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Homeschool Mom Packs Brain Science, Love of Music into Book for Preschoolers

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The prospect of homeschooling can seem daunting to parents who have yet to take the plunge, but it doesn’t have to be. Laying the groundwork for a dozen years of formal learning can be as simple and natural as singing to your baby while bouncing him on your knee.

That’s Jane Bader’s message in her book, Music for the Developing Brain—A Simple, At-Home Program. She shares a lifetime of hands-on experience and scholarship in the book aimed at helping parents teach music to their preschoolers, even if they’ve never had a music lesson in their life.

Jane and her husband homeschooled their own daughter Karen from pre-K to high school graduation. Jane also found time to earn advanced degrees in piano pedagogy.

Her academic pursuits are built on earlier studies in cell biology, an interest reflected in the way she blends science into her new text.

“I’ve seen the difference music can make in so many lives,” Jane explained in a recent interview. “I realized I had a lot of knowledge and experience that could be really helpful to the next generation of homeschoolers, and I decided I shouldn’t just keep it to myself!”

Homeschool Adventures

Jane first delved into music well before the age that most children begin school. She still has the toy piano her parents gave her when she was 2.

Her love of music in no way precluded an interest in other topics—particularly science. And their daughter Karen was the same way. In fact, Jane and her husband quickly learned to adapt their homeschool program to accommodate her diverse interests.

“Karen thrived on many activities and liked to keep busy with things that she enjoyed, so we simply followed her lead,” Jane recalls in her book.

Of course, there were music lessons. Karen studied piano and violin, and by age 9 she was accomplished enough to earn money playing at weddings.

But her primary passion lay in exploring the world of creeping things.

“As a toddler Karen learned to catch crickets quickly but gently in the yard. When she was 4, we gave her The Bug Book by Hugh Danks. She read how to catch bugs safely, study them, and return them to their home,” said Jane.

Later on, this particular fascination led her daughter to volunteer as an assistant naturalist at a state park, where she taught classes primarily about insects, but also about reptiles and aquatic ecology. She even had a pet corn snake.

After high school, Karen’s skills earned her one music and three academic scholarships as well as the position of concertmaster in the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra and first violin in the string quartet. This led to a degree in entomology and a career arc that included earning a master’s degree in library and information science, which launched her current job as a science librarian.

Back to School

Meanwhile, Jane’s professional path tracked in the opposite direction.

Prior to having children, Jane’s work experience included research in marine biology, conducting routine and emergency testing in a blood bank in Alaska, and managing a clinical laboratory.

After her daughter came along, Jane decided that being a mother and homeschool teacher meant she needed to switch to more flexible work. So, she returned to the passion for music that began at age 2 and started her music studies at the University of South Carolina.

By 2001 she completed a doctorate in piano pedagogy, in addition to the master’s degree in music she earned in 1991. The achievement was made possible in part by the support of her husband and of fellow homeschooling families, who often volunteered to babysit or provide transportation for Karen while Jane attended class.

After a stint teaching at Southern Wesleyan University, Jane decided to revisit the topic of her dissertation and began writing her new book.

Wealth of Knowledge

Jane’s book is meant to help parents start teaching their kids in an intuitive way that benefits both students and educators. It contains instructional activities for children up to 5 years old.

The work is inspired not just by Jane’s love of music, but by research that shows how music promotes brain development and nurtures life skills. Jane documents studies supporting these conclusions in the resource portion of her website.

For example, she noted how research shows “many children who have studied music can be able to understand math more easily, especially fractions.”

Music can also help build relationships. Jane illustrates this in her book’s first activity, which can be performed well before a child has learned to speak. Her advice? When your baby babbles, babble back using similar pitch and rhythm. Doing this not only helps you bond with your baby—it prepares these little ones for further learning.

As Jane explains in her book: “There is a connection between learning language and music because the same brain systems are used for both: one for memorizing words, meanings, and tunes, and the other for absorbing grammar as well as harmony.”

Her text, however, covers much more than games with infants. Jane constructs a specific sequence for teaching key musical concepts, from rhythm and pitch to notation patterns and chord structure. Ultimately, Jane’s readers will begin playing the keyboard.

Additional Resources

To accommodate parents with a limited background in music, Jane offers a multisensory approach. Her book includes illustrations, original songs, and links to videos online that further develop each topic. Her website also contains FAQs, advice on hearing protection, and suggested reading. Chapter 2 contains a curated list for listening to a wide variety of music from history, beginning around the year 1300. If your family listens to one video each week, it could last several years.

Jane emphasized that the musical activities are not meant as formal instruction, but should be incorporated into daily life.

“All of the activities can take five minutes or less,” she said. “And many can be done easily while waiting for coffee to brew or popcorn to pop, while waiting in lines, or even while getting dressed. There’s no time requirement. There’s no test.”

Early reviews have shown a significant amount of appreciation for the book. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville, an HSLDA special educational consultant, found Jane’s text engaging and helpful.

“Jane’s ability to seamlessly blend her own story with the broader themes of success creates a reading experience that is both enriching and enjoyable,” said Rochelle. “Even for those not pursuing a musical career, this book is a gem.”

As excited as she is to see her work in print, Jane insisted she’s happy for the opportunity to give back to the community that has done so much for her.

“I really love being able to share my experience with others,” she said, “especially homeschooling students.”

EXPLORE JANE’S RESOURCES: 

Music for the Developing Brain—A Simple, At-Home Program by Jane J. Bader, D.M.A, is available on Amazon

Visit Jane’s website at  drjanejbader.com.



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