Homeschool Music Appreciation and Homegrown Learning (a video interview with Mary Prather)

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Mary Prather, veteran homeschool mom, has used her background as a public school music educator to develop music appreciation resources the whole homeschool family can enjoy. You’ll love her perspective on homegrown learning, her valuable insights about the freedom we have as homeschoolers, and her encouragement to include music study in our education endeavors.

Watch the video, read the show notes, and share with your friends!

Music Appreciation Homegrown Learning Mary Prather

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Who is Mary Prather?

Mary Prather believes that children flourish with good books, plenty of time to explore, consistency, discipline, and ample time for FUN. Although she taught in the public schools for nearly ten years, their family made the decision to start homeschooling when her oldest daughter was in the 3rd grade. That daughter graduated from their homeschool and is now in college; their son is currently being homeschooled through high school. Besides having a passion for encouraging homeschool moms, Mary also loves sharing her love for music! She teaches live, online music appreciation lessons and has written a complete music appreciation curriculum which you can find at SquiltMusic.com. You can also find her writing about many other homeschool topics at HomegrownLearners.com.  

Mary Prather

Watch my interview with Mary Prather

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Mary Prather’s family and their decision to homeschool {1:30}

Mary and her husband, Hal, have been married 23 years. They have two children: Anna is 18 and Grant is 15. They decided to homeschool when their daughter was in the 3rd grade.

Homeschooling had been on Mary’s heart since Anna was in Kindergarten, but it took her time to get up the courage to finally homeschool. She finally realized she could do just as good a job, if not better, herself.

She also knew she had a very precocious little boy finishing preschool. The thought of putting him into a public school Kindergarten made her heart hurt. They were having such a good time learning at home that she didn’t want to put him in a place where he would likely be misunderstood and bored!

They weren’t sure at first if they would be homeschooling for the long haul, but after the first 6 months they knew they had found a lifestyle that was going to work for their family.

Her daughter was lonely at the beginning of the homeschool transition for the socialization to which she had been conditioned: she missed the bus driver, the custodian in the cafeteria, and her teachers. But soon Anna found new connections.

Mary noted that it often takes about a month at home to adjust for every month a child has spent in a traditional school environment.

Mary’s background in education: both a hindrance and a help {5:20}

Mary’s background as a professional educator was both a hindrance and a help to the homeschool process. Initially, Mary thought they would stick to that traditional school schedule and style. They set up their bonus room to look like a school room.

“Once I learned we didn’t have to do it that way, that we could do what worked for us, then things got a lot easier.”

Mary Prather homeschool interview

The creativity and flexibility she had learned through being a teacher definitely benefited her, though. (Mary had taught music for K-6th graders and had finished a masters degree in administration. She was on her way to becoming an assistant principal!)

Homeschool Style {6:59}

Mary and her husband are both type A. They like to be organized.

They started with ordering a big box of curriculum from Sonlight. Mary often recommends this to new homeschool families. “It let me feel like I was checking off the necessary boxes, but it also showed me what a living book was, what narration was, what dictation was.” She was able to grow and learn and develop her own philosophy from there.

“We were classically eclectic, that’s what I like to call it.”

I love the flexibility we have as homeschoolers to be our own unique family and even to tailor our home education to the strengths and weaknesses of each child.

Mary said, “I think my biggest favorite thing is the permission I’ve given myself to say, ‘No. That doesn’t work for me.’ The permission to be different, and the permission to hop out of a system.”

Mary Prather homeschool interview

There’s true freedom and creativity that can come from this homeschool journey!

“The sibling relationship is another one of those really big benefits [of homeschooling].” I loved our chat about the benefits of the multi-age interaction and learning; be sure to watch the full video so you don’t miss this part!

Mary also asked me about my own decision to homeschool. You can read more about my own homeschool moms here, and about my husband’s and my perspective on homeschooling here.

If you could go back in time and talk to your new-homeschool-mom self, what would you tell her? {13:23}

Mary’s words of wisdom? “It’s going to be ok.”

There were times when she was so worried about a concept her kids weren’t getting, or a relationship issue. She can now look back on those things and see how it was all part of God’s purpose for how her children were going to turn out.

“Enjoy today for what it is. Don’t worry about tomorrow.” We can trust God for the future.

It’s not a particular curriculum or method that brings result. It’s all those little steps that accumulate over time as God is at work.

Homeschool Music with Mary Prather: SQUILT Music Appreciation Curriculum {16:10}

SQUILT stands for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time

Mary used to take the last 5 minutes of class as a music teacher to put on a piece of music. The kids would close their eyes and listen. The older children she would also encourage to listen for particular elements of music.

When she began homeschooling, she realized there weren’t that many music education resources available for homeschoolers. She and her friend Tricia from ChalkPastel.com made a goal of publishing their first curriculum pieces by a certain date. And that’s how it all started!

Mary still offers those original pdf volumes but has also added LIVE music appreciation classes. Whole families now come and learn about music together.

 “Beyond music, they’re also learning the habit of attention. They’re learning to appreciate what other people, what other musicians, do.”

Why is including music in our homeschool important? {21:00}

Music Appreciation Homeschool Mary Prather

“Music is the perfect way sometimes to sneak a lot of learning about a lot of things in the back door,” Mary noted.

You can find ways to coordinate music with your history studies, for example!

(You can read my review of SQUILT’s Modern Music lessons here.)

Music makes everything a lot easier. It makes our kids happy.”

Adding music to Morning Time, for example, sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Mary’s monthly listening calendars give 3-4 minutes of listening for each day of the month. That’s a perfect introduction!

If you have more time, you can try SQUILT live lessons or work through the pdf volumes on your own schedule. Homeschool music with Mary Prather makes incorporating these lessons doable!

Find Homeschool and Music Support from Mary Prather Online

Mary said, “I can be your personal music appreciation consultant.” Just contact Mary here, and she will work with you to put you on a track that works well for your family!

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews


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