Simple Systems: Hymn Study

Throughout the month of October, Mystie did a splendid series on what she called Simple Home Systems.

I like to turn to systems when I have something I want to happen, but don’t have the brain power to dedicate to it to think it through every time deliberately. Whether it’s what I wear to what’s for dinner to almost any other small but essential responsibility, making it a system is a way to reduce decision fatigue and have more energy to invest where you get better returns on it.

As I contemplated this concept, I realized that the changes which made the greatest difference in our home have usually been Simple Systems.  In my case they generally begin as a Problem, for which I create a Complicated Solution, which leads to More Problems, then finally a Simple Solution.

Take Hymns. Hymns are a big part of our life.  They are a part of our school day, an integral part of family devotions, and an important aspect of church worship.

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Problem

With hymns spread across so much of our lives, we ended up learning new hymns or reviewing old ones, but rarely doing both.  I wanted both consistent learning and consistent review.

Complicated Solution

At first I began printing out hymns and adding them to our Memory Work Binders.  This worked well during our Circle Time, but not so well for family devotions, which usually occurred with several children piled onto their father and a squirming baby in my lap. (Imagine torn page protectors, binders opened and pages spilling everywhere: in short, frequent chaos.)  I began to notice that the versions I printed off of the internet were occasionally different than the versions we sung at church.  Add to this the fact that hymns were rapidly filling up our memory binders and making them difficult to navigate.  A long term system was needed.

Simple Solution

As our Big Purchase for this school year, we ordered four of the hymnals used by our church. These hymnals are kept right beside the Family Bible.

Each morning we begin our Circle Time with two hymns: a hymn we’re learning and a hymn we’re reviewing.

The hymn that we’re currently learning is sung every day until we know it by heart.  When we’ve learned a new hymn, I carefully “highlight” the title in the index.  (I use colored pencil, as an actual highlighter would bleed through the page.)

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The highlighted titles become our review list. We start with A and work our way through the alphabet, singing one highlighted song each day until we get through Z, then going back to A and starting over.  The hymns sung during family devotions are chosen from the highlighted titles, and the hymnals are not only easier to manage than binders, they’re also sturdier.

Simple.  Reliable.  Usable.

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6 Comments
  • The Garners says:

    This is a great idea! I’ve often wanted to recommend that people just get a hymnal, but was hesitant. We are a family of church musicians and have a variety of hymnals around and not only does one avoid having to print out and manage one more thing, but one also has the additional resources in the back – our favorite is the Metrical Index 🙂

    • Lizzie Smith says:

      The more I thought about it, the more I realized I probably would not develop a more efficient method for using hymns than hymnals, a system honed over many years by many people for the purpose of singing and learning hymns together. All I had to do was come up with a way of tracking our review.

      I think recommending hymnal use is a wonderful idea, and more of us should do it. We ended up getting new hymnals, but I know other folks who have procured used hymnals from churches that were replacing theirs, and that is a far more budget-friendly option.

      • mystiewinckler says:

        That’s a great system, Lizzie! I should go through our hymnal and mark the ones we’ve learned that way. It would make it a lot easier, especially for my husband to know what the kids know when he flips through the hymnal deciding what to play on the piano.

  • nellekeplouffe says:

    I love this idea! I think I’m going to do it as soon as I can afford some hymnals. 🙂

  • kathwick says:

    Our church’s hymnals are renewed every year, so we are able to score the old ones. It worked great when we did hymn study regularly. Now the kids are self conscious singing in our little Bible study time, so we abandoned it.

  • ferhoodle1 says:

    This is a great idea. We have hymnals enough for our family (purchased used with this in mind). Have a system is just what I needed to make this happen. Oh – and hymns make for great copywork!

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