Folk Song and Hymn Study

From Wikipedia: The terminal state of the loss of folk music can be seen in the United States and a few similar societies, where except in isolated areas and among hobbyists, traditional folk music no longer survives. In the absence of folk music, many individuals do not sing. It is possible that non-singers feel intimidated by widespread exposure in recordings and broadcasting to the singing of skilled experts. Another possibility is that they simply cannot sing, because they did not sing when they were small children, when learning of skills takes place most naturally. Certainly it is very common for contemporary Americans to claim that they cannot sing.
There is anecdotal evidence that the loss of singing ability is continuing rapidly at the present time. As recently as the 1960s, audiences at American sporting events collectively sang the American national anthem before a game; the anthem is now generally assigned to a recording or to a soloist.
Inability to sing is apparently unusual in a traditional society, where the habit of singing folk song since early childhood gives everyone the practice needed to able to sing at least reasonably well.

Children really enjoy singing folksongs. These songs often tell a story and have a lively tune while some are melancholy and have sad endings. Folksongs are a very important part of our cultural heritage because they draw you into the mood of earlier times and help you to better understand the people. Unfortunately, they seem to be dying out in America and the average child today doesn’t know or care about many well-known songs of our past--songs that our parents or grandparents used to sing to us with fondness. Folksongs are fun, and easy to sing. They are part of a liberal education, enriching our lives with beauty, history and culture. I pity the persons who are educated for strictly utilitarian reasons. As Anne of Green Gables so aptly put it, “Oh, Miss Marilla, how much you miss!”

We choose most of our folksongs from the list below and try to match them up with the time period we are studying. I download the midi and lyrics from and put it on our computer desktop. The children can click on it just about whenever they please and listen to it while doing schoolwork. I download and compile the lyrics in a binder and keep our ‘Folksong book’ easily accessible to them.

I introduce two folksongs per 12 wk term. We all sing the new song together during Friday group time. Often, I learn it right along with them. We don’t sing it every week together but just once and then I make it available to them and urge them to listen whenever they please. If I find that they are not listening to it, I will have it playing on the computer, myself. This is a real favorite with the children. They are required to sing one of them into the tape recorder during examinations at the end of the term. That’s all I do.

If you do not go to a church that sings hymns regularly than I recommend teaching hymns to your children since they are not only a beautiful and vital part of our heritage, but often have rich lyrics that help our children learn to worship. By the way, many of our old hymns are actually revised folk tunes. (e.g. Greensleeves, What Child is This?) I simply download the music from one of the sites listed below and make a hymnbook from the lyrics. Again, the children are required to sing one hymn from the two introduced at the end of the term during examinations.

This does NOT take a lot of time. It takes about 20 minutes of group time every month for a hymn and 20 minutes for a folksong. The children naturally learn the songs on their own because they like them and because they know they will be asked to sing them later. Also, they enjoy the challenge of learning the song and mastering it. I allow the children to listen to a folksong, hymn or a composer’s music during morning study hours. No other music is allowed. They decide among themselves what to listen to. This helps them to learn the songs as well since Mom has narrowed their choices.

The Three Ravens (1500’s)
Robin Hood and the Tanner (1500’s)
The Bold Peddler and Robin Hood (1500’s)
Scarborough Fair (1500 or 1600’s)
Barbara Allen (1600’s)
Greensleeves (1600’s)
Battle of Otterburn (1600's)
Star of the County Down (1600's)
I'm Seventeen Sunday (1700's)
The Outlandish Knight (1700's)
All Through the Night (1700's)
A Man's a Man for A' That (1700's)
Blow the Man Down: (Sea song)
The Fish of the Sea: (Sea song)
Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark (Sea song)
Death of General Wolfe (French and Indian War)
Yankee Doodle (Rev War)
Goober Peas (Rev War)
The Cruel War (Rev War)
The Old Oaken Bucket (1800's)
Turkey in the Straw (1800's)
English Country Gardens (1800's)
Arkansas Traveler (1800's)
Botany Bay, version 2: (1800's)
Marine's Hymn (1800's)
America (1800's)
Gypsy Rover (1800's)
Cockles and Mussels (1800's)
Minstrel Boy (1800's)
Aiken Drum (1800's)
Carrigfergus (1800's)
The Wild Colonial Boy (1800's)
Erie Canal (1800's)
Star Spangled Banner (War of 1812)
The Drinking Gourd (Civil War)
When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Civil War)
Dixie (Civil War)
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Civil War)
Eating Goober Peas (Civil War)
My Grandfather's Clock (Post Civil War)
The Jam on Gerry's Rocks (Post Civil War)
Pick a Bale of Cotton (South)
Shucking of the Corn (Midwest)
America, the Beautiful (Late 1800's)
John Henry (Gold Rush and Westward Ho!)
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (Gold Rush and Westward Ho!)
Drill, Ye Tarriers (Westward Ho!)
Tall Men Riding: (Cowboys)
Goodbye, Old Paint (Cowboys)
Boxer Insurrection (1900’s)
Go Get the Ax (1900's)
Where have all the Flowers Gone?(1900’s)
Cherry Ripe (?)
The Riddle Song (?)
An Emmigrant's Daughter (?)
Land of the Silver Birch (?)
Farewell to Nova Scotia (?)
Waltzing Mathilda (?)

Hymn Sites: