Monthly Archives: November 2023

Instilling a Sense of Giving in Children

Charitable giving plummeted 10.5% since 2021. While this decline was across the board with corporations and foundations, giving by individuals fell by an even steeper amount of 13.4%, adjusting for inflation. It’s important to note that Americans gave generously during the pandemic, with record-setting giving between 2019 and 2020, so non-profits and charitable organizations can only hope this recent decline is temporary. After all, Americans have a great history of charitable donations, and one which has been passed down from generation to generation. In this season of giving, it’s important to model and teach children about the importance of giving back to others.

Tips for Raising Generous Children

From early childhood children tend to be self-involved, making sure that their immediate needs are met by the caregivers surrounding them. But as they grow older, its important that those caregivers play an important role in helping kids develop generosity by encouragement and example. Here are some guiding principles in helping children develop a lifetime of charitable giving:

  • Encourage empathy – Helping children to imaging how others feel is the starting point of generosity. Parents should seek out opportunities to encourage empathy, from everyday situations such as a sibling squabble, or in more structured giving such as participating in a food or clothing drive.
  • Set an example – Kids look to parents and other caregivers for clues on how to behave. While encouragement is extremely important, modeling generous behavior such as visiting sick relatives, volunteering at a charitable organization, or even pitching in with household chores, shows children first-hand that you really mean what you say.
  • Select a Charity – Let your children experience first-hand what it feels like to give time to a cause. Encourage them help to select a charity that the entire family can participate in, ideally one benefitting children of their own ages. When kids give to those they closely relate with, their empathy grows even stronger.

Teaching Children Generosity in the Music Classroom

Children’s music programs offer a unique opportunity for kids to learn about giving and generosity. With encouragement and guidance from the early childhood music teacher, they can learn the gift of giving in the following ways:

Musikgarten Class - Children Taking Turns
Children taking turns in a Musikgarten class.

Teaching generosity to children is a gift that they will practice their entire lives, and which others will surely benefit. Through explaining empathy, modeling by example, and providing children opportunities to give to others, caregivers can ensure that their child will be a more thoughtful and generous member of society.

Have Schools Been Teaching Music All Wrong?

Even before the pandemic, music educators in schools had been lamenting about the budget cuts in the arts and how children’s music programs have suffered or even in some cases, disappeared. But the exodus and decline of music students in public education cannot be solely laid at the feet of budget cuts. For example, a seven-year study in Texas found an 80% drop out rate for band students, with the greatest attrition being between the first and second year of instruction.

Budget cuts notwithstanding, developing a love and knowledge of making music in children may have a larger systemic issue. Perhaps our approach to teaching music in schools is contributing to this decline. Have schools been teaching music all wrong?

Teaching Music to the test and not the student

In a series of New York Times articles, Grammy-award winning musician Sammy Miller argues that as with many other institutional education programs with standardized achievement testing, the same often applies to music programs.

Whether by choice or necessity, educators today often “teach to the test” so that achievement goals attached to funding can be reached. While the form of the achievement goal may be a bit different than in traditional classes, music instructors are often teaching to the Holiday Concert or Recital, where parents and administrators will see results. It is often said that music is a language, but many music programs are not teaching it that way. Much like language, music development should include listening, speaking (singing), reading, and writing. Emphasizing rigid reading and rote memorization misses the most important goal of a music program – to instill a lifelong love of music.

Teaching music like a language

It is not until pre-school age that many children are exposed to written language, although their vocabulary is already as many as a thousand words and phrases.

So how did they acquire this skill without formal instruction? By hearing language from their caregivers and siblings, repeating what they hear, and stumbling through ways to verbally (and physically) communicate. As their language develops, they begin to experience the joy of communication. It is not seen as a chore of rote memorization, but a feeling of community and connectiveness. Some early childhood music programs understand that teaching through musical communication establishes a foundation and understanding of the building blocks of music knowledge.

Many great pop music artists know that the secret of good music is simplicity in its foundation, with most chart-topping songs being a series of a few simple notes put together in a new and creative way. Approaching early childhood music education the same way we approach teaching language is a joyful way to instill a lifelong love and understanding of music.