Teaching Toddlers - advice needed
  • Hello all,

    Homeschooling mom of almost 2-year old twins here. I want to get a headstart teaching them chant. How would you do it? Doing lots of singing and modeling for them, but I would like to introduce actual solfege, neumes and simple chants. Though they're almost fully speaking, we’ve started introducing “do” and “mi” (fixed “do”) and they can sign and say the matching solfege. We are using the Prodigies Music curriculum (secular), they do need a little help with singing pitch accuracy but I’m sure that’s to be expected at this age. How would you proceed? Adjust the Ward method to their needs or wait until a little older? TIA.

    Side note: I do want to teach them an instrument later on, should I begin teaching modern notation or chant notation first? I want to avoid confusion for them. Previously I thought that modern notation should come first as it would be easier to go from 5-lines to 4 than vice versa.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • This is an interesting question. I'll share some thoughts. Take and use what you think will fit.

    At this age, music is learned like a language- aurally. I have training in "Music Together" which is ages 0-5. The curriculum intentionally includes modal (and world) music. Classes would be a social supplement to hearing the CDs and the parent singing along in the car, at home, etc. At the end of each song on the participant CDs there would be 3-4 pitches sung in various intervals- generally making up various chords- in the key or mode of the sung just heard. Using these guidelines (which were created based on studies is early music learning/ education) I think you could do the following:

    I would recommend immersion rather than "teaching" at this age. Surround them with the SOUND of chant, but I would also do it in the larger context of teaching pitch and rhythm.

    When driving in the car or doing a primary activity, sing 2-3 pitches. In our classes we would improvise using pitches within the tonality we just sang. For example, in a key in C (for ease of use here) I might "chant" the pitches c-g-e and have the class chant them back, then do f-c-c; d, b, c. All chants are on "doo."

    I would hold off on solfege and reading at this time in order for them to lay the foundation of tonality and matching pitch. Successful research-based reading programs like Orton-Gillingham do this with reading by teaching the sounds of the letters before the actual letter name itself. I think you would serve your goal better working on pitch first.

    All this being said, to pepper into their day instead of sitting and teaching and thinking of input=output. When I was taking my kids to their Music Together classes and then teaching them myself, it became really natural to sing throughout the day to add joy or to cajole a grumpy child into doing something. I'd take a song we were singing that session and change the words, "Let's go and brush out teeth, let's go and brush out teeth" for example. Other times we'd take a song and practice improvisation by asking for suggestions on words to change. I don't know how you'd apply that to "chant" specifically. I'm not sure you will want to chant "Time to brush your teeth now" to "Dominus Vobiscum" ;) because of association ;) but maybe this will give you some ideas. I love early childhood music education, especially as it is applied in learning from experiencing the music.
  • Having homeschooled four through high school, my advice is let them be little now. Formal teaching in any subject can wait a few years. The above advice is excellent. 0-5 are such precious years and they go by so fast. A solid foundation in family now will set them up well for formal learning later on.

    I had no idea about chant when mine were little but we did a lot with music education. In gr 1 and 2 they learned to play the recorder and read music. Gr 3 we started piano instruction which they all enjoyed and excelled in since they started with knowing how to read music. All became excellent pianists and all learned to play the organ later, as well as various other instruments.

    After our family was introduced to the TLM and chant, our younger three participated in a chant camp for several years and are now well established in chant.
  • I have not homeschooled - just been homeschooled - but I second immersion versus teaching. Immersion can go a long, long, long way - way past 5 years. If you want to give them the opportunity to be musical, surround them with music, all the time, without making it like school.
  • Carol
    Posts: 625
    As a first grade Catholic school teacher for many, many years I agree with the immersion approach. As someone who grew up surrounded by music and raised my children surrounded by music, that is the first way to teach an instinctive understanding and love of music. Just make sure it is good music because a LOT of what is marketed as children's music is drivel. Dumbed down or foolish or even heretical lyrics and unpleasant tunes abound on children's CDs
    Thanked by 2Earl_Grey CCooze
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,016
    immersion in listening to chant and singing the simpler settings of the ordinary from the liber... however, children can also easily learn the missa de angelis, so playing recordings of that music is definitely a good way to begin exposing them to the chant early on. the simpler chant hymns are also excellent... ave verum, salve regina, etc.... you don't need to get 'left brain' from the get go (theory)... keep it intuitive and in the aural realm and heart central.
    Thanked by 1Earl_Grey
  • They might also enjoy medieval pilgrimage songs and religious songs that are easy to sing and play together (such as on the recorder). This site is where I bought some nice books to sing from: http://gaita.co.uk/
  • RachelR
    Posts: 32
    I've gone the immersion route so far! I sang the (simple tone) Marian Antiphons and the Ave Maris Stella to my daughter (now 4 1/2) from her birth. I was shocked and pleased when, a month shy of her 2nd birthday, she could sing all seven verses of the Ave Maris Stella along with me. Immersion works! That way, kids grow up hearing the various modal patterns of chant--making all of this a musical "native language" type of relationship for them, rather than hearing only the modern major/minor scales until almost 30, like I did, then learning chant.
  • RachelR
    Posts: 32
    Learn your favorite sacred music pieces by heart, and sing them as lullabies, while washing dishes, when passing someone's garden statue of the BVM--then you will be teaching the music, the Latin words, that chant is prayer, how to have a devotional life...Gregorian chant is so wonderful. Enjoy with them!
  • RachelR
    Posts: 32
    Also, a fantastic source for music pieces to teach young children chant, and religious folk music, is Maria Augusta Trapp's Around the Year with the Trapp Family (yes, it's by The Sound of Music's heroine). If you haven't seen this book yet you will LOVE it. It's a beautiful guide to the Traditional Catholic customs, and foods, and religious and folk music of Austria and other places. Sophia Institute Press just reprinted it a couple years ago, I wish every Catholic family would buy one!
  • davido
    Posts: 384
    We have that book, I guess I should dig it out and read it
    Thanked by 1RachelR
  • I’m all for music by immersion- but be careful to set limits. For example, I thought I’d teach some naughty children a lesson - literally! - by using the Curwen hand signs as I administered corporal punishment. Well, wouldn’t you know it: I accidentally used “doh” instead of “soh” one time...
    (In case any of you were horrified by this story, don’t worry. It’s a joke. I would never use the Curwen hand signs.)
    Thanked by 1PolskaPiano
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 845
    One of my favorite topics.

    I would echo what has been said above. Also, not all music needs to be sacred/religious, provided that is is healthy and wholesome. While shielding them from all the garbage that is out there is necessary and even challenging, there are plenty of examples of good quality folk music and children's songs that are authentic.

    My family has enjoyed the John Feierabend first steps-series (books and CD's) especially the recordings with Jill Trinka. Folk songs, that are sung a cappella or with very light, simple accompaniment--not overly produced/processed like most things marketed to children (or parents of children). These can be obtained from the music ed side of GIA's website. (yes, they do offer some good things)

    Another fun series was called the "Biscuit Brothers". It's a little more commercial/popular style, but still family friendly (i.e., not offensive in my opinion). Mostly Country/Western style, and folk along with classical music in a farm-yard setting with puppets, etc. if you are into that. May not be your thing, but my kids enjoyed it and it didn't have the typical agenda contained in most kids series.

    Modeling good singing technique is essential!