Is the No Child Left Behind Act Shortchanging Our Children in Music and Art?

Educators have said since its inception that the No Child Left Behind Act was not the solution. Teachers are limited to what and how they can teach; children are dropping out of school and are getting left behind. The act is failing more than it is succeeding, and our children are paying the price, ending up joining the vicious cycle of welfare and poverty due to their lack of education.

The No Child Left Behind Act has a narrow focus on math, science English and testing. In particular, its policy to teach to the test does not teach our children to become well-rounded adults--- adults who can draw on their knowledge and all of their experiences, including music and art. Being able to pass a particular test is not the same thing as being able to resolve problems.

Studies on the Effects of Music

University studies conducted in both Georgia and Texas have found significant links between children who had music instruction and their academic achievements in math, science and language arts. Their studies have found that middle and high school students who participated in music programs scored significantly higher than their peers who did not participate in any kind of music programs. Studies have proven time and again that children who took piano or other musical instrument lessons at an early age elevated their SAT scores considerably in math and languages 11 years later.

A Neurological Research study held in 1999 found that students exposed to music lessons scored a full 100 percent higher on fraction tests than those who learned through conventional teaching methods. In the test, second and third-grade students were taught by first teaching them basic music rhythm notation. They learned about the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes. Math and music are very closely related. Why? In the music world, kids are learning fractions and intervals and positive and negative with every change in an octave. Once learned, the skills are easily translatable in the math world.

A ten-year study performed at UCLA that tracked more than 25,000 students, found that music-making improved test scores regardless of the student's socioeconomic background. Students continued to obtain higher test scores in not only standardized tests, but tests such as the SAT and reading proficiency exams. Another study by the University of Texas found that college-age kids with music backgrounds are emotionally healthier than their non-musician peers. Each group was given three tests, and the study measured anxiety, emotional concerns and alcohol related issues. They found that students with a music background tend to feel more self-confident when facing tests and had fewer battles with alcohol.

The Many Benefits of Music

The world's top academic countries place a high value on music education, whereas the United States places a higher focus on vocabulary, technology, math and science. Yet our children are failing to achieve high scores in math and science! Hungary, the Netherlands and Japan are countries with the highest achievement in the sciences. These three countries have a strong commitment to the world of music education and the power it has to help their children achieve higher grades in math and science. All three countries require music training for their children in the elementary and middle grade school levels and have done so for decades. Their music training includes both instrumental and vocal.

There are other benefits to music. Exposure to music teaches children to express themselves and provides an emotional outlet that keeps them healthier. It gives them a strong sense of self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence, key ingredients to success in their adult life. It encourages social interaction, inspires creativity and improvisation. It strengthens their communication skills and their ability to express themselves. The world of art, particularly music, is a positive force on all aspects of our children's lives, particularly their academic success. So with all these benefits, why do the schools and the government continue to eliminate music from the educational system?

Even the nation's top business executives feel that programs in the arts can help repair with America's educational system to better prepare the future workforce. It is time to stop teaching our children to tests and "dumbing down" school books. It does not work. Children are dropping out of school in droves. As a country, we need to bring back the power of the arts to our education system, particularly music. A good education that provides access and exposure to music and art, regardless of a child's socioeconomic background, is perhaps a better answer than the No Child Left Behind Act.

Our family has experienced the positive impact and power music has in education first hand. I grew up in a family of three children. As a child, I took piano lessons for four years, flute for one year and participated in church and school choirs. One of my other siblings also took piano for two years. The two of us who took music lessons quickly grasped fractions and basic math skills, and excelled in reading and the humanities. The sibling who took no music classes early in life encountered multiple problems in school, particularly math, ultimately dropping out of high school because she believed she was simply not smart enough. Then one day she decided to take guitar lessons after becoming involved with her church's worship singers. She went back to school not only finding the success and self-confidence she had not found as a child, but realizing she was indeed an intelligent young woman.

That same sibling pulled her own children out of the public school system because she realized that the No Child Left Behind Act did not work. She has homeschooled her two children through a community charter school that uses both on-hand and internet teaching. She has also made it a point of exposing them to all forms of the arts, including music, and are taught year-round. Both children easily breeze through state required tests with no test anxiety experienced by many public schooled children. They maintain a grade point average of 3.8 - 4.0, and are two grade levels beyond public schooled peers of the same age.

Changing the Face of Education

At a time when our country was comprised of mostly farms and ranches it made sense to free our children to help on the family farm over the summer. It was a necessity. It no longer is. We need a serious conversation on what we really want from our educational system. Our approach to teaching to tests, "dumbing down" text books and providing a narrow focus approach is obviously not working. While the notion of leaving no child behind is a worthy idea in of itself, the No Child Left Behind Act is too restrictive and is not the answer. Providing our children a well-rounded, year-round education that includes not only math, science and language but the world of music, will help our children become the successful adults that will one day lead our businesses and country.

Our children are bright, intelligent and capable of achieving educational greatness with all of the right tools. Involving the very people who teach our children and their parents to help find better and more creative solutions, and providing access to music and the arts in our public schools will help keep our kids in school. We need to give back the power of teaching to the teachers and give the power of a well-rounded education to our children. Together we can help kids achieve the high scores we know them to be capable of achieving and an education that includes the world of music and art.

Here is a math equation for all of us to consider: Exposure to music = quick-to-learn other subjects.

U.S. Senator, Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico), said it best. "Music education can be a positive force on all aspects of a child's life, particularly their academic success. It has proven to be an invaluable tool in classrooms across the country. Given the impact music can have on our children's education, we should support every effort to bring music into their classrooms."

Doing so will perhaps help our children fulfill their dreams and possibilities, and help ensure that no child is left behind. Copyright 2010 Catherine L Pittman - All Rights Reserved (c)

About the Author
Catherine currently resides in Oregon, and is the owner, songwriter and main vocalist for the music production company, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its own line of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies and music for toddlers and preschoolers. MP3 downloads of our songs and albums are available at, CD Baby and iTunes. CD's are available at:

Parents: Receive a FREE sampler album download when subscribing to our e-magazine, Parent Patter Magazine. The sampler album includes songs from all of our current and soon to be released albums. Subscribe at:

Regulated at Home: The Home Educators Oppression

Parents who chose to educate their children at home do so because at some point they find themselves frustrated with the school system and have decided that the government school experience is simply not a beneficial experience for their children. In most cases, they would even find it to be detrimental in many ways including spiritually and emotionally as well as intellectually. Sometimes this decision is made prior to what the state considers "compulsory age" sometimes it is made later as parents begin to recognize the damaging side-effects of systematic behavior and they decide to independently educate after suffering a negative experience.

Either way, the new home educating parent inevitably becomes concerned about education laws and begins to worry about complying with the regulations that their state requires regarding homeschooling. They are not alone. Even the less stressed veteran home educators get their paperwork ready each September for the coming year so that they can be in compliance with the state's "regulations".

What is regulation?

In the United States today, there are four different levels of regulation. Basically what this means is that there is a varying degree to which the state officials will interfere with how a family chooses to pursue their children's education - independent of the government system. Some states are considered "high regulation". Home educating parents who reside in these states are expected to report attendance, transcripts, curriculum records, a list of materials used, grades etc... and the children are expected to take state standardized tests in order to show proof that they are learning according to state standards.

Other states are considered moderate or low regulation wherein less reporting and/or testing is expected, but the parent must still notify and maintain contact with a school official who is to supervise the family and ensure that what and how the children are learning comply with state standards. Some states do not attempt to interfere with the privacy and freedom of the individual family in matters of education. These are the states wherein the concept of liberty is acknowledged and appreciated. Here, it is realized that the United States Constitution protects basic human freedoms; and included in those freedoms is the right to free exercise of religion (or lack thereof) and freedom of speech. This includes the way we teach and educate our children.

Unfortunately, there are only ten states that currently acknowledge this personal freedom. And so most home educating families across the nation regularly comply with local government demands with little to no complaint.

Why comply?

I've often wondered about this. Us "Independent Educators" are rebels by our very nature. We chose to educate at home because we did not feel (for one reason or another) that the typical school atmosphere was going to be the best option for our child. Yet in most states across the country, we feel forced to adhere to state regulations and restrictions on how, when, where and with what materials we educate our children. It's blatantly counter-productive and yet it goes on. It goes on, my friends, because we accept it.

Even though many parents do not approve of or appreciate state education intervention, many home educating parents simply fill out the forms with whatever information the state wants to just be done with it. They feel that it's best to just cooperate in order to avoid conflict. While I understand wanting to avoid conflict, I must ask the obvious question. Of what use is cooperation other than to perpetuate the idea that it's okay to enforce restrictions? I believe that we accept this kind of intrusion into our private parenting decisions, because we have sadly become accustomed to asking permission for everything. Despite how we go on about being grateful to live in a "free country", we seem to have forgotten the true meaning of being free. When we allow ourselves to be 'regulated' and we allow this kind of intrusion into how we parent, and we allow the state to get entangled in our relationships with our children - we are essentially giving up part of our liberty and a thick slice of that freedom we so enjoy priding ourselves on.

Does society need education regulation?

Critics of home education (often ignorant and misguided) support state regulation and argue that without it there is no way to oversee what and how the children in our society are learning. They boldly assume that parents are not equipped to teach their own children, and insist a burden upon independent parents to prove that they are so worthy, on a regular basis.

It may sound like a nice idea, for a collective society to want to 'ensure' that all children are 'properly' educated. But there are many problems with this theoretical concept. The most obvious one being that 'properly educated' is a matter of perspective and opinion. The concept also assumes that we all desire to live in a collective. The majority of Americans who value liberty - do not.

Because our modern public education results are far beneath the global intellectual average - we also know that the current state systems are failing miserably so whatever it is the 'public' considers 'properly educated' is severely lacking. Perhaps this is the culprit behind the mass misunderstanding of individual freedom in the first place. The clear lacking in intellectual ability is another huge reason that more and more parents are choosing to take on the responsibility themselves. Simply put, the "State" is failing our children.

With this in mind, why on earth do any of us agree to allow the miserably failing "State" to dictate how our kids learn? Home educating parents have made a well thought-out and informed decision to educate their children without the school system. They have deliberately rejected government regulated schooling because they know it has failed our culture intellectually and proven to damage children emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally; which has in turn damaged our society in these ways. A cursory glance around at our world today or even a simple perusing through the magazine rack at the supermarket exemplifies this sad truth fairly well.

So this begs the next obvious question; why do we allow the very system we deliberately and intelligently rejected, to impose itself upon our parenting and relationships with our children? We decline participation in the school because we know their methods are harmful and inadequate, so why would we comply with the very same standards outside of its walls? And if we are outside of its walls, then why do we assume we are subject to its rules? I do not comply with the rules of the YMCA because I am not a member of the YMCA. Are you following?

Another way of asking this is, exactly why is the government in charge of how my child learns? Where is this in our American Constitution? Who decided that the state should direct my relationship with my children including how I chose to guide their learning? It is as if we are still on a leash and have simply been let out in the yard because we made enough noise, but never out of the fence. And we are okay with this? We call this freedom to educate?

What about child abuse?

Another argument is that the government must ensure that children are not being abused or neglected. Naturally, I agree that those who abuse and neglect their children should indeed be stopped. However, to enforce regulation on us simply because we educate at home (which we indeed have the right to do) assumes that we are automatically guilty (or suspect) of abuse and therefore subject to warrant-less 'search' and forced to 'report' our innocence on a regular basis.

I'll remind everyone that in America, we are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Let me not forget to mention that the State already has its hands full with all the abused and neglected children that are within their jurisdiction in the public school system.

A violation of humanity

In summary, State regulation of home education is a gross and blatant violation of freedom and liberty as Americans. It perpetuates because we allow it. We allow it because we are so conditioned to ask permission for everything from our government....Permission to drive, to run a business, even to marry the person we love....

When you take a moment to step outside the 'box' and really look around, you see just how insane it all really is.

Our children belong to us. They are not property of the State and therefore are not subject to regulation by the state.

Fortunately, I live in a state that recognizes this and offers no attempt to restrict or regulate a parent who endeavors to Independently Educate. If you too live in such a State, I urge you to be diligent about the legislation and keep up to date so that this freedom remains properly protected!

If you do not live in such a state and either currently home educate or are considering it, I urge you to find the audacity within yourself to challenge the 'system' and break free from the matrix. Oppression only happens to those who give permission to be oppressed.

Home education should not mean Home regulation. They are our children, they are precious, and they are human beings. Educate, appreciate and love them.

An Unplugged Home Educator of her own children for nearly a decade, Laurette is passionate about helping people discover parenting in such a way that it resonates in their life, their children's lives and their world! Her objective is to help parents discover the benefits and joys of family life with Unplugged Education - an experience that goes beyond the logistics of academics and breaks free of the box of simply 'schooling' at home. It is a way of looking at parenting from outside the box and making deliberate informed choices for our family; a bold and audacious journey into the art of active Parenting that shakes the foundation of 'normal' as we learn to unplug from the doldrums of status quo and begin to dramatically improve the entire family dynamic!

In addition to her publications, Laurette delivers this positive message as a Motivational Speaker for home education organizations and events.

You can also listen to Laurette's web radio show at Unplugged Mom Radio:

Read more of Laurette's inspiring thoughts on her blog titled The Unplugged Mom: