Homeschool Music Education and Music Appreciation for Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten
Our pre-k homeschool music education curriculum is a blend of playtime, singing, and listening. I’ve cobbled together my own homeschool music education plan, where we use a select number of musical toys and instruments combined with daily listening. I also dabble with an online musical curriculum called Prodigies Music, and I do my best to find live performances that children can attend.
I am a big-time music lover, and I was a serious pianist in a former lifetime. It’s no surprise that I naturally made music a big part of my homeschool planning. But I hesitate to call this a curriculum, per se. Honestly, these tools, resources, and albums are just an extension of something we love to do as a family — enjoy and create great music together.
While we’ve had music playing in the background practically from the moment our kids were born, I only started bringing in a more thoughtful plan to their homeschool music education this year.
Here’s how an amateur musician teaches music to her pre-k student (and her toddler sister).
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Why Include Music Education in the Early Years?
There are so many benefits to music education for young learners.
Children who study music go on to score better in math, are better able to learn foreign languages, and demonstrate better reading skills. It improves cognitive functioning and memory. It also develops creative expression and reduces anxiety.
Music is also an important component of community and social engagement. In other words, it’s fun!
Research has shown that the early years are also a critical period for developing a concept of pitch.
Consider how the early years are a critical period for learning language. Just like a child learns the vocabulary for spoken language, they also have a critical window for learning absolute pitch.
That’s right — kids can learn that a certain tone applies to the musical note “C,” just as “green” refers to the color of their favorite cup.
In fact, studies have shown that children who grow up learning a tonal language (for example, Chinese) demonstrate a much higher rate of absolute pitch compared to children who natively speak non-tonal languages (like English).
How cool is that?!
Big Picture: Our Homeschool Music Education Routine for Pre-K
We’re in a pretty good groove when it comes to our homeschool music appreciation (har har har, I love me a good pun!)
I know this post is long, so I want to give you the bird’s eye view upfront so you can see how manageable it all is. Seriously, the majority of our homeschool music education is based on listening to great music.
Everything that follows is just a nitty-gritty breakdown of how I construct our weekly playlists, which tools we use on a daily basis, and the thought that goes into the kinds of music I choose.
Read what interests you, skip what doesn’t. Check out some new ideas for your home playlists and consider adding a few of the toys and books to your holiday wishlist. Skim the rest, I won’t be offended.
The Four Components of Our Homeschool Music Education
There are four basic components to our homeschool music appreciation plan in the early years, and they’re all easy.
First, we have taken steps to make music a part of our daily environment through certain toys and instruments. We incorporate these toys and games into our playtime, and we make high-quality instruments easily available for spur-of-the-moment dance parties.
We also model enjoyment of different musical styles by consciously playing various genres while cooking, cleaning, or putting on our own dance recitals. (What, does that only happen in our house?)
In addition, we start every morning with a curated weekly playlist that includes a few key types of music, including a traditional American folk song, a Latin American folk song, a few songs related to the theme of the week, and some background music for our read-alouds.
Finally, we do our best to find opportunities to take our kids to live performances when available, starting from a very young age. We also attempt to occasionally practice our own instruments in front of the kids, although — full disclosure — we can rarely get a few measures in before the kids jump into our laps and join in at the piano.
We Study Music Because It Feels Good
That’s it. That’s our whole early music education.
There are no mommy-and-me music classes, no Suzuki lessons, and no music worksheets. And we don’t talk about composers, except as a way to reference different songs we like. Someday, we will do formal composer study and theory lessons and build a daily musical instrument practice. But not at this age. And that’s on purpose.
Sure, there are a lot of academic benefits to studying music (as I mention previously). But at the end of the day, we listen to music and we create music because it feels good. Because it creates community, or helps us connect with certain emotions, or provides a way to express or articulate a particular idea.
That’s what this is about for us — making music a fun and natural part of our daily life. Because it feels good.
Goals for Pre-K Homeschool Music Appreciation
Since we’re not doing any formal music appreciation or composer study at this age, our goals are simple.
During the preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten years, I want our kids:
- To be exposed to a variety of musical styles and genres
- To develop an awareness of different instruments
- To improve their sense of rhythm and pitch
- To enjoy music as a part of their day-to-day routine
- To build confidence expressing themselves through music and movement
Check out my post on pre-k learning objectives.
I want to keep music appreciation completely stress-free at this age. There will be time for instrument lessons and formal composer appreciation in the later years.
I want my kids to have confidence in their musical expression, without rules or restraints, so that when we move into formal instrument study in the next few years, they are confident that they can master these tools, and to understand the value of musical expression on a visceral level.
Step 1: Arrange Your Space for Music
The most important part of any homeschool music program (or for any home that enjoys music) is to simply make it easy to enjoy and participate in musical activities.
We keep a Bluetooth speaker in our kitchen so we can easily play music all day long.
Musical instruments are permanent fixtures on our play shelf.
We move every two years or so, and shipping weight is limited, but regardless, we make sure that our keyboard makes it into the shipping allowance. My big dream is to find a way to ship our upright piano in future moves.
For a while, our keyboard was in the office, but it was rarely used in that space. So I gave up my dream of having a perfect, magazine-ready dining room and instead, I tucked the keyboard next to the dining table. 🤷♀️Now, it gets used nearly every day.
I also had to suck it up that we can’t have a grand piano at this stage in life because of our frequent moves. I’m a little bit of a snob when it comes to playing on a “real” piano, but the truth is we’re lucky to have the keyboard at all in this lifestyle.
If you value music in your home and family life, you have to make it easy to access musical instruments and to listen to quality music.
Do you have a way to listen to music throughout your home?
Can you listen to music:
- in the kitchen?
- in the playroom or family room?
- in the bedroom?
- during outside play?
A simple portable Bluetooth speaker is the solution for most of those spaces — bonus points if it’s waterproof.
Provide access to instruments
It’s important that children have access to quality instruments for experimentation and self-expression. Start with a basic set that includes a few percussion instruments, and try to find quality wood instruments — they’re more pleasant to use and often make a nicer sound.
You don’t need a ton, but it’s helpful to have a variety of instruments that make different noises. Avoid the plastic and light-up nonsense, and instead, choose instruments that your children can manipulate themselves.
Step 2: Strew Musical Toys and Books
You don’t need a lot of supplies for homeschool music education in the early years, and I think priority goes to providing high-quality instruments. If your budget is limited, start there.
That said, there are a few toys and books that have really enriched our homeschool music education. Consider adding these to your Amazon Wishlist for the next holiday season.
We don’t schedule or stress about using these books and toys. We “strew” them around the house, and the kids pick them up as desired. No stress, no pressure.
Here are some of the resources we enjoy.
This is a great book for exploring instruments and symphony structure. Especially if you have limited access to live classical performances where you live, this is a great addition to your library.
This toy is THE BOMB. So many songs, so many instruments, including a few non-Western instruments. My kids love it, and it is the primary way we learn about instruments. You can also manipulate tempo with this toy, so it really is versatile.
The Story Orchestra Books
I love these books, and they are the perfect addition to our bedtime routine. They introduce several masterworks, and kids can explore them independently. They also make a great springboard for further study.
For example, my daughter is really into The Nutcracker book right now. After reading this book approximately three million times, it was easy to bring up various YouTube videos of the actual ballet. The music was much more accessible because my daughter understands the story behind the music and recognizes the key musical phrases of the piece.
When we get into the Christmas season, we’ll be able to attend an actual production of the Nutcracker, confident that she’ll be able to appreciate the ballet on a much deeper level because of all this groundwork.
The one exception to my “no scheduling” rule above is the program Prodigies Music. We’re still exploring the full breadth of this amazing homeschool music curriculum, but it’s been a fun addition to the repertoire.
I try to have the kids watch a video several times a week. The kids love playing with the handbells, and I do think the videos have improved their sense of rhythm and tone.
I also play their Totigies pitch-training album whenever I think of it.
This is definitely one of those screen-time options that I feel good about.
Step 3: Listen to Music — A LOT of Music
We listen to a LOT of music during the day.
This shouldn’t be a chore and it shouldn’t stress you out.
Listen to what you love, and listen to it frequently.
We love listening to classic rock anthems while cooking dinner. We cue up classical ballet on the big screen and hold ballet recitals in our living room. And there’s nothing better than some good jazz while we’re doing an art project.
I also make an effort to play a variety of genres and styles, including what’s termed “high-information music.” This type of music is unpredictable and features complex tones, harmonies, or melodies. Listening requires more attention than, say, pop music, so the theory goes that listening to this type of music builds neural networks.
If you want to dabble your feet in this genre, check out the following albums. There’s also an app called Nuryl that provides curated playlists for babies and toddlers. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s helpful if you’re new to this style of music.
Note that none of these are strictly “kids music.” But that’s okay. The only way to develop an ear for a wide variety of styles is to provide access to a wide variety of music.
Here’s a nice compilation of classical music that fits the bill.
I have some favorites in the jazz and modern rock genres that are also fun to listen to.
I love this band for their driving beats and strong melodic piano. Their modern jazz covers of classic rock songs are really fun and make their music more accessible to the uninitiated.
Here’s a sample of one of my favorites to whet your appetite:
Blackshaw is a virtuosic 12-string guitar play whose music is ethereal and surprising. Definitely off the beaten track, but a great addition to your library.
O’Riley is one of my favorites, and his rock covers are super fun to listen to.
He’s a great entry into the field of high-information music because of these covers, not to mention the fact that he’s a kick-ass pianist to boot.
How We Use Music in Our Homeschool Morning Routine
I can’t rave enough about the role that music plays in our homeschool morning routine. It is the foundation of our homeschool music education — and it’s really fun, too.
And I’ll be honest, I haven’t done a great job of creating a solid homeschool routine for the majority of the day. My kids are little and we live overseas with limited outside resources, so each day is a little different.
But our homeschool morning routine? That, I can control. And that part of our day has become rock-solid and really enjoyable.
The bedrock of that routine is our morning music playlist.
Our Weekly Music Playlist
Every weekend, I spend a few minutes putting together a new playlist for the week. Yes, it’s a little bit of extra work. However, it makes my homeschool mornings SO much easier — and more enjoyable for me.
Here’s a sample of our weekly playlist — this week we were studying frogs.
Our playlist each week includes the following:
- An “orientation song” that signals the start of morning time
- An American folk song
- A Spanish-language folk song or nursery rhyme
- Two or three songs based on our theme of the week
- Instrumental or quiet music for background
The active listening portion of the playlist usually only lasts ten minutes or so, and then the playlist transitions into some sort of “softer” music so that I can start our read-alouds without feeling like I’m competing for attention.
We listen to the same playlist every morning, all week long.
When I hit “play” every morning, my kids instantly settle down at the breakfast table. Whether the big one is throwing a fit because her sprinkles aren’t perfectly covering the top of her oatmeal, or the little one is screeching because I won’t give her a full, adult-sized cup of milk in a real glass — music calms them right down.
I don’t have a fancy speaker or elaborate set-up for our morning music. I use a cheap Bluetooth speaker and my iPhone, where I subscribe to Apple Music (Spotify doesn’t seem to work for me overseas).
Apple Music works really well for me because I can find new and relevant songs quickly and easily, and they import into my library seamlessly. It’s been a very worthwhile homeschool expense in our house.
Our Morning Routine With Music
I hit play as soon as I corral the kids into the kitchen. Baby goes into her highchair and big sister goes to her seat. Both get some fruit to munch on while I finish up making breakfast.
We’re still talking and moving around, and everyone is usually feeling a little sleepy, so the music is our cue that the day is starting.
The Playlist, Part I: Start Gently
Back in college, I took a class on emotional regulation through music. It was absolutely fascinating, and there is solid science backing up how various instruments, rhythms, tempos, and musical styles affect mood, endurance, and focus. As crazy as it sounds, many of our homework assignments in that class involved creating playlists that get you from a starting emotional state to a new, more desirable emotional state.
I use this principle when I create my playlists each week. Since we’re all usually bit cranky and sleepy first thing in the morning, I always start with a track from the album, A Celebration of the Seasons.
This is a really lovely album of completely non-annoying children’s songs based on the writings of Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight, Moon. The songs are gentle and rhythmic and are the perfect way to gently center the kids’ focus. The album is also the recommended musical selection from Torchlight, so it’s perfect for our homeschool pre-k curriculum.
The Playlist, Part II: Add (non-annoying) Folk Songs
Once I have the kid’s attention through our Celebration of the Seasons selection, the playlist moves into a folk song of the week. This selection is generally more cheerful and upbeat, and I encourage the kids to sing-along.
It’s important to me that the kids become familiar with traditional American folk songs and nursery rhymes, especially as we live overseas. I want them to feel connected to American traditions, even if they don’t know that’s what I’m doing through these musical selections.
Here’s my one caveat — I cannot stand most kid music albums. Those kid albums where a huge chorus of children are all singing along, most off-key? No, thank you. Using super-annoying falsetto, character voices, or weird instruments? It makes me want to rip off my ears.
One of my best finds for traditional American folk songs has been the album, Patriotic Kids Songs.
I was surprised at how pleasant the singer’s voice is in this album. The songs are straight-forward and easy to sing along to. This one is played frequently in our house.
The Playlist, Part III: Add Foreign-Language Songs
Since we live in Guatemala, we are all working on our Spanish language skills.
There are a few YouTube videos featuring Spanish folk songs or Spanish phrases, and these are a great way to practice and build vocabulary. Here are my daughter’s favorites:
Perfect “Buenos dias” Song to Practice Greetings:
Learning the Days of the Week in Spanish:
A lovely “good morning” song:
My Favorite Spanish-Language Albums
I’ve found some really excellent and enjoyable Spanish music albums for kids featuring folk songs and nursery rhymes from Latin America.
Again, my baseline requirement for these albums is that the music must actually be enjoyable to listen to. My absolute favorite Latin American artist in this category is Martá Gomez. Her voice is really soothing and pleasant, and I legitimately enjoy listening to her music.
Her songs are easy to sing along to and feature lots of classic folk songs from Latin America. Here are some of my favorites:
I particularly like the song, “Caminando va” on this album — I always end up dancing along.
There are so many fun songs on this album. I love “Materile rile ro” and “Cucú cantaba la rana” and find myself humming these all day long. My daughter loves “Naranja dulce” and sings it often.
Gomez’s sequel album, Coloreando Dos, is just as sweet and enjoyable as her previous album. “A la rueda, rueda” has me dancing around my kitchen in the morning.
Orozco has several cute albums, some in both Spanish and English, perfect for families where you’re all beginners. We have Diez Deditos and it’s not terrible, as kid albums go.
Latin Dreamland by Putumayo
Who doesn’t love Putumayo? I have so many of their albums, but I love this sweet album for long car rides and sleepy, rainy mornings when we’re all dragging.
The Playlist, Part IV: Add Thematic Songs
We’re using Torchlight Pre-K as our spine, and this program incorporates a weekly theme. The themes are generally pretty loose and are based on a primary book of the week, so they’re flexible and easy to adapt.
I introduce the theme of the week through these selections, and sometimes we make a game of guessing what we’re learning about after listening to a few songs.
I add two or three songs that tie into the theme of the week, and I attempt to feature different musical styles and singers.
For example, during our “rainbow” theme week, we obviously listened to “Rainbow Connection” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I also added a country version of “You Are My Sunshine.”
During dinosaur week, we played a few different dinosaur-themed albums as well as John Williams’ soundtrack from Jurassic Park.
The point of all this is to have fun and to enjoy new music with your kids. Use music that you already have in your library, or find free songs in Apple Music.
The Playlist, Part V: End with “Quiet” Music
While I’ve listed a lot of resources so far, the “active listening” portion of the playlist usually only takes ten minutes or so. The kids are usually listening and singing along with these songs while they munch on fruit and I finish up making the oatmeal or re-heating pancakes from the freezer.
The more active songs usually wrap up just as I sit down to join the kids for breakfast. Then, I have a “quieter” album queued up in the playlist. I use this opportunity to start our read-alouds for the day. The softer music makes it easy to focus on the reading without competing with the vocalists.
Obviously, I sometimes use classical music. But I also use albums that I like to listen to, including modern R&B, alternative, and folk. I try to include a variety of musical genres. This week, we listened to Freelance Whales as part of our wind-down. 🤷♀️
If you’re looking for some ideas from different genres, consider:
- Chopin’s Nocturnes — classical
- Free Design’s Sing for Very Important People — folk
- Ballet Music (Collection) — instrumental piano
- Billy Marten’s Writings of Blues and Yellows — jazz
- Andrei Krylov’s Lute Music — renaissance and early music
Step 4: Model Music Enjoyment
In addition to listening to lots of music, utilizing a weekly playlist, and strewing toys and books, it’s important that you also show your kids how much you love music.
Make sure that your children see their parents enjoying music (or playing music themselves!).
Kids learn primarily through imitation, so if they see you truly enjoying and appreciating quality music, or making the time to practice an instrument, they are so much more likely to grow in their own music enjoyment.
Step 5: Attend Live Concerts
The final piece of the puzzle in our homeschool music education program is live performances. I’ve found this more challenging overseas due to limited availability, but we try. The upside is that while classical, opera, and ballet performances are more limited here, we have the opportunity instead to attend traditional and local festivals.
Whenever possible, take your children to live performances. Start with matinees or children’s concerts, and prepare your kids ahead of time with practice concerts at home.
Tips for attending live performances with small children:
- Practice ahead of time by throwing pretend concerts at home. Give your ticket to the usher, find your seats (on the couch), and take turns as the performer. Don’t forget to clap and bow!
- When booking tickets, choose seats in the back row, near the exit. Make it easy to step out quickly if your children need a minute.
- Choose shows that don’t interfere with naptime or bedtime. An overtired kid is rarely on their best behavior.
- Have fun dressing up and making a day of it — get lunch together, go get your nails painted, or visit the concession stand for a special souvenir or treat.
- Bring snacks. I am not above bribing my children into silence with a bag full of cookies.
- Bring a quiet activity for intermission. Crayons and coloring books work well to keep kids occupied while waiting for the concert to start.
- Know when to call it. It’s hard when we spend money on tickets, but sometimes, it’s just not working. Keep these experiences positive by knowing when to call it a day and try another time. We’re building a life-long habit of music enjoyment, and we don’t want to teach our kids that live performances are something that we have to suffer through.
Above all, choose music that you actually enjoy and do what you can to help your children enjoy the experience. We’re building a habit of music appreciation with each little step, not just training our kids to sit through events.
Does this homeschool music education plan work?
I know that listening to great music from a variety of genres helps my kids navigate the musical world more easily.
I see, every day, how music calms, settles, or excites them.
I watch them learn new academic concepts through song. I hear them learn new words in new languages. I see them improving their sense of rhythm and pitch.
But, most importantly, I see them developing a sense of musical expression and creativity.
My kids are not musical prodigies. They are not wunderkinds. In fact, my oldest is still sort of alarmingly tone-deaf.
But she loves music.
In the video below, I heard her create music to express a particular emotion — sadness. I saw her connect notes on a page to sounds she created (even if they weren’t strictly correct). I watched her move her body to connect more deeply with the music.
It’s not fancy. It’s not YouTube-worthy. This is just our home, and these are just our everyday-kids.
Bringing it All Together — Homeschool Music Education in a Nutshell
I hope this post has given you the confidence and the resources to incorporate more music into your homeschool day as well as your family routines.
The bottom line is — you do not need a music degree, you do not need pricey music classes, and you do not even need to know how to play an instrument yourself.
All you need is the ability to play a lot of music, from a lot of different genres — as well as the chutzpah to enthusiastically participate in musical expression and enjoyment. That might mean dancing around your kitchen with your kid, or it might mean bringing them to hear a live concert.
You Can Do This
Listen to music. A lot of it.
Provide easy access to instruments and musical toys, books, and games.
Talk about music with your kids — how it makes you feel, what you think the music is communicating, and what kinds of instruments are involved.
Allow your children to see real musicians, either at home or in the concert hall.
You’ve got this, mama.
How do you incorporate music appreciation into your daily routine?
Share in the comments below!
- First Day of Homeschool Pre-K: Worldschooling in Guatemala
- Pre-K Learning Objectives
- Pre-K Homeschool Curriculum: 2019-2020