Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Real Life Learning Adventure

My dear friend, Tamara and her family are on a real life learning adventure! A few weeks ago they just decided that they are going to learn to play bluegrass music.

Tamara went on e-bay (a new adventure in itself!) and bought the least expensive instruments they could find for the most part - 2 violins, 3 mandolins, and a banjo! They found books of music and cd's at the music store and they are proceeding to teach themselves to play!
Now, just to put this into perspective, Tamara does not play an instrument, she does not sing, except for the occasional praise song that bubbles forth from her heart, she does not read a note. She has never felt competent in anything to do with music. Her husband plays guitar, but I don't think he reads music either. And yet, her little nine year old daughter played "Bile Them Cabbage Down" beautifully for me the other day! How I wish I could show her off to all my violin students' moms!

When God started leading me to cut back on music teaching, I started telling the parents that I would be available to them if they wanted to teach their own children. I didn't get a single taker. :( Why is that? If there is one thing I want to shout out loud and clear to all the parents of the world, it is that YOU CAN DO WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO!!!!!! He WILL equip you!

I believe so strongly that God calls us to teach our children. He directs us in what they should learn. Not every child will learn music, and that's ok! I believe that God puts a child into the family that He does, because that is the right family for that child. If that family is interested in astronomy and they all learn astronomy together, they are no better or worse than the family that learns music together, or foreign languages together, or horseback riding together.
The philosophy that says every child should learn to play the piano is wrong in my opinion. Yes, playing music is a wonderful thing, and it is an incredible blessing in our family, but - if there is no interest in the parents to learn - if the child is dropped off weekly at a teacher's home or studio and is forced or bribed to practice the rest of the week, I feel he would be much better off to pursuit some other interest at that time, one that the family can all enjoy together. If this is truly a God given interest in this child, the parent needs to make a way for home learning to happen. And that's not as difficult as it sounds.

The biggest problem is that parents in general either don't care enough about their child's interests to make an effort to learn the subject themselves, or they don't feel competent to do so. Most of them, the latter! Our society engrains into us the need for "experts" - implying that we can't possibly learn or do these things ourselves.

Now don't get me wrong. Experts have their place. My friend Tamara didn't just buy the instruments and let the children "have at it". She bought the books and cd's first of all. This is a wonderful wonderful way to learn any subject. We have the experts in books, we can digest them, fit them into our Christian worldview, take them to the Lord in prayer, fill ourselves up with them, and naturally let them flow into the lives of our family.

- And, Tamara and her family have friends who play these instruments. They know someone who plays the banjo, so when her son couldn't figure out how to tune his instrument properly, they asked this friend to help - not to take over and teach him - but to help him tune the banjo. When they had a question about stringing a violin when its E string broke, they came to me. Experts have their place, but they need not usurp the God given role of family.

If you have a child who is interested in learning to play an instrument, do your homework. There are resources available. Personally, I love the "Suzuki" materials because they have the tapes or cd's, they stay away from music's version of "twaddle", and they give students the tools they need to learn. Now if I could just convince my students that they do have those tools!

Watch for God's opportunities in your family's life. If God puts a desire to learn an instrument in your child's heart and you don't know much about it, look for people in your life who do know - people who can mentor you and help you to teach your children. He will provide - maybe not immediately. Sometimes He needs to teach your child patience and determination in their interest to wait for God's provision. But in His time, He will provide. And when He does, you'd better believe that YOU CAN do it!

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