Sometimes I see articles by homeschoolers referring to “gaps” in a child’s education. That is, can we teach them everything? Can we cover all the subjects? The usual consensus is that no, we can’t possibly teach our kids everything, and we really shouldn’t worry about gaps. After all, kids going to public school have gaps in their education, and, learning does not end after twelve years of formal education.
I always thought that music would be a gap in my kid’s education. Neither my husband nor I play an instrument or read music. When my kids were younger, paying for music lessons seemed a bit pricey when they didn’t seem interested in it. Although I knew we would listen to music, and I could introduce them to the basics with a book or two, I resigned myself that further education in music would be one of our “gaps.”
But then my son expressed an interest in taking piano lessons. I should note that occasionally he’d seen people play piano live, and my husband enjoys listening to all kinds of music, so it’s not like he didn’t have any exposure to music. We also had a small, cheap digital keyboard that the boys liked to play with. But before this time, he always said no when we asked him if he’d like piano lessons. Then he changed his mind. This came at a time when we seriously wondered if we could afford it.
Ultimately, we decided that if he really wanted to try the piano, we wanted to support that, so I asked on a local homeschool list if anyone could recommend a teacher near us. Not only did we find someone who lives just ten minutes away, she gives affordable lessons. We told ourselves that if our son kept taking lessons for one year, we’d be happy because, of course, music is part of a well-rounded education. I was thrilled that he was getting some instruction in music that I couldn’t offer him at home.
Now he’s been taking lessons for nine months, and to our surprise, he is proving to have talent and a passion for it. He’s moving ahead quickly through his lesson books, practicing diligently, and he says he wants to stick with it. I don’t know what he’ll ultimately do with this, but we’re so glad we didn’t say no when he expressed an interest. We are going to have to make quite a few sacrifices to give him the tools and instruction he needs to keep moving forward, but that will be worth it to us. As a pianist recently told us, many parents say they aren’t going to make those sacrifices until their child gets “good” at the piano, but because the child doesn’t have the tools he needs to get better, he gets frustrated and loses interest.
Playing the piano has only been one aspect of this endeavor. My son has taken a keen interest in classical music, and now he will sit and watch YouTube videos of symphonies, piano concertos, and sonatas. He’s learning who’s who in the music world. He’s also learning about the classical composers, and we’ve taken him to some free classical concerts at nearby universities. Best of all, my younger son is benefiting from all the listening he’s doing, and I’m learning more than I had ever hoped to learn about music too.
All this makes me think that if parents are doing their best to educate their children, introducing them to all sorts of things and giving them a variety of experiences, the “gaps” are going to naturally fill up – at least the ones that are supposed to.
I don’t know if we are embarking on a lifetime project, a project that will last for a few years, or one that will end next season – but I wouldn’t trade the last few months for anything. Being able to dig deep into any subject over a long period of time is a perk of homeschooling: we have the time, if we have the inclination.
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.