My grandfather used to say that most of the work a parent puts into the salvation of a soul and the development of the person happens in the first three years. Later, the study of brain growth and anatomy would reveal that the most of a child’s brain is hardwired by the age of three. He simply observed his eleven younger brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and his own three children to come to this conclusion. As an early childhood music specialist and homeschooling parent, I have researched this topic extensively. In the end, we can spend a lot of time teaching children many things, but it is the first few years of life that establishes the brain synapses that set up a child’s aptitude for language, music, math, art, physical and psychological achievement.
We also now know that the brain is integral in religious and spiritual experience, with evidence that the frontal lobes are utilized in spiritual exercise. So it is safe to assume that the brain will also respond to spiritual stimulation in its development, allowing a child to develop a proper aptitude toward the eternal. Studies have shown that atheists tend to have heavily developed parietal lobes and less developed frontal lobes, while the deeply spiritual have unusually strong frontal lobes. Keep in mind that the frontal lobes connect intimately with our physical movements and are responsible for much of our personality and identity, so it is vital to introduce the faith to our children as the brain is hardwiring.
With this heavy on my mind, my husband and I spent several years developing the Making Music Praying Twice program, bringing early childhood music practices together with a curriculum that integrates the Catholic faith. We found, as parents, that our parish had programs for children and adults of all ages, but not much for children and their parents in this key time of development. We soon discovered that there were other parishes with the same challenge, unsure of how to reach out to the youngest parents and youngest children. I continually ponder the Biblical metaphor warning us that a proper foundation is vital to the success of a building. We need to invest the foundations of our families, marriage and the earliest years of parenthood and childhood, if we expect to grow strong, healthy Catholics for the future of our Church.
Over the past two years, we have revised and streamlined the Making Music Praying Twice program to an affordable and device-friendly digital edition. We hope to bring the gift of faith-integrated early childhood music education to as many families and parishes as possible. There is a parish kit to help parishes offer a program for littles with a parent or caregiver or for use with playgroups, co-ops, or parish preschool and daycare programs. There is also a version for families to use at home or with friends.
While I encourage families, ministers and teachers to explore what we created, I also challenge you as parents, grandparents, and faithful Catholics to consider how important being a part of Church and a living faith is for children in the very earliest years. I challenge you to consider how you can help increase the culture of faith in the lives of these children in our families and communities.