TOS Review Crew: Music Together

My little guy loves music. I think this is an innate inclination on his part. I remember one time when I was pregnant with him. When our worship pastor began the set, I am sure that he heard the beat in utero and woke up and started wiggling. Even now, when I see him, he seems to pick up on the rhythm of everything, whether it be background music in the grocery store or the sound of the ice cream machine as it spins. I did have some music education when I was growing up (my mom was a piano teacher so I couldn't get out of it!), but I have not been trained to teach music. So I did feel a bit at a loss when it came to helping my own son grow in his musical development. Music lessons are a little expensive for our family but I do sense that Jonathan has a strong musical bent. Music Together seemed like a great way for me to help cultivate not only his musical skills but also Anah's at home with me during our schooltime.

Company Information: Music Together started out as music classes for children in 1987. What I like about this company is that while they do provide early childhood music classes, they also provide classes for parents and children to enjoy together. So often, it is easy for us to send our kids off to someone else to teach. One of the first things that drew me to this program was the fact that this was meant for me to do with my kids.

Music Together is an award-winning, research-based program, and the curriculum is built on developmentally appropriate practices for preschool children. As I mentioned earlier, parent or adult participation is key to this program. Mr. Ken Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz, the founders and developers of Music Together, developed a four-point philosophy in developing this curriculum:

"1. All children are musical.

2. Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence; that is, they can learn to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm.

3. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child's musical growth.

4. This growth is best achieved in a playful, musically rich, and non-performance-oriented learning environment."

Music Together offers this playful, musically rich program through family classes, a preschool program, and instruction and certification for teachers who desire to professionally teach the program in their own settings.

Product ReviewedMusic Together Family Favorites Combo set (includes Songbook for Teachers and CD). It is my understanding that this is a compilation of 19 favorites from their other CD collections.

Price: $39.95 (you save $5 when you purchase both the songbook and CD together)

Age Range: birth to age 9, but I think it is best geared to preschool or early grade school level.

Parental Preparation: Technically, I didn’t do any preparation when I first received the package. All I did was pop the CD into the player and listened to it with Jonathan, just to get a feel for it. He liked it so much that he asked me to play it again. That’s a good sign!

After our initial listening session, I found it extremely helpful to read the introductory material to get a feel for the philosophy behind the program. It took me about 30 minutes to read the first 20 pages or so and it covered many helpful topics, including teaching principles. Although I have some musical background myself, I found this information gave me the confidence to prepare meaningful sessions for my little guy. As we have just recently added Anah into our family, the information on adapting the program to special needs children was excellent.

Although not absolutely necessary, simple instruments can help enrich your time together. The songbook suggests rhythm sticks, egg shakers, scarves, drums, and other play-along instruments (e.g. triangles, maracas, etc.) as supplemental materials to use. If you do not have any readily available, we found some in our local teaching supply store. If that is not an option, you can easily create your own. Dowels (or plastic chopsticks!) can serve as rhythm sticks, dried beans tightly sealed in a paper plate or toilet paper tube can serve as shakers, and fabric squares (gauzy, light and flowing fabrics may be best) can be substituted for scarves. And don’t forget those pots and pans…they can be great drums!

How We Used It: After our initial listening, I asked Jonathan which songs he liked best. He definitely had favorites! We enjoyed the “Hello Song”: since we weren’t in a classroom full of children, we lined up his stuffed animals as our “class” and sang each of their names. He also really liked “Ridin’ in the Car” (what boy wouldn’t?) and we made up motions to go with the words. While we were sitting in the airplane on the way to Guangzhou, I began to recite “Splishing and Splashing” and he would fill in the rhymes as I said it. “Dancing with Teddy” became “Dancing with Lion,” his stuffed sidekick. I personally liked “Biddy Biddy” and playing with nonsense syllables as we tapped along on rhythm sticks that I had when I was a preschool teacher (a long time ago).

Using these favorites, I read through some of the variations and extensions. So that we would get the most out of the songs, we focused on a few at a time. With repetition, the songs became more familiar, which then allowed us to sing the variations and play with the music as the songbook suggested. With time, we will add more new songs to our "playlist."

A side story: We took the CD to China with us when we picked up our new adopted daughter and had it playing in the background when Anah came into our room. Even though she may not have noticed it, I think it helped to make our room a welcoming place. Children may not actually be sitting and listening, but they pick up a lot as background music.

What We Liked:

  • The songbook is an excellent resource.

While the CD in itself is great, I think it is the songbook that really enriches the program. Each song has an introduction, general ideas and suggestions, as well as adaptations for children with special needs. With Jonathan, I quickly skimmed the general notes for our first go-around. However, with each time we sing the songs, there are many suggestions and variations to stretch the teaching opportunities with each song. I learned so much from the songbook notes and even went through songs and wrote notes to myself to create varied lesson plans to use.

Other things we liked:

  • If you are musically inclined, there is written music and guitar chords that allows you to play the songs on your own instrument.
  • The songs are simple and easy to learn. We also loved the silliness! Jonathan and I had a good time being silly together. (Although my older kids did look at me a little funny…)
  • There is a glossary at the end that defines musical terms if you do not know what they are.

What We Didn't Like:

Nothing! We enjoyed the entire program. It is well thought-out and detailed. Even though they do offer actual classes, the material in the book can give you a plenty to do at home.

However, if you want serious music instruction so that your kids can perform, this might not be for you. This set is for pure musical enjoyment.

Overall Summary: For fun, methodical and thorough music experiences for the early childhood set, this CD of Family Favorites fits the bill. I look forward to using the adaptations for Anah and enjoying them with her as well. If you enjoy the collection, there is a second family favorites collection as well as additional song collections that focus on a semester’s worth of music for a particular instrument, such as bongos, maracas, triangles and even fiddles! There is plenty more to extend your children’s musical experiences at home.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Music Together's Family Favorites CD and Songbook set in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own. For more reviews on this product, click the banner below!