When to expose your child to music
It has been said that the best time to expose a child to music is at the birth of his mother! We can safely say, from the conception of the child, or certainly from his birth until around age 9, the child brain is the most open to easily receiving musical impressions and instruction. Of course music can be learned at any age, but just as with language learning, early is way better. In the case of music, the kindergarten year has been shown to be the apex of readiness for the brain to benefit by musical exposure.
I was myself a most musically fortunate child. My parents met singing in an a cappella choir in college. I was exposed to a great deal of live music from varied genres when I was quite small, and we were a singing family. As the second child, when my older brother began piano lessons, I gave my parents no rest until I was taking lessons too, at age 6.
I have a vivid memory of how excited I was at school when we had music class, one day per week (oh, not nearly enough). In the early grades I remember we played the tonette, a pre-recorder sort of instrument that resembled a large cigar and produced questionable tones. It did have raised edges around the finger holes to accommodate young fingers. I loved it. I don’t remember singing in music class. Silver Burdett was coming out with wonderful song collections in the decade I was born, but maybe they didn’t make it to my small southern town, or maybe with music being offered only once weekly, there simply wasn’t time.
When I was a student, I missed the resurgence of music education with Kodaly and Orff-Schulwerk approaches, until I was grown and found out about them as I learned to be a music teacher. Then I became as excited as I had been as a small child, to learn of all the remarkable ways that had been developed to share music with children. However, in many schools, the frequency of music classes has remained as inadequate as ever.
I am telling you this story because I want you, today’s parents – especially homeschooling parents – to understand that you have an incredible opportunity before you. You can reap the fruits of about a half century of research about the child brain and music learning. You can benefit from better trained music teachers if your children are in public school, and also supplement with many varied after school programs. Homeschooling families have curricula choices also. There is no reason you can’t provide your children with a healthy music education program, well before they are ready to begin learning an instrument.
I had been teaching music for decades already when I was introduced to the most impressive program I had ever yet seen, for young children. The fact of its existence makes your opportunity even sweeter. Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you more!
Ruth at age 6
First Steps in Music