How to teach your child music without private lessons

I am a homeschooling mom of four boys and have been a music teacher for the past 14 years. To this day, I have this idyllic dream of my little men becoming their own string quartet and serenading me to sleep each night with the sounds of their peaceful bowing.

That being said, as a piano and elementary music teacher, I want to expose the myth that private instrument lessons are the gold standard for beginning your kids’ music journeys.

Myth: Private lessons are the best way to develop musical skills.

Myth: I’m not capable of teaching my children music.

Reality: There are many skills needed for instruments that you can grow with singing, dancing, and musical games. (And I can help you with that!)

After my first few years teaching private piano and voice lessons, I began noticing a trend of students who didn’t grow up singing and dancing. As a result, they lacked elements of expression, creativity, and rhythm that require a lot more than what a traditional piano lesson is designed to accomplish. I was spending large portions of our lessons teaching them to sing and waltzing with them to build music into their brains and bodies. I was happy to spend our time doing this, but these were building blocks they actually needed prior to beginning lessons.

There is also this pervasive idea that we aren’t capable of teaching our children music.

Many feel incapable of singing or dancing because they lack the knowledge or confidence. This is a completely valid and normal feeling. 

Let me first highlight what you are probably doing already: You are singing lullabies to your baby. You are bouncing them on your knee with a little rhyme and a tickle as a toddler. You clap and chant at sporting events. Perhaps you sing along with the radio or even at religious services. Music is a part of many of our lives—even if you don’t feel “skilled” with music. (I’ll circle back to this later!)

The most important and developmentally appropriate skills to develop prior to learning an instrument can be built through singing, dancing, music games, and a touch of rhythm. You see, music is a language. It’s easier to be immersed in it than to break it apart and learn piece by piece.

Singing with your kids promotes attachment between children and parents, develops phonological awareness, auditory memory, and even social skills.

But how early should you start? Well, birth! And you likely already have without realizing it. As you sing and rock your baby to sleep, you are developing meter. As you read books like “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” you’re developing rhythm and phonetic awareness.

When I became a homeschooling mom, I realized music works very differently with my kids than it did in a classroom. My kids don’t want me to teach them a 30-minute lesson—so I developed a system that is fun and easy to replicate made up of one to two music games and songs. As my children get older, I connect those games and songs to specific skills connected to reading music and ear training.

Here are 5 of my absolute favorite songs to sing with kids ages 4-8:

Want to try a simple music activity at home? Click here for a free finger play printable and my website to see my seasonal family music courses.

Happy singing!

Mickey Richards, <em>Music Educator + Homeschool Coach</em>
Mickey Richards, Music Educator + Homeschool Coach

Mickey is a music teacher turned homeschool mom of 4 boys. She has taught over 1000 kids how to play and read music and now she is helping parents learn how to incorporate music in their home. Follow her on Instagram @homeschoolingmyboys.

Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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