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Charlotte Mason, a British educator whose philosophies are respected many homeschoolers, once made this statement:
“Perhaps we do not attach enough importance to the habit of praise in our children’s devotion. Praise and thanksgiving come freely from the young heart; gladness is natural and holy, and music is a delight. The singing of hymns at home and of the hymns and canticles in church should be a special delight; and the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed.”
You don’t have to follow all of Charlotte Mason’s philosophies to see the value of her statement. If you’re new to the idea of hymn study, here are some tips to help you get started.
How to Get Started with Hymn Study
1. Choose a favorite hymn.
If you sing hymns in your church (or play them in your home or car), your child may already have a favorite. If not, choose one of your own favorites or one of these classic children’s hymns.
2. Learn the story behind the hymn.
Learning the story behind the hymn will help your child to better understand and appreciate it. Take time to learn about the author and the composer. Who were they? What inspired them to produce this hymn?
For example, Horatio Spafford wrote the words for “It Is Well with My Soul” after losing his daughters in a shipwreck. The words “when sorrows like sea billows roll” refer to this tragedy.
When we know about Mr. Spafford’s experience, it makes the last phrase so much more meaningful: “It is well, it is well, with my soul!”
It is also helpful to include historical details of the time period in which the hymn was written. For example, in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” we sing these words: ”As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”
This is a great time to explain that this hymn was written during the Civil War and that the lyrics refer to the fight to free the slaves.
3. Become familiar with the tune.
Unless your children are already taking music lessons, they probably won’t be able to sing a tune by following notes. It is important to help them learn the melody so they can sing along.
And for the record, it’s ok if you or your child can’t carry a tune! You can play hymn recordings or make a hymn playlist on YouTube instead—hearing the music will make it familiar and recognizable to your ear, even if you aren’t actually singing it.
4. Memorize the words.
Learning hymn lyrics doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You’ll find that just hearing the hymn regularly will help your child learn the words over time.
Copywork is another easy way to reinforce the words of the hymn in your child’s memory. Depending on age, a child may copy a single line or an entire stanza of the hymn each day.
4. Learn the meaning of unfamiliar words in the lyrics.
As your child is learning the words of the hymn, pay special attention to any unfamiliar words. Take the time to explain them or rephrase them in a simple way that your child can understand.
Resources for Hymn Study
You can find a lot of information about specific hymns with a quick Google search. You can also check out this list of my favorite hymn study resources—biographies, devotionals, documentaries, and more!
Have questions about hymn study? Leave a comment below!