Music has always been an important part of my life. With each of my pregnancies I made a special tape of songs, put headphones on my big belly, and felt my babies dance and twirl along with me. As infants, my children were surrounded by music from the Good Morning song to their bedtime lullabies. As they grew and developed, I believed in exposing them to fun, rhythmic rhymes, happy fun songs we could dance and move to, as well as the classical movements of Mozart and Beethoven. We sang and danced at home, in the car, in the store, and as we played outside. I put together and constantly added cool things to their beloved “music box” full of all kinds of instruments. Our musical lifestyle was and is one of my favorite parts of parenthood!
Recently an opportunity came up to review an amazing program that sounded like it fit our love of music and my early childhood music philosophy perfectly.
The program is described as a “music and movement approach to early childhood music development for infant, toddler, preschool, and kindergarten children and their parents, teacher and primary caregivers.”
Music Together was developed by Kenneth K. Guilmartin and first taught at the Center for Music and young Children in 1985 following a long, rich history of family involvement with early childhood music education. In 1987, the program became available to the public as one of the first research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculums which strongly emphasized and facilitated adult involvement.
This program is based on the concept that all children are musical and can achieve great things through a stimulating, supportive music environment.
Yes, exactly as I had suspected. This program follows along with my own philosophy perfectly!
I had the opportunity to listen to some samples of the music we would be receiving over at Music Together website even before my package arrived. I was really impressed with the organization and professional look of the website as well as the extensive and useful information.
For review we received the award winning Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers ($29.95) and the Music Together Family Favorites CD ($14.95). You can also purchase digital Mp3 downloads of the songs for 99 cents each, or $9.99 for the album.
When these are purchased together as a combo set they are $39.95, which is a savings of $5.00 from purchasing them separately, and if you enter the code Schoolhouse at check-out you can save an additional $2.00!
The album features 19 fun songs and also contains a 32 page booklet attached inside with activity suggestions.
The teachers songbook was designed as an instruction manual to accompany the CD for anyone who works with children musically: preschool and elementary teachers, homeschools, co-ops, church groups, special needs groups, or even clinical settings. This puppy is jam-packed with more information and ideas than I could have imagined!
~The first section of the book covers the fundamentals of the Music Together approach, philosophy, discussion of the types of songs and activities, instruments and props, and adaptations for children with special needs. I enjoyed reading through the extensive material here, which elaborated on much of the information found on the website that had peaked my interest.
Here I learned more about the Music Together philosophy:
*All children are musical,
*Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence: that is, they can learn to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm.
*The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child’s musical growth.
*This growth is best achieved in a playful, musical rich, and non-performance-oriented learning environment.
And I learned of their teaching principles:
*Actions, not instructions.
*Accept, and include
*Build relationships through music and movement
*SQ- the “Silly Quotient” (right up my alley!)
*OOPS! (acknowledging your own mistakes!)
~The middle portion of the book contains the meat of the program: nineteen songs cross-referenced to the CD. Each song is introduced personally by Ken Guilmartin followed by instructional pages arranged in categories (all ages and settings, infants, preschoolers and older children, special needs), and includes sheet music of the song.
~The ending section includes information about the Music Together program and how to become a licensed instructor, and reference material including a glossary and guitar reference chart.
So just what types of songs and activities are included in the program?
~Fingerplay, focus activities, instruments and props, lap song/dyads (movement), large movement, lullabies, Ostinati, part-singing, and rounds, partner songs, play-along, sit ‘n’ sing, small movement, songbook play, songs without words, substitutions, taps ‘n’ claps, verse variations, and vocables.~
There is also a whole section on special needs that is a valuable asset to the program all in itself!
Music Together at Gunn Ranch Academy
When I received these materials my first impression was that this is a professional, well-put-together program. In addition to the high quality, thick-paged, beautiful teachers book, and the CD which was in a nice tri fold case containing an attached booklet inside, the company included a nice Music Together coordinated folder of information. I could tell right away from my first impression that this was going to be a rich and wonderful experience!
When I first read about the program, it sounded much like a program that I took my oldest daughter to when she was preschool age. The two of us attended classes at a dance studio where we sang and danced and twirled around with scarves that included a wide variety of different types of music. When my second daughter came along we weren’t in a place where I could find any such classes to attend, so we used the cd’s from the previous mentioned program to simulate the experience at home. I have always used music of all types in our everyday lives besides the formal classes. I play piano and write music myself, so my babies were always right there with me as I practiced, created, explored, and worshipped. I even created a music book in my young children’s “language” to help them learn to play easy versions of many classical piano pieces. We have sat at the piano singing and clapping, and early on I began creating a treasure box full of instruments. When Levi was a toddler, our family had the privilege of attending a homeschool choir and orchestra where the girls learned to play violin and sing. Levi was always right there with them listening and learning. From an early age he also learned to love and develop his musical soul.
Though the concepts and philosophy of this program were not new to our family, I thought Levi would enjoy it. The only thing I was a bit unsure of was his age. I wasn’t sure as a first grader if he might be too old and think it was too “baby-ish” for him since he already sits with his guitar making up songs all day. He loves to sing in church and practice with me at home as well as sing along at Praise Band practice, so I didn’t know if this might seem like moving back a step with the actual songs that are used, and especially since he’s at the top end of the target audience. But after I popped the cd in for a listen, I was absolutely amazed by the richness, tones, and professional voices and music that I heard. This is an extremely rich listening experience for all ages!!
After reading through the extensive first section of the book, I couldn’t wait to get started. I had initially intended to use this program by introducing one song two to three times weekly on our “together” days when I am home. I read through the first song lesson which is the Hello Song, and planned out some activities to do with him. I then decided that this would be an introductory song at the beginning of each lesson and we would also do another song following it, because I knew Levi would certainly never be satisfied doing just one song per session. So I went on to read over and plan out the next song, Biddy, Biddy which is a delightful Jamaican style folk song tune with made up words called “vocables”. I knew this would be a hit, and we would probably be singing this one all week, because it’s much like what we do in our everyday lives already! We LOVE to make up words to familiar tunes, and use different vocal sounds and made-up words as well.
He was excited to get started when he saw me pull out the music box and open it. He immediately joined me on my lap. I explained to him that this program has lots of activities and is a great opportunity to use our music box. I told him there were lots of different types of songs and different flavors of music from all over the world.
When I started the Hello Song, he clapped along with me and did a drum roll on his knees. Then as the next song began playing on the CD, his face lit up and he began digging out instruments from the music box to play. We played Biddy Biddy over multiple times playing different instruments until he learned all of the words and sang along. The words to this song are made up “vocables” that are easy to say and remember. I love the idea that a parent can use a small child’s babble as the lyrics to the song so the youngest child can sing along in their own language! We used to do this when the kids were first learning to talk, and I think the concept is just brilliant! Now Levi, the budding song writer he is, also enjoyed coming up with his own vocables. We spent at least a half hour singing this song over and over. (Maybe more like a whole hour:))
He then begged me to listen to the whole cd, and I hate to admit, but I gave in. I let the entire cd play while he played every instrument in the box, and danced around wildly. I really wanted to save the songs to introduce one by one for the element of surprise, but he was just so excited he couldn’t wait. It was like a kid at Christmas as he discovered each new song. We spent the entire day singing and laughing and dancing. It didn’t take long for my 12 and 15 year old girls to join us either. Their musical beginnings kicked in and they seemed to be as captivated by the music as Levi was! We had so much fun playing instruments, singing, and dancing together.
Everyday we sit down for school Levi can’t wait to get through his schoolwork to get to music. We have explored chants, music with vehicle sound-effects, singing in rounds, harmony, soothing lullabies (Ok, Levi wanted to skip over these, LOL), spinning around to Carribean folk music, hopping like a bunny to John the Rabbit (Levi grabbed his sister’s live show rabbits to join in on this one!), and spinning in circles to Spin and Stop and we sang “La da dee da dee da dee dum dum”, and much, much more. The activities, fun and adventure are really amazing and endless with this program!
So what did my 6 year old think? He says it’s his favorite program we’ve reviewed so far. When I told him there is a Family Favorites part 2 he asked if we could please get it.
As I was looking through all the great products on the website including some other music cds, drums, instruments, balls, etc. he came up with quite a wish list and said that’s what he wants for Christmas. I have always seen music as an integral part of my children’s lives, just as it is in my own life. But to stimulate such enthusiasm is just priceless!
***Just a sidenote here about adding musical instruments to your homeschool/family/program: you don’t have to spend a lot or even any money to purchase fancy instruments. Pots and pans and kitchen utensils work just fine, and are often preferred! There are countless resources on the internet that you can find on ideas to make musical/rhythm instruments from paper plates, paper towel tubes, beans, rice, pebbles, sticks, etc. Just engage your children, use your imaginations and the possibilities are endless! My kids have always LOVED making their own instruments!***
I truly believe God blessed us with music to enjoy, inspire, and flood our souls. I’ve never met a child who wasn’t moved and excited by music.
My oldest daughter has just been invited to be a part of beginning a Youth Praise and Worship team at our church. They have been practicing long and hard, and will be leading the elementary age kids in praise and worship on Sunday mornings as well as playing for the youth crew, some Sunday services, special events, etc. This program will certainly be a valuable resource as they lead the younger kids in worship! My middle daughter loves music as well and continues, along with her sister, to enjoy playing her violin, keyboard and sing. They both enjoy engaging in musical activities with their little bro Levi. I truly believe early music education is of vital importance to all children!
While I have met adults that aren’t really musically talented and will tell you so, I think every child deserves to have their musical soul fed. (And every adult too!)
Whether you have a PhD in music education or can’t carry a tune in a bucket, this program will work for you and your family!
I highly recommend it for homeschool families, educators, co-ops, church groups, play-dates, birthday parties, family get-togethers, and an oh-so special gift that will keep on giving for generations.
Check out my Crew Mates adventures with Music Together over at the Crew Blog!
…don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just SING! Sing a song!!
Disclaimer~ I received this curriculum as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received, and opinions are my own.