This semester I've decided to focus on teaching our kids to sing via an music education method called "Solfege." The "do, re, mi system" was made popular in our culture by Julie Andrews in the movie, The Sound of Music. However, this system has been around a very long time. It was invented in the eleventh century ago by a music theorist and teacher called Guido d' Arezzo. He was a monk who desired to devise a method to make it easier to teach music to his students. He utilized the opening syllables of a particular chant sung in his monastery. His system has been modified through the years, but the basic premise is still in place.
Today many music educators, including me, utilize a version called "movable do." Each pitch of a scale has a specific syllable associated with it. In this manner, the melody, or harmony part, of a song can be taught in a very singable manner. This gives the singers aural "handles" in which to learn the music and the skill of sight singing. In the nineteenth century, a man by the name of John Curwen added hand motions to the syllables. These motions, too, have been modified, but Curwen's original system can still be seen.
This brings us to today. By teaching my kids to sing Solefege, it helps them learn new music faster and makes them better musicians. It did wonders for my ability to sight sing once I learned this system in Seminary. It is a means to an end - the ability to sight sing choral music. However, it is a proven teaching tool toward that end, and the kids really seem to enjoy the teaching process of using the syllables and hand motions to learn a song.