Venite, venite in Bethlehem!
My second grade son loves singing Adeste Fideles these days. He revels in knowing all the verses in Latin, gleefully quizzing us on the word translations.
In fact, pretty much all of our second graders can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in its original tongue, as part of their Latin studies this year. And this isn't the only text they learn through song - nearly all of their Latin grammar and vocabulary is taught through music. It works wonders. Even my kindergartner knows dozens of Latin phrases now thanks to all the singing her brother does during car rides, at dinner, and more.
The holiday season at Veritas traditionally begins with abundant music and merriment. The Madrigal Feast and The Holiday Colonial Ball bring singing and dancing into the limelight. At once joyful and reverent, the Christmas concert resonates glory in our very souls as the sanctuary of the church echoes with rich, beloved harmonies and melodies. Through these events, hundreds of family, friends, and even strangers gather to participate with our school community in this most treasured holiday tradition - that of singing beloved carols and enjoying beautiful melodies together.
Most of us have at least one of THOSE friends - the ones who chomp at the bit for October to be over, because once November 1 strikes, the Christmas music bursts forth in their home in all of it's twinkling tinsel glory. No matter what camp you fall into regarding when it's appropriate to break out the Burl Ives, you'll be hard pressed to find someone in our culture who doesn't have a soft spot in their heart for Christmas music.
These melodies awaken our senses and whisk us to a time and place of warmth and fond memories. We can picture where we were and whom we were with when singing or listening to a certain carol together. The words of these Christmas songs enlighten us to the depth of meaning behind Christ's coming - what it meant for him to leave his majestic throne, how it might have been for him in that stark manger, the shock and awe of the shepherds as they witnessed a vast and glorious heavenly host.
The power of music is not lost on the staff and students of Veritas Academy. While other schools may be cutting music and art programs, we hold such disciplines in high regard (in fact, we look for ways to ramp it up, having outlined a fuller Art and Music program all the way through secondary school as one of our Academic Priorities for the year). Music isn't even simply relegated to elective status. It is woven into the fabric of learning throughout the curriculum, especially in the grammar school years. Why? Because it works, and it's important,
As your family approaches Christmas and the songs of the season begin filling your ears and resonating from your lips, consider the power of music in helping your children to learn, grow, and appreciate the Lord's work and word. Here are three reasons to integrate music into our daily lives as we disciple our children:
1) It Aids in the Learning Process
Every year, every second grader knows all thirty-two major historical and Biblical events from Creation through the fall of Egypt to Roman rule (in chronological order, with dates, placing Biblical events alongside historical counterparts). They can name every country on a blank map of Africa - and more - all thanks to the power of learning through song.
"Every single child," asserts Deb Chapin, second grade teacher, attesting to the fact that each student, no matter their perceived academic prowess, masters this knowledge.
Each successive year builds on this knowledge, until by the end of sixth grade, kids can name every country on blank world map, every state on a blank map of the U.S., and every major world historical event (and how each corresponds with Bible and church history) up through 20th century America. Most of them can still recite the same facts when they graduate. Again, all thanks to music.
It's not that it would be impossible for students to learn these facts by other methods. But learning through song - and putting their whole body into it with motions - makes it fun and makes it stick, even with those who are prone to struggle academically. "Otherwise, it would be a very frustrating and tedious assignment," Deb says.
As the kids grow into the latter stages of grammar school, music and chanting remains an effective tool, especially in their history and Bible. Patty Ploutz, sixth grade teacher, says "So many students tell me every year, when it comes to their chronology tests, 'The chant saves me!'"
Think about how much is cemented in your memory thanks to songs. How many brands from your childhood jump to the forefront of your mind thanks to a catchy jingle ('Toys R Us Kid, Kit Kat's "Gimme a Break," Huggies' "I'm a Big Kid Now," and more). And Christmas...even when you haven't heard a song for a whole year, you can still recite it entirely by memory when the season rolls around.
If you have something you want your kids to remember (and hopefully remember fondly) attach a song to it. Put it to a familiar tune, or even just make a chant with claps. Whether for life lessons, scriptural truths, family mottos, or household rules, music will keep learning fun, engaging, and effective.
2) It Adds Beauty, Joy, and Goodness to Life
It's been said that those who believe that music and art are frivolous in education should try to live in a world completely devoid of the fine arts. Bare walls. Silent hallways. No music in the car or at the restaurant. No inspiration in the architectural design around us. One may not realize how sorely these things are missed until they are absent.
"Many people think of music as just a tool to reach another goal, a means to an end. But I’m convinced that music is valuable for it’s own sake. It’s worth studying for its own worth," says Elisa Chodan. "Yes, it does help with math and history and social skills. But it has its own intrinsic value as an academic subject. It teaches beauty. It helps students develop the ability to communicate. Part of being human is the ability to speak not just in the concrete. There is a side of us that God created that can only be expressed through music, beyond just writing, speaking, or reading words."
"Without a strong music education, yes, students can function in this world. But there's an aspect of who they are as a human being that is left dormant - a richness and a sense of complete wholeness as an individual, an ability to express themselves in ways untouched by other disciplines."
Elisa - who has experience teaching and directing students with several organizations - recalls many instances where a child blossomed thanks to music. A 7-year-old girl with Down Syndrome z for whom music brings unrivaled joy as she is learning to match pitches and keep rhythm. A student who struggles with anxiety and OCD finding peace and relaxation when making and enjoying music. A shy student who finds his confidence in a rigorous rehearsal. Parts of these kids' souls and their personalities are being awakened thanks to the power of music.
Considering the Christmas season, and why music makes such a splash during this time of year, Elisa notes how music provides a way for we as communities to commemorate certain occasions.
"When we have grand occasions - like weddings, graduations, funerals, even Christmas - we want to honor what’s happening, share it with other people, and help us all feel the weight of the event. It brings a sense of solemnity or celebration. It gives us a way to channel our thoughts and feelings, and to honor the people we are trying to honor, whether by celebrating with them or showing our grief with them."
Maybe you're not the type of family who will ever be able to or be interested in signing your children up for instrument lessons. Your child may never set foot on the stage of a grand concert hall to perform an aria or sonata. But making an effort to add music to your home and life - whether by singing together in devotions, playing music during dinner, listening to new albums in car rides, however it looks in your family - will surely add a measure of beauty and goodness to your days and awaken your children's souls in new ways
3) It Allows Us to Reflect Our Creator God and Cement His Truth in Our Hearts
Creation makes it obvious that God does not find art and music frivolous. Rather, he is the original master artist and musician. The Lord values that which is beautiful, as the heavens and earth declare his glory through song and splendor. Painted sunrise skies echo with an ensemble of bird calls, and the angels around the throne call out day and night in endless songs of praise.
"It’s part of developing us into a full image-bearer," Elisa says of music disciplines. "God created us with these capacities. He, by nature, is creative. He was the first Creator, and it’s part of His mandate that we also be creative. We're called to make disciples, which means helping people to be more like Christ. Music is part of that. After all, God sings over us!"
Indeed, the Lord has ordained music to be useful in praising Him and instructing our hearts in His Truth.
"Mankind was created to worship and praise God for all eternity. Growing in our abilities and appreciation for making music is of the highest importance," says Emily Fischer, Veritas Academy fourth grade teacher. "We do not want to undermine other creative and artistic endeavors, but this helps us see the priority of every student pursuing musical excellence.
"We are all called to worship, no matter our vocation."
Part of worship through music involves singing out the truths of God's word. Scripture comes even more alive - and cements itself stronger in our hearts - when it's incorporated in music.
Katie Zappitella, our third grade teacher, teaches her class modern and traditional hymns that correspond with the season throughout their school days, playing and singing at the piano in their classroom. It hearkens back to her childhood, she says, when her family would do what they called "Breakfast Hymns" - memorizing a different hymn over breakfast each month.
She didn't always enjoy it then, but now, she says "I can't tell you how many times the words to those hymns have come to my mind when it mattered."
Likewise, Deb Chapin says that they sing hymns in these early grammar school years "so that, when they are in the foxhole, those words of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" spring to mind."
She recalls a powerful instance in Veritas school history, on September 11, 2001. News of the tragedy was just breaking, and the administrators gathered the entire student body in the cafeteria. In the quietness and sobriety of the moment, a student began singing "A Mighty Fortress." The entire student body, youngest to oldest - and staff joined in, uniting in a declaration of God's sovereignty in the midst of a confusing, tragic, chaotic moment.
The imagery in song lyrics combined with apt melodies help us to see things in a new, more alive light. Take, for example, Katie's third grade class, who learns Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven at Christmastime.
"The first verse talks about Jesus as a tiny baby. We discuss all the things that a baby cannot do, and when we talk about the God of the universe coming down as a baby and the students realize this, their eyes grow huge. It dawns on them how momentous this is," she explains.
At school, we're committed to continually employing music to connect students with truth, beauty, and goodness. This Christmas season and beyond, as you seek to guide your children into a fuller knowledge of Christ and a greater understanding of and contribution to the world around them, may you, too, find ways to incorporate the joy of music in your household!
Want your children to be part of a school that educates their whole being - mind, body, and spirit - so that they may be a truly well-rounded loving, serving, thinking gradate? We invite you to come visit Veritas for a tour so you can see for yourself the profound, positive impact that Classical Christian Education can have. You will be inspired, entertained, and moved by what you see! Click the button below to see our dates and learn more.