Monday, October 1, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Music Together Family Favorites

Do you have children who love to dance around and sing to any type of music?  I do.  Umm, that is an understatement.  My children personify music and motion whenever they are not tied down!

I also direct children's choir, and what I hear over and over from parents is that, "I'd like my child to be able to sing or play music, because I never have.  I'd like my child to not be afraid to be in front of people on stage." People also sometimes tell me, "I can't sing at all."

If your vocal chords have not been damaged or removed, you can sing!  I have seen people who really sounded like they could not carry a tune in a bucket take voice lessons and then sing like a pro.  Music is an essential part of being human.  We are not born to be afraid of making music; the fear comes from a lifetime of not utilizing the talent.  Clearly, some people are born with an exceptional gift of music, and some people are simply not that interested in music, but we all have some music in us if we desire to use it!  If you desire your children to be musical at any level, the time to start is when they are young.

Music Together recognizes that "all children are musical," and "therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence: that is, they can learn to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm."  This program for teaching music to young children veered away from the traditional model of teaching music only to prepare children for instrumental or vocal performance, and instead established a curriculum for teaching all children informal music through play.  After all, young children teach themselves by playing.  They also learn best from parental example (or that of any caregiver), and so Music Together classes incorporate children and their caregivers - sometimes whole families - playing with music together.

Actual Music Together classes are taught by licensed providers.  There are nine non-sequential song collections which each focus on a specific instrument.  In addition, however, Music Together also offers the "Family Favorites" song collection, with favorite songs from all nine of the instrumental collections.  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Team, we received the book and CD of the "Family Favorites" collection.  While this curriculum is not a substitute for an actual Music Together class, it does bring many of the fun features and songs from the classes right into your own home.

I love the basic principles and activities in this book:

1)  The songs are fun and catchy for young children, and they introduce a wide variety of musical styles:  jazz, pop, lullaby, and there is even a special song for the remembrance of 9/11.
2)  Children learn basic pitch and rhythm, as well as harmony and a general love for music through playing with actual musical instruments, simple rhythm instruments, and non-musical props.
3)  Children have FUN!
4)  Songs with words are included, as well as songs with rhythmic syllables, or "vocables."
5)  Children learn and bond with their caregiver partner.
6)  Rounds and other basic harmony exercises are introduced.  This part was especially good for my older children; even though they are a little older, they need the practice singing harmony.
7)  Many of the songs can be used with various substitutions for words, actions, animal sounds, etc.
8)  Suggested activities include adaptations for infants, preschoolers, or special needs.
9)  All music is informal, and improvisation is encouraged.  Creativity and movement are encouraged.
10)  No expensive equipment is needed.  If you have access to musical instruments, that is great, but if not, you can use anything from pots and pans to homemade instruments.  In fact, the song "Playin' in the Kitchen" reminded me of my own childhood, when my mother used to let me have my own kitchen band with her pots and pans while she was working in the kitchen, just like the author said his mother did!

These maracas are colorful and a lot of fun, but I wish I'd gotten a picture of my son with his milk jug the other day.  Banging on the empty milk jug for a rhythm instrument was much louder and therefore much more fun!

We do own several musical instruments, and have a number of musical things in our house - and Music Together sells a variety of kid-friendly instruments - but you do not need to go out and spend a lot of money to start teaching your young children music.  I used these maracas that I got from a yard sale, and I also have a large set of rhythm instruments that I have accumulated over the years that I used.  Some of my favorites are the little rhythm band sets that you can purchase at Wal-mart or a learning store.  They are colorful and durable, and not only do my own children enjoy them, but my children's choir kids have always enjoyed it when I bring my big box of instruments in on occasion.  Even with all this, however, my children love making their own instruments.  Cut a hole in the front of a shoebox and stretch rubber bands across it for a shoebox guitar.  Put dry beans or uncooked maccaroni in an empty toilet paper roll and tape paper around the ends for a fun shaker.  Two paper plates stapled together with rice inside make a great tambourine.  Pots and pans have always been the best drums.  And when I need the rhythm to be a little softer for my poor pounding head, I give the kids sealed salt, pepper, or spice containers.  When they were babies, I used to let them play with these in church instead of a rattle.  It kept them busy and did not disturb the people around us!

There were only two drawbacks to this program for me specifically.  One was that the music was a bit young for my kids.  It was recommended for children up to age 9, and I have a 7- and a 9-year-old, but I think it is better for pre-school and kindergarten children.  The other drawback is that the music is all secular, and I prefer to use more religious music for our homeschool activities.

I highly recommend the Music Together Family Favorites book and CD for anyone with children in kindergarten or younger, whether you are a seasoned musician wanting to teach music to your children, or a novice with no musical experience.  It is a great tool for teaching musical concepts as well as a love of music to young children.

Click this link to listen to the songs on the "Family Favorites" CD or buy a digital download.

Here's a summary of the information you need about this product:

The Vendor:  Music Together at
Age Range:  Infant, toddler, preschool, kindergarten
       Also special adaptations for special needs children
Price:  $29.95 for the "Songbook for Teachers"; $14.95 for the CD; $9.99 for the downloadable MP3 version
  Save $5 by purchasing the Songbook and CD together for $39.95
  Plus SAVE $2 more by purchasing the combo and entering the coupon code "Schoolhouse" at checkout!

Also find information on other products, where to find Music Together classes near you, or how to become a Music Together instructor at

See what my crewmates thought of the Music Together Family Favorites book and CD by clicking on the banner below.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the Music Together Family Favorites book and CD for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

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