Monday, January 28, 2013

The Joy of Music and the Adopted Child

     Years ago, we listened to an interesting Cd by Andrew Pudewa called, “The Profound Effects of Music on Life.”  It talked about the ability of certain complex music to promote growth and function in the brain. At the time, two of my kiddos were struggling with algebra word problems, so I figured we’d give it a whirl.  At 14, we signed them up for piano lessons – despite the reluctance of the teacher.  1 year later, word problems were a breeze, and 3 years later, both boys played classical pieces beautifully, scoring outstanding in advanced levels and even becoming the judges pick in one.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so…

     Because all but one of my adopted children experienced institutional starts, they have all come home with various “holes” in their processing  or critical thinking abilities.  While one may be able to memorize or work out math problems on paper, she may have difficulty doing simple mental math in a sequence.  When I ask if they “see” the problem in their brain, they tell me that there are “no pictures in there” or that the numbers quickly “disappear” and I have to repeat the problem.  The abstract ability to picture things in the brain or follow a sequential process are lacking.   It reminded me of Ben Carson’s early in life inability to use his imagination in the movie, “Gifted Hands.”  Among other things, his mother used classical music to promote a better learning environment.

     Like Ben Carson’s mom, I have no scientific studies to quote, (you can find them however) but a general  life experience of children who seem to do better academically, be more focused and calm, and have the added benefit of enjoying the music as it stimulates their imagination. My girls drive me nuts asking me to clap out rhythms from the “I Can Read Music” primer and find it great evening fun.  They like to describe the pictures in their heads when listening to various pieces like Hadyn’s Surprise Symphony.   The book, “Themes to Remember,” gives a spark to their imagination as the author devises silly ditties designed to help kids remember composers and their work.

     While it’s a financial challenge to provide music lessons to 6 children, I believe it’s worth every penny – even if they may eventually lose their interest.  I’m convinced that wiring in the brain continues to be built long after the medical, musical, and language learning community says it’s “too late,” and that God CAN restore “the years the locusts have eaten” if we work along with him and use the many tools He’s provided.  If elderly stroke victims can re-learn tasks and build skills, then certainly young people past 10 are capable as well.  While every child will not become a super genius or some struggle for basic skills, all can use a bit of extra wiring and experience the joy of listening to beautiful music.  In our family, we call it “building highways in the brain,” and my kids eagerly and joyfully work at it through music and other activities.  Favorites include:

  • Simple Analogies
  • Mental Math
  • Rhythm clapping (I didn’t believe you could learn rhythm – but you can!)
  • Hand skills (knitting, crochet, embroidery, catching a ball)
  • Handwriting practice (similar to playing a piano)
  • Jumping on a trampoline (the experts say jumping helps reading?)
  • Read aloud listening
     The worst that can happen is a lot of fun!  We set aside time specifically for the above and mix it up as needed.  Usually, they’re begging me to do one or the other, so it’s not hard to keep at it.  In the age of video games, my kids can learn sight readying through “My Notes” iTouch apps and others like it.  For those on a tight budget of time and money, youtube has videos for just about anything to get you started.

     Violin Stars (  is an online “virtual strings club,” taught by a former homeschooled student, who makes lessons fun and easy to follow.  She sells a complete DVD course if you prefer not to have your child on the internet, and it includes all associated music. 

     Most of our fun and games are free on the internet  - englishforeveryone  (  has fun analogies on a basic level – these are really helpful for my new kiddos.

     I hope this is helpful for someone – I love to see the joy of my new girls as they experience some of the fun classical songs that I remember from my childhood (and they associate with Disney, haha!)  The encouragement they feel as they master basic skills like handwriting and clapping a rhythm is priceless!  

Blessings, Kim

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,[a]
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-32


  1. Tessa's evaluations showed her lack of ability to make these "pictures" in her head as you describe. I was going to post about how her tutoring is going soon. We have a Lindamood-Bell tutor who lives in CA teaching her how to make these pictures using Facetime...the program isn't just a "reading" program...more like a "learning" program I guess. It's going very well. I know she is interested in picking up more remote students...let me know if you are ever interested and I'll send her contact info. Blessings, Jennifer

  2. I am teaching my kids piano, too. I used to teach so I'm not starting from ground-zero. Here is what I use to help me:

    I have some supplemental material, but I've not introduced it yet.

    I have been thinking of starting my oldest in lessons with a Mandarin-speaking teacher. Things are super expensive in my area, though.