Those of us who play music typically do it for the love of it, not necessarily for any benefits it might bring us. However, research indicates that playing an instrument goes a long way toward making us healthy, well-balanced individuals. Here’s how:
- Enhanced brain function. About 90% of the brain is stimulated during music practice. Neural connections are made between the audio, visual, and motor areas of the brain. Also, signals are transmitted rapidly across the two hemispheres of the brain. Gray and white matter is built in the process. Seniors who have practiced a music instrument at some point in their lives, even if they haven’t touched that instrument in years, are less likely to lose their memory and cognitive ability as they age and can retain their ability to learn and digest new information. The greatest benefits appear to come to those who started learning an instrument before the age of nine and who kept practicing for 10 or more years. However, even people who learned to play music for the first time between ages 60 and 85 have shown marked improvements in memory, verbal fluency, and the ability to process information quickly—even if they only practiced for six months.
- Hearing ability. Musicians have also been shown to have good auditory memory skills and an improved ability to pick a particular sound out of background noise. Children who play an instrument from a young age show an enhanced ability to distinguish word sounds—particularly consonants—which in turn improves their ability to read. This ability also benefits seniors, guarding them from hearing loss. Even if a senior has not touched an instrument in years, the ability for the nervous system to quickly distinguish between similar sounds is retained throughout old age.
- Skills for life. The skills that we learn when practicing music carry over to other areas of life, particularly those requiring discipline. Many musicians are organized and can manage their time effectively. They can frequently strategize well (many musicians are good chess players). They quickly learn to concentrate and to persevere, since nothing comes without practice. They often display a strong attention to detail, and they tend to be creative. Studies suggest that musicians also benefit from their practice academically. Musicians who read notation regularly have excellent reading skills, and those who understand and work with music theory have enhanced math skills. Many young musicians have gone on to be successful scientists, engineers, CEOs, and leaders.
- Physical health. Studies show that playing music has interesting effects on the body—all positive. Well-documented impacts of music include reduced blood pressure and lowered heart rate. Newer research increasingly suggests that playing an instrument may enhance your body’s immune response, as well. Musical ability may even promote longevity.
- Stress relief. Playing an instrument is known to reduce stress. Not only does it reduce the physical effects of stress, but it channels the mind in more productive directions.
- Stability. Studies conducted on students of a wide range of ages suggest that music enhances emotional and social stability. Young musicians can often communicate more effectively than their nonmusical peers and are much less likely to engage in fights. They are also less likely to experience feelings of inferiority or insecurity. Motivation is one of their strengths. In adults, music is believed to provide a positive and effective form of therapy for disorders such as anxiety and depression.
- Simple pleasures. Making music brings pleasure to a musician, which is worthwhile all on its own. However, it can go farther than that and become a way of bringing pleasure to many others.
If your children love the outdoors and also love to write, they may enjoy A Kid’s EcoJournal series by Toni Albert.
There are four of these books (spring, summer, fall, and winter), but they all follow a similar format. After some tips on exploring and writing about nature comes space for entries. Each entry has blank lines for writing, a selection from the author’s nature journal, and an activity.
Besides learning how to observe and record observations, children will:
- Make maps.
- Feed worms.
- Make plaster casts of animal tracks.
- Grow sunflowers.
- Capture insects.
- Keep an aquarium.
- Dry Osage oranges.
- Make compost.
- Press leaves.
- Make winter decorations.
- Build bird feeders.
- Experiment with snow.
A great gift, and a hands-on way to teach children to observe and write about nature! Who knows? Maybe it will spark a lifelong journal-keeping habit.
Children love drawing horses! Here’s a book that can guide them through the process in a fun way.
The Wonderful Art of Drawing Horses by Barry Stebbing starts with the basics:
- Mixing colors.
- Using shapes to make drawing easier.
Then on to a number of discussions on drawing different breeds, markings, gaits, and poses. Interesting activities liven up the lessons.
The intermediate section of the book helps artists to develop their skills in a number of ways:
- Understanding horse anatomy.
- Copying from pictures.
- Drawing from life.
- Exploring more advanced shading techniques.
- Keeping an art journal.
Then follows an excellent exploration of a number of master artists who drew horses:
- Eugene Delacroix.
- George Stubbs.
- Charles Russell.
- Frederick Remington.
- Leonardo da Vinci.
Stebbing wraps up with a few fun activities.
This book provides young artists with an excellent way to practice basic art techniques on a favorite subject, but it also presents more advanced skills in a friendly manner. Furthermore, The Wonderful Art of Drawing Horses goes beyond art and provides information on horse breeds, care, and anatomy.
So if you need a book for a young horse enthusiast who also happens to be a fledgling artist…this is the one!
If your children are interested in farm-related topics, you may be looking for ways to feed those hungry minds.
DIYHomeschooler.com offers free—but high-quality—units on a wide range of subjects. Each unit is packed with information, activities, notebooking pages, and books to read.
Below we have picked out five units and activities of particular interest to homesteading families:
- Explore the Farm
Tour a dairy parlor, view the farms of the past, read about farming in the Bible, spend the day with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, and discover the journey from field to plate.
Plan a garden, build a raised bed, start some seedlings, keep a journal, and find out what makes a plant grow.
- Fruits & Veggies
Taste new veggies, eat the alphabet, start a pizza garden, make a butterfly salad, discover the science of nutrition, and enjoy a balanced diet.
Meet Orville Redenbacher, find out what makes popcorn pop, discover new uses for the kernels, and pop some corn without a microwave.
- The Horse
Discover the breeds, learn the vocabulary, draw a horse, meet a variety of real and fictional horses, and find out how to care for a horse of your very own.
If you have an obsession with maps, this is the site for you!
The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States offers map after map after map, some of historical interest, others with relevance today:
- Cultivated crops.
- Soil regions.
- Drought frequency.
- Oil and gas fields.
- Indian tribes.
- Spanish, French, and American explorations.
- States, territories, and cities.
- Colleges and universities.
- Political boundaries.
- Political parties.
- Overland mail routes.
- Distribution of wealth.
And that is just the beginning.
Whatever your interest is, you are bound to find this atlas a fascinating place to start your research. Makes a good companion to Peopling the Plains by James Shortridge. Also a good visual for the children. Highly recommended.
One of the advantages to homesteading on the range is that it puts you in close contact with nature each and every day. Parents, if you are looking for a way to introduce your children to God’s beautiful creation, consider these free online nature studies based on Our Wonderful World by Emery Lewis Howe.
Although designed for homeschoolers, anyone of any age can use the provided resources to learn a great deal about things country families see and work with on a regular basis:
And that is just the beginning!
Each chapter is supplemented with a variety of interesting and helpful resources, including videos, diagrams, and plenty of great reading material. Notebooking pages are also included to provide children with invaluable opportunities to learn by observation. Not only that, but some of these pages can serve as patterns for adults who are keeping farm journals.
Learning how nature works is key to understanding the bigger picture of farming. Whether you are using “Our Wonderful World” as a nature study for the children or a handy source of information for the whole family, there is much that this study has to offer.