As the World Meeting of Families draws to a close, I have been reflecting on my own family through the lens of its theme, Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive. We began home schooling when my oldest son was in second grade. That single decision has made our lives together more a celebration of family as the sanctuary of love and life than anything else my husband and I have done.
One of the unique gifts of home schooling is how it challenges each of us to love one another more purely and sacrificially, and enables us to focus on each person’s unique gifts and interests in order to make them fully alive and active, both for our own family and the family of society.
A Musical Home
As their primary teacher, I assemble and organize curriculum for each of my children. I have always included piano lessons and semi-annual trips to the symphony, and maintained from their first years that they would remain in piano until they leave our house (so don’t even ask to quit!).
I maintain that position because I know piano is the best musical foundation to build on; every musician I know says so (and I live in Nashville). And music is a beautiful foundation for other noble endeavors.
Proven to support and nurture logic skills and creativity, kids in the arts also perform better on standardized tests, watch fewer hours of TV, participate in more community service, and report less boredom in school. Music is nurturing in more areas than I wish to document with footnotes.
Family as Music
In our home school, Tuesday is Music Day. EVERYONE LOOKS FORWARD TO TUESDAYS! The boys beg to practice and do more than the required thirty minutes. They eagerly gather their music books and rush to the car to arrive at their lessons early.
Um… not exactly. The truth involves much more messiness. But that’s how life, and family life in particular, really is, right?
My sixteen-year-old accuses me of forcing him to stay in piano because I love it myself. He wants to play guitar or drums. I want him to also, and hope he does. But while he lives at home, he’s going to play piano at least.
Although we suffered five years or so of his regular, ear-bleeding piano practices at our house, we have reached the lovely point that my sixteen-year-old is playing Rachmaninoff and Chopin. He makes up for the current ear-bleeding practices of the youngest.
And I love it all.
When listening to my oldest practice, hearing the music that leaves his fingertips makes me weep—like bawl an ugly cry sometimes—although I don’t let him see that. I just hide somewhere I can hear him and let it out in thanksgiving to God, for music and motherhood, for sons who persevere, for a husband who works so hard in order that I can stay home, and for the best piano teacher I have ever encountered.
Like King Saul, who was only sane when young David played for him (1 Sam 16:23), I am touched and more at ease in the soul when my son practices. My husband often falls asleep listening to him play. Our cat sits on the piano and meows if he stops.
Life as Music
But my son gets agitated and upset at his mistakes and faults. He swears under his breath at every missed note and rest. Sometimes he gets very angry at missing the same note or measure over and over and over. He throws the music and forces away from the piano in a wrath.
But as I listen to him practice, all I hear is glory. At this point in his musical life, even his practice is beautiful. And what I realized, through him, is that God feels the same way about us. Isn’t the messiness of practicing at love—for family, for God, for our neighbor—the essence of life?
“And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart” (Gal 6:9).
Is there a sin you have been battling for weeks or months, maybe even years? Is there a virtue or habit you’re trying to cultivate that you fail in more than you succeed? Is there a goal you’ve been striving toward but missing for what seems like ages?
The family is there to create a supportive environment and help us in the most frustrating moments of our humanity. It takes the love of a mother and father to offer the patience needed to walk with children in their struggles of development. Can you think of ways your parents or loved ones guided you to virtuous habits (Tweet this)? If you have children of your own, have you passed on any of those habits to them? No matter what we may be trying to achieve in life, there will be some ugly moments and some wrong notes played on the road to the goal; but when surrounded by those who love you…even your practice is beautiful.
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