Training Children through Song

I write this in the wee hours of the morning after preparing a Sunday School lesson for the kids in our church community. As I was searching for a few songs to teach alongside the Bible lesson, I happened to listen to a lullaby that transported me back to our old apartment more than five years ago, rocking my baby girl to sleep to the tune of “Jesus Loves Zacchaeus” by Rain for Roots. I have listened to their album, Big Stories for Little Ones for a hundred and million times until my daughter was about two years or so. Music has helped her calm down and drift to sleep all those years. I remembered the long nights, and it brought me back to the first few months of being a new mama.

I also remember being a sleepy girl in a church sanctuary on a Sunday morning whenever I listen to Cedarmont Kids, and seeing my own mom right in front teaching all the Sunday School kids how to sing the songs with matching actions. Likewise, I remember being a carefree elementary student sitting in one of the pews inside the hot auditorium of my old alma mater and following along to the lyrics of Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart while the smell of ripe sugarcane permeates the air. I still remember those songs, and I remember the memories well. These songs have helped me in putting Scripture to heart, and the Spirit of God brings them to memory whenever I need them.

I grew up attending Sunday School all my life, and I am also thankful that my parents forced me to attend the Chinese worship service where they only sung hymns. This exposure to Scripture songs and old hymns during my youth has proved useful in the ministry even as I married a Reformed pastor. How wise is God’s providence!

From Music to Memory

The Reformer Martin Luther said it best: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” Luther always emphasized the importance of music in training people in the faith. He went on to writing many hymns, one of which is A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

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Music is an able aid in memorization. Young children, particularly those in the Pre-Grammar and Grammar stage according to Classical Education, can absorb vast amounts of information when taught through song and rhyme. This old practice is often times neglected by modern education. Rote memorization and drill and practice aren’t to be abandoned. They are the essential building blocks of education.

Recommended Resources

If you want to train your children to learn Scripture and theology through music, I would like to recommend the resources listed below. Thanks to wonderful Internet technology, most of these are readily available for streaming on Spotify, Amazon Music or Bandcamp.

Ask Me Whooo

This is a recent discovery, and it easily became my favorite resource. These are beautifully written tunes sung by Diana Beach Batarseh, and are based on the First Catechism. Scripture verses are also recited at the end of each song. I cannot recommend this enough. DOWNLOAD. NOW.

Songs for Saplings

My preschooler started listening to their ABC memory verses album, and pretty soon she memorized them. They also have other music based on the New City Catechism.

Rain for Roots

The Big Stories for Little Ones album is based on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Baby’s Hug-a-Bible, which in my opinion, is the baby/toddler’s version of the famed Jesus Storybook Bible. These are my favorite lyrics from the song “Jesus Is Born”:

Who was there when time began?
Who came to earth to live as man?
Whose cradle was a cattle stall?
Who is the greatest gift of all?

Judy Rogers

My favorite song is “What is a Sacrament?” from her album Why Can’t I See God? What a way to raise covenant children!

What is a sacrament?
It is a holy ordinance
Given by Christ unto believers
Showing His great love for us.

Baptism was ordained,
And the Lord’s Supper;
Jesus gave them to His church
To keep and to remember.

Sacraments, given us by Christ
To signify and apply God’s covenant to our lives.

Family Devo

These are also songs based on the First Catechism. They are more upbeat than the classic tunes of Ask Me Whooo, which may be more appealing to some people.

Sovereign Grace Kids

I always watch out for whatever new album that Sovereign Grace Music releases. One of my favorite albums from them is The Ology, a companion to the The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New, a storybook theology by Marty Machowsky. Here’s a lyric from the song called “All About Jesus”:

From Genesis to Revelation
There’s one story of Your great salvation
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus
Shoutin’ out from every page
There’s one Hero that’ll save the day
It’s all about Jesus, oh, it’s all about Jesus

Getty Kids

If you want your kids to learn old and new hymns, listen to Getty Kids’ albums. Like Sovereign Grace Music, they are blessings to the local church.

Other Classic Resources

What are some of your family favorites? Feel free to share them below.

How to Choose Big Story Books for Little Hearts (Part 1)

When I was a children’s worker in a Chinese church in Cebu, I started searching and collecting books for children that were helpful to my ministry. What I found though was a shortage of supply of good resources. So I had to either bring in materials from abroad or come up with my own materials. But not everyone is equipped to come up with Gospel-driven lessons. This is why I am always on the look out for good Christian resources, and I have made it part of my mission to provide quality resources for Christian parents and homeschooling families through Katecheo.

About ten years ago, these materials were very scarce. And only one or two were available locally. Sure, there are many children’s books in Christian bookstores. But I am not comfortable in recommending most of them. And why is that, you may wonder? They aren’t much different than other children’s books that teach good manners and right conduct—Joy Berry books actually teach the Golden Rule very well. If there isn’t anything that sets them apart from all the other books in the market, what makes them Christian in the first place? To put it simply, these books are usually devoid of the One Big Story that the Bible always talks about.

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One Big Story

What is this One Big Story that I keep referring to? A big term that theologians like to use to refer to this idea is Biblical Theology. And I always say, one of the greatest factors in the ability to choose the right books for instructing children in the faith boils down to having a good understanding of the Bible’s One Big Story. So I will take the time to summarize and explain plainly the four parts:


Before all things ever came to be, God is there. God created the word and everything in it for His own good pleasure and His own glory, including man. The first two chapters of Genesis talk about how God made the world good:

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31a, ESV)


God created man perfect and righteous, but man disobeyed God’s command.  Sin entered the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Sin ruined God’s world. And ever since, man always rebelled against God and His Word, making themselves their own little gods. Man is lost without God. But God’s promised to send a Savior,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, ESV)


Even before the foundation of the world, God had already planned to save His people from their lostness. God became man. Through the perfect life, atoning death, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, God’s own Son, He secured salvation for His people. Jesus broke the chains of sin.

She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, ESV)

Jesus paid for man’s sin, and when we believe in what He has done in our stead, His perfect righteousness is accounted to us. When we and our children put our faith in Jesus, we are given new birth and new hearts to joyfully follow God’s commands.


One day, God will restore all things to His original design—perfect and sinless. God is making all things new. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5a, ESV)

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Christ the Center

All Scripture is about God’s redemptive plan. And what binds all of the four parts of the One Big Story together is that it centers around the person and work of Jesus. All stories either point to or look back to Jesus and what He has done. In fact, whenever we miss the important fact that Jesus is the main character of all the stories in the Bible, we miss the One Big Story. Whenever we forget about the One Big Story, we will most likely resort to moralistic lessons that aren’t much different than all the other stories out there. What is more, whenever we forget the One Big Story, we will altogether miss what or who the Bible is really all about, Jesus.

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doin. It’s about God and what he has done. Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of te people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes(sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. (Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jesus Story Book Bible)

We want our efforts to teach, train, and disciple our children to not go to waste. And whenever we offer them alternatives and half-truths—no matter how flashy and attractive they seem to be—without addressing their heart’s truest and direst need, we would have failed our primary role of passing on the faith to the next generation.

The gospel is the ultimate story that shows victory coming out of defeat, strength coming out of weakness, life coming out of death, rescue from abandonment. And because it is a true story, it gives us hope because we know life is really like that. (Timothy Keller)

Never assume the Gospel. Never tire of telling your children the One Big Story. Never tire of telling them about the Gospel, that Jesus lived and died for us and for our salvation in order to bring us to God. Our children need to hear it daily, and so do we.


To be continued

Read and Match

We’re on our second week of The Classical Preschool, and we’re off to a great start! I found a classic book that would surely rouse my two year old’s interest. This morning, I read an abridged board book version of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Since he adores trains, it certainly caught his attention.

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The book was adorned with colorful pictures of animals, toys, food items, different trains—everything that my toddler loves. It also teaches hard work and resilience, virtues that seem to be amiss among millennials these days. But the little steam engine was as optimistic as she could be. We’ll certainly return to this book for a narration activity.

After reading aloud, I added a short matching work. Matching work is actually good for brain development. It helps little children identify similar items, relating pictures with actual tangible items.

I gathered a few toys that were included as characters in the book—a train, an elephant, a giraffe, a red bear, a monkey, and an airplane. I wished we had a clown lying around the house, but we didn’t.

When doing read aloud everyday, I would ask about where the characters are in the book. He would usually point them to me, but this time he was able to match the little toys to the images in the book. I understand why parents homeschool their children. It is truly encouraging to see their development albeit in small ways.

Perhaps you might be wondering what makes our Read Aloud days different that most of our reading time? Maybe some people are more keen that I am. But most of the time, I read to my kids for the sake of reading because I know it’s good for them. I read to my kids all throughout the day. But Read Aloud times for our homeschool is a notch better. You could say that I have my game face on, if that makes any sense. So what makes it better? I would say it is Intentionality. 

Commit to Memory, Commit to Heart

The second day of The Classical Preschool calls for memorization. And that is what we tried to do today. My tot grabbed another Curious George book about fishing right after breakfast, and I took the opportunity to teach him a nursery rhyme, “12345 Once I Caught A Fish Alive” which also teaches numbers.

I realized that I have to write down some goals for our homeschooling, and knowing his numbers, shapes and alphabets by the time he reaches three years old is definitely included. I have made a mistake of not being intentional about teaching preliteracy skills with my firstborn. I am not  going that same route again. We’re not doing any writing yet, but we’re committing these things to memory.

A big bulk of Classical Education composes of memorization during the Pre-Grammar and Grammar stages. Dorothy Sayers describes this life stage as Parrot, where children mimic and follow what has been taught to them,

The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things.

The Reformed tradition blends perfectly well with Classical Education as it also emphasizes on catechizing tender hearts early on. Although my two-year old may not yet “parrot” all that I teach him, I am hoping repetition and lessons through song would aid memorization at this stage.

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As a Christian parent, my aim for child-rearing is not only to help my kids accumulate academic skills; my primary role is to make them disciples of Jesus and own their baptism one day. One of the ways to do this is to give them the language of faith through catechesis. Anthony Hoekema gives the definition and purpose of this instruction,

Catechesis is the ecclesiastical training of the children of the covenant, aimed at preparing them for profession of faith, active church membership, and kingdom usefulness. In the light of this definition, the purpose of catechesis will be to teach the covenant child such material as he needs to know in order to make an intelligent profession of faith within the church to which he belongs, to be a well-informed member of that church, to be a ready witness to the teaching of the church, and to live a full-orbed Christian life in accordance with the principles taught by his church.

While modern education seeks to put the child in the center of all learning, Classical Christian Education sees that God is the center of all learning. It recognizes that all truth is God’s truth, and that one cannot fully distinguish truth and error without understanding God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Everything should then be examined through the lenses of Scripture, as it relates to God and His revelation. Children need not be shielded from the plethora of opposing philosophies and harsh realities of life. Rather, they need to be grounded firmly on the Word of God, which will then arm them with the grid whereby they can sift through different ideas that will come their way.

Catechetical instruction at home and at church, along with regular Family Worship, aids in this spiritual nurture.

Read Aloud Day

I am adapting The Classical Preschool for homeschool, and the first day begins with Read Aloud. As I have mentioned in my previous post, my two-year old tot loves to read with me. I have discovered today that he only enjoyed reading books that interest him. He would usually choose the books he wants to read—our open bookshelf allowed him to do that.

I was ecstatic to start teaching my toddler, and I chose the beloved children’s classic, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina for our Read Aloud Day. I thought it would be fun to read about the peddler selling caps. Since my son is big fan of Curious George, I also chose Caps For Sale because monkeys are a big part of the story. But I was wrong. He wasn’t interested in reading the book with me at all.

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I managed to snap a quick photo of my tot checking out the book before we got started. He opened a few pages, and he diverted back to one of his favorite books instead, that is the Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. You could say that my attempt at restarting homeschool is #FAIL. Oh well. That just proves that not everyone gets into the whole homeschool rhythm from the outset. But I will try this again, and maybe start with the book that he likes.

How did your first day of homeschooling a preschooler go about? I would love hear all about it in the comments.