even though every student receives one of these every year, I keep one in my binder for reference. I sometimes show the categories to students to let them know what we are striving for. It’s sort of like a report card on wheels! My students start to get used to seeing it and always know what level they are working towards achieving.
I hope these tools will make your life easier. Thanks for dropping by!