When it comes to music appreciation, and the related riches of folk songs and hymns, many times we seek to include them in our home schools as a means of introducing our children to more goodness and beauty. While this is a noble motivation and these subjects do provide an avenue for increased exposure to these platonic transcendentals, music study can also help our children with their proficiency in language arts.
In this post, I will share some ways that our family uses the study of music in our homeschool, namely classical vocal pieces, folk songs, and hymns, to grow five language arts skills. Whether your family is focusing on an operatic aria, 18th-century Jacobite folk song, or Amazing Grace, one of the best things about these ideas is that they can be used across the board with any vocal music study. For each of the suggestions below, pull out and use what will work for the ages and stages of your students. You know your kids best!
To practice this skill I pick a line of text from the music that has words at the appropriate level to fit each student. Most of the time a music piece will have a line we can use for everyone, but other times separate lines of text are needed. Often it is a line from the verse of a hymn or folksong we are memorizing. If your children are younger, or just diving into dictation, you may need to use a shorter line or phase. I read the line aloud for them to copy, then if there are no questions we move on to checking for mistakes and writing corrections.
For our homeschool, we practice both print and cursive handwriting. We like the reaffirmation of starting with the same text we had for dictation and adding on from there. Similarly, we use the same line or verse of text for both styles of writing. Because this is also another easy method to cement memorization our family spends a week on the same verse of text. The younger children typically just work on one line.
This category of spelling and the next, vocabulary, go hand in hand for our homeschool. When selecting words from our music texts I don’t worry about which verse or where in the form of the music the words are taken. My main focus is which words are suitable for each student. Frequently there is a bit of overlap with some of the words added to their study lists.
For vocabulary, we use the spelling words chosen earlier as that week’s foundation. If there are any new or not as familiar words from the spelling lists they are our first focus. From there we include the other, more difficult or antiquated terms. These uncommon words can also provide little opportunities to throw in a fun little bit of history.
5. Sentence Diagramming
Though not an exercise we currently get to use as much as the other four activities, it is one I’m looking forward to implementing more and more. To use a line of text for your present musical for diagraming at times takes some finagling. You may need to change the order of the text or add words to make the diagram less complicated. Here, for my students, I’m more concerned with keeping the meaning of the phrase than preserving the original words or their order.
Our students don’t do all of these exercises every day, but we do try to hit them all at least once a week. My hope is that these simple suggestions help your homeschool spend more time with the beauty and goodness of music while giving you a few new enjoyable options for your language teaching tool belt.