Some things in life we consider inviolable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness immediately come to mind, but this is because I have a rudimentary familiarity with the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Just because the words are written on paper, and represent freedoms all people should enjoy, doesn’t mean that we will.
Which, we are beginning to see, is becoming a new reality. Or, given the depravity of mankind in all places and all seasons, perhaps always was the reality. We were just a bit too asleep to notice.
But on a more domestic level, and in many families, especially homeschooling families, and even more especially religious homeschooling families, piano lessons are an inviolable right of childhood. Now whether they contribute to the pursuit of happiness on the part of the child taking them is questionable, but it makes the parents feel better.
When our own brood of four was younger, we felt the pressure to conform, and set about securing lessons for Eldest Supreme, who was 12 at the time and by all accounts was far too old to begin learning, that is, if she were seeking a career as a concert pianist.
She wasn’t. She just, sort of, wanted to play the piano.
Because we were raising a family of six on one modest income, and because our primary goal was to pay for our house as we built it so that we wouldn’t suffer a mortgage, we didn’t have a lot of expendable income for piano lessons, for one child, much less four. But we managed for a year, and Eldest Supreme practiced an hour a day and progressed quickly beyond elementary tunes to moderately difficult classical pieces (you don’t have to start at 5 to learn a skill, you know).
And then, after that successful year, she and we decided that this wasn’t her passion, and that it would be best for all if we went on to something else. Children Numbers 2 and 3 weren’t remotely interested in music, and Tired of Being Youngest, though she banged about for hours on the keyboard, was, at five, too young.
The Voices That Surround Us
Ah, but according to the people who gently apply pressure to everyone else’s lives, that five-year-old should be in lessons, and many of the very young people in the church we attended at that time did take lessons, conveniently, from the pastor’s wife. Every six weeks or so, we in the congregation heard a special, picked out on a few fingers, of a hymn — because this is pretty much all that a five-year-old can do, unless he or she is a prodigy. And that’s okay.
But Tired of Being Youngest kept slamming away at the keys, making music to her own ears, and we let her play, in both senses of the word.
As she grew older, she recognized what we all knew — that she was slamming away on the keys and making a noise that wasn’t necessarily beautiful — and decided that she wanted to do more. But she didn’t want lessons. Instead, she learned the rudiments of how to read notes from me (because I, like so many people, took lessons as a child), and she picked the brains of her friends who had taken lessons since they were five.
And she scoured the Internet — tracking down free musical scores, listening to how the piece was supposed to sound, and learning more about reading music by applying what she heard to what her fingers did. She skipped the hymns and went straight for the contemporary pop music that meant something to her, and in a rapid space of time, she advanced until she began to sound like her piano-playing friends.
Now, at 17, she plays beautifully — not at the level of a concert pianist, but in all honesty, neither do most of her peers — and she has jumped from pop music to classical and back to pop — still no hymns. Her disinterest in them must be genetic.
Eldest Supreme, College Girl, and the Son and Heir found interests outside of music — weight training, woodcarving, two-dimensional visual art, interior decorating — all of which they primarily learned autodidactically, which is one of the reasons we homeschooled them. All four progeny are very good at their chosen interests, and they continue getting better.
Customize Lessons to Your Child’s Interests
This is not to say that piano lessons are bad. They’re not. They’re just not mandatory.
Not all children are interested in music, in the same way that not all people think three-dimensionally and can carve animals out of wood, or not all people create customized weight lifting schedules for themselves, based upon extensive research.
Do not allow yourself to be pressured into providing lessons for your child that do not fit their interests and are difficult for you to afford — just because everybody else is doing so. Lessons — in music, art, dance, writing, athletics — are a beautiful opportunity, but they are a precious one. Choose wisely.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I address Homeschooling on Thursdays.
If your older child (13-plus), and/ or you, are interested in art, I encourage you to look at my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson’s, digital watercolor workshop, Step by Step Watercolor Success available at Amazon.com and through our website, Steve Henderson Fine Art.
If you, and/or your child, are interested in writing and want to quickly tackle the basic problems that plague many of us, take a look at my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?”
If you, like us, live on a moderate income because you have chosen to devote your time and energy to educating your brood, consider my book, Live Happily on Less, a series of easygoing essays drawn from our own background of living well on little. We own our home — mortgage free — and the land that it sits on.