Do you do hymn study in your homeschool?
Hymn study is the easiest way I know to immerse your kids in solid theology.
And what better way to bring life to your homeschooling than help your kids understand the Word of Life Himself? Studying theology with your kids through hymn study will soak them in the Truth every day you do it.
And If you think about it, It takes less than 10 minutes to sing and briefly talk about one hymn. By singing the same hymn every day for a month or so, your children will not only memorize the hymn, they’ll absorb its theology. Especially if you’ve talked about it to make sure they understand it.
Hymn study is one of those regular habits that doesn’t take long but yields a lifetime of benefits for your children and makes your homeschool days go more smoothly. Win-win!
Have you thought about doing hymn study before, but wondered how to do it?
Later in this post, I’ll show you exactly how to include hymn study in your homeschool. I’ll also walk you through a hymn study lesson from our homeschool. After all, it’s always so much easier to learn something by “seeing” how someone else does it, right?
If your children are very young, keep the hymns simple and mainly sing. But even for your littles, use the opportunity to talk about God’s Word at the level of your children’s understanding.
And as your children become a little older, it will be time to dig in!
Before I let you in on one of our hymn study sessions, read what Charlotte Mason said in favor of hymn study with children.
What Charlotte Mason said about Hymn Study:
Perhaps we do not attach enough importance to the habit of praise in our children’s devotion. Praise and thanksgiving come freely from the young heart; gladness is natural and holy, and music is a delight. The singing of hymns at home and of the hymns and canticles in church should be a special delight; and the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed.
But the duty of praise is not for occasional or rare seasons; it waits at our doors every day.
Don’t miss what she said at the end. But the duty of praise is not for occasional or rare seasons; it waits at our doors every day.
It’s the “everyday-ness” of good habits like hymn study that really add up over time.
Just as all of the basic habits Charlotte Mason suggested we teach our kids, a regular part of the Charlotte Mason student’s repertoire was the memorization of hymns. Singing hymns is a wonderful way to begin your school day. It focuses your and your kids’ minds on Him. It lifts us above our frustrations and helps us start our homeschool days on the right track.
Even if you prefer contemporary worship, the lessons you’ll learn by studying the hymns of our faith are invaluable. The old hymns are FULL of great theology that your kids need to know. So don’t miss this perfect opportunity to pour God’s truth into your kids’ hearts and minds.
Additionally, you can use hymns for recitation, copy work, and dictation. But there’s a benefit to singing, too. If you have one or more auditory learners, they will love starting their day singing hymns.
Having your own hymnal is helpful for hymn study, but you can also find tons of hymns online at websites such as NetHymnal. One thing that’s handy about NetHymnal is that it often provides interesting background about the hymn as well as its writers.
Hymn Study Made Easy
In our family, we learned one hymn about every month, depending upon the length and “language” of the hymn. Some of the words and concepts are lengthier and/or more difficult than others. So we sang those hymns longer than the simpler ones.
But don’t worry. There are plenty of simple hymns for your younger kids. In fact, here’s a simple hymn of four lines that your family can memorize in no time, and it is full of great theology!
How to do hymn study
1. First, choose a hymn, type up the words, and copy them for each child. It’s often helpful to copy each stanza together in paragraph form to enable children to really focus on the words. Read it together first.
If you have young children who are learning to write, you might want to copy the hymns using the handwriting style they are learning. This is especially helpful if you plan to use the hymn for copy work. (Just give your brand new writers a word or sentence.)
2. Before presenting the hymn to your children, read about its history and/or the author’s history. You can read and tell your kids a few things about it. Don’t give them 30 minutes of information! Mostly let them experience it on their own.
Usually, a hymn was not created by just one person. Often, one person created the words and another came up with the melody. Again, the NetHymnal site is helpful for information about this. And often you discover some captivating tidbit about the hymn’s authors or its history.’
3. After you’ve briefly talked about the hymn and handed out the words to it, identify any words necessary for your kids to understand the hymn.
4. Then ask your kids if they see anything that tells them about God or His Word in the hymn. Make sure you point out the theology in the hymn if they miss it. You can write down what you find on a whiteboard or a piece of paper.
5. Sing the hymn with all of its verses (or not, as you choose) each day as part of your morning devotions.
6. And if you or one of your children play the piano or guitar you’ll have accompaniment!
You’ll be surprised how much your kids will memorize singing the same hymn every day for a month!
A lesson from our hymn study
We’ll start with a well-known and often sung Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine. The words were penned by Fanny Crosby who lived from 1820 to 1915. Phoebe Palmer Knapp created the music. (1839-1908). Here is a copy of the words with the music.
keep the discussion short in the beginning. You can even spread these ideas for discussion over a few days if that works best for you and your kids.
1. Discussion about the author
- Fanny Crosby, an American woman who lived from 1820 to 1915, wrote the words to this hymn. And she wrote thousands of hymns. She wrote all these hymns even though she was blinded as an infant after being treated by a poor doctor. Ask your children, “How do you think you might feel about God if that had happened to you?”
- This is how she felt about her blindness:
It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
- Ask your kids to explain this quote in their own words. Ask them, “How do you think she could feel that way after what had happened to her?” What do you think was the most important thing in Fanny Crosby’s life?
- Phoebe Palmer Knapp was a long-time friend who went to the same church as Fanny. Reportedly, Mrs. Knapp played Fanny the melody on the piano that became Blessed Assurance and Fanny came up with the song title on the spot!
2. Discussion about the hymn.
This can come after singing the hymn; perhaps after singing it more than one day. It’s your lesson, so do it how you’d like. Just break these ideas up so you aren’t trying to ask them all at the same time.
- How did the author know that Jesus was “hers”? How do you know that Jesus is yours? (This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the gospel with your children, especially if they have not yet accepted Jesus as their Savior.)
- What do ‘heir of salvation,’ and ‘Purchase of God’ mean? Who are heirs of salvation? How have we become “purchased of God”? Who purchased us? How? (Again, the Cross!) Look up and discuss some or all of the following verses:
Galatians 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Romans 4:13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
Galatians 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Titus 3:7 So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
- Depending upon the ages and understanding of your children, other phrases that can be discussed (with scripture) from this hymn are:
- “Born of His Spirit” (How are we “born of His Spirit? Whose Spirit?)
- “Washed in His blood” (How are we “washed in His blood”? )
- “Perfect submission” (What does that mean? What is the “perfect delight,” and peace (“all is at rest”) that results from obedience?)
3. Sing, with accompaniment if possible, Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine, every day for a month.
Ideas to extend the study
- Assign one stanza each week as copy work.
- Memorize one stanza each week to be recited.
- Ask your older student to research Fanny Crosby and/or Phoebe Palmer Knapp and write 3-5 paragraphs about each of their lives and work.
- Request that your older student find Scripture pertaining to other phrases in this work mentioned above (“Born of His Spirit,” “Washed in His blood,” etc.)
- Have your student write out this hymn in his own words.
- After studying this hymn, have your student create her own hymn.
- Assign your student to find a passage of Scripture and compose a melody to accompany it.
How do I fit hymn study into my already busy day?
I know what you’re thinking. You would just love to do hymn study but you’re having enough trouble trying to get reading, math, and writing in.
You can keep this as simple as you like or start as slowly as you want. But you and your children’s lives and family worship will be enriched by hymn study, I promise! And this is a time-effective way to teach theology.
I recommend that you have devotions at the breakfast table after everyone’s eaten. You can start or end your devotions by singing one hymn every day for a month.
If you start hymn study when your children are on the younger side, think of how many hymns (and all that wonderful theology) they could learn by the time they are in high school!