A Lesson Before Lessons; My answer to your questions of when/how do I start my kid in music lessons? (or swim, dance, etc.)
I love to bake bread. It's not because anyone ever put me in formal cooking lessons though. It's because I have memories of my grandfather's strong, yet soft, olive-skinned hands that guided mine in the joy of baking. We didn't just make one loaf either. We'd bake with all of my siblings and cousins - armed with cheesecloths and rolling pins. We'd wear his Hanes t-shirts - mock smocks of sorts that, as we were so young when we started, almost brushed the floor. And we'd make 40 loaves easily - enough for every set of family members and always some for friends too.
I love to create art, repurpose furniture, take pictures, paint rooms, and sew. It's not because I ever took any more than a middle school exploratory course though. It's because my parents valued the freedom of creative expression. They rolled out butcher paper all the way down their coffee tables and gave us buckets of crayons and markers, scissors and glue. God bless them and the mess we made. They let us bang on pots and pans. They never said the piano was off-limits. (I feel like I probably draw more lines, so to speak, in this area as noise on top of noise on top of noise is a bit wearing...) They framed our pictures, our drawings, our poems. They expressed interest and joy in our art-making.
I love making music. It's honestly not because my start was very lesson-focused either. It's because there was a true LOVE of music in my home. We were always hearing music and/or playing with whatever instruments was/were around. This isn't to say that there was always someone in the household that was a musician. I can remember spending long periods of time at my Grandmother's in the summer (more on times at my Grandmother's HERE) practicing hymns on the piano while she did chores around the house. She was not musical, but it brought her immense joy just to hear us play.
Now, can lessons provide fantastic guidance? Absolutely. Have I taken lessons in many-a-thing to learn it or advance in it? Of course. Dance, gymnastics, tennis, music, academics, etc. (Honestly, how could anyone forget standing on dark pavement in the dead heat of summer practicing tennis without one dang tree to offer shade? Just one tree people, c'mon... It was torturous, quite frankly.) The thing is, that, the things I stuck with are the things that had joy attached - whether it was from someone modeling it or someone reveling in it.
I feel like our culture has a very - "let's throw enough mud on the wall and some of it might stick" mentality about activities. Sign up for as many things as possible - girl scouts (actually, it's pre-girl scouts, it's brownies, no wait, it's Daisies), soccer (better start at 3 months or they'll never make a travel team in jr high), cello (are you sure she can carry it? she is only 4, after all...), Mandarin immersion, swimming, tae kwon do, glass-blowing, organ-grinding, basket-weaving, you get the idea. Parents drop off, kids get forced to practice, no mud sticks. The thing is, in my OPINION, that these lessons are missing a very important component. Are you, as a family, modeling that there is joy in the process? Joy in the watching, the learning, the history, the community?
When we were little, we would give my Dad an Orville Redenbacher jar each Christmas (I tried to buy one for him a few years back, but, alas, glass much be too much of a liability now... I settled for a new plastic one) and it was filled with song titles. We would draw names out of the jar and he would play piano while we sat and listened. Maybe we were older? Maybe times were slower? Maybe, maybe, maybe? Who knows? Seems like that would be hard to pull off these days.
McBaby #1 starts violin lessons tomorrow morning. While the McBabies
tinker with hit drums, guitars, shakers, and the piano all the time - with or without us, this will be the first "formal" training we've tried on an instrument. She got to pick the instrument based on our listening to various albums and her telling us what she loved. She loved Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks, and her soon-to-be violin teacher from Alanna Story. She wants to fiddle around. We are all excited about it.
I don't know if any of this helps you answer this question for yourself, but I want to encourage you... if you have your child in swim lessons, be the kind of parent that isn't afraid to get in the pool AND get your hair wet. If you desire that your child find their artistic side, don't be afraid to let them shoot with your digital camera (or get them a cheap one). If you want your child to value eating healthy foods and respecting the earth or animal from which it came, don't be afraid to let them get flour all over your kitchen or to try new foods yourself... maybe even what they make?
Right now, here is what "lessons" look like in our family... I treasure this little video of Joey that totally surprised me and wasn't planned out. The trait of mine that I'm most thankful I've passed on to my children is that they all (even McBaby #3) sing while they're doing stuff. That means there are often 4-ish voices humming their own little tunes simultaneously throughout our home. Here is some mud that stuck...
Would love to hear your feedback! What's worked for you? What signs have told you it's the right time? How do you participate in the joy of lessons?