Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Composer Study 102

After I have given the children a brief foundation in music discussed here we move on to the study of individual composers. Now, a wonderful thing about this Charlotte Mason method is that Mom does not have to have an extensive knowledge or appreciation of music in order to teach it to her children. She can quietly learn along side them.We study only one composer over a 12-week term and it takes about 15 to 30 minutes per week. I make sure to schedule this into our week because I have learned that if I don’t schedule composer study, it doesn’t get done. In fact, I have learned that many important things will not be learned if you don’t schedule them into your life. So, let’s say, our composer is J.S.Bach. On Friday, the day that we have group lessons such as artist study and nature walks, we listen to an audio CD by VOX Music Masters for 20 minutes about the life of Bach. Afterwards, I have the children take turns narrating (telling back) what they just learned about him. There are no fill-in–the-blank worksheets that bore and keep the child on the lowest level of thinking.

It takes about three weeks to finish this CD, and then we begin listening to another CD that has his greatest compositions. We concentrate on one per week only. The children usually draw a narration of what they are feeling while listening to ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,’ or ‘Magnificat’ and others. I simply ask them what comes to their mind while they are listening to a particular piece. Often, they draw scenery, or a beautiful maiden, flowers, etc… Sometimes, just the opposite is felt, such as war and sadness. If they have troubles getting started, I volunteer what I am thinking about… That’s all it takes and then they take off. I enjoy listening to them describe their pictures and they enjoy this form of narration. I keep each lesson very short. I want to always end with their begging for more.

Usually by the end of twelve weeks, the children are very familiar with the composer’s life as well as three or four of his works. We have a rule in our school that only the term’s composer, folksongs or hymns are allowed to be played during morning lessons. This ensures that the children are getting an ample amount of time to listen to and enjoy the music. Eventually, they begin to listen to it on their own, as my daughter says, “just because it's beautiful, mom.”
 The CDs are available at our bookshop here.

If you are on a tight budget you can skip the audio biographies. Instead, do an online search and simply read a biography to your children from the computer. You can buy inexpensive ‘Greatest Hits’ CDs of various composers at your local Wal-Mart, as well. Just be sure to focus on ONE composer’s works at a time. This is a basic principal of the Charlotte Mason approach. We don’t want to overload our children with information; we want them to develop an ear for excellent music and the ability to enjoy it for a lifetime. This is the art of ‘gentle learning.’


  1. previous commentors3.1.07

    June 7, 2006 - Music Appreciation (0:

    Posted by Canadagirl

    I have done a simple form of music appreciation for years. We did buy the CDs of the Composer's most famous works. I also had the books " Getting to know the World's Greatest Composers" books by... Mike Venezia. We really enjoy them. They tell a bit about the composers life and it has funny cartoons to illistrate things about the composers life or character. There are also book's by the same author for Famous Artists . But this year we went and splurged and God the set from David Quine. It looks really neat and I can't wait to get into it this Fall. When we would listen to a composers music and after they would get familiar with more than. I would say "Who is it ? " And make it a game to see if they could guess who it was. My littlest would always answer " Handle ! " no matter what music I played. (0;
    In Him,

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    June 7, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by jmj403


    You have a gift for making a CM education accessible to anyone! Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge. I have been homeschooling the CM way for 9 years - mostly flying by the seat of my pants : ) I wish I had come across your site earlier!

    We usually study 3 composers a year. I have 4 daughters 16, 7, 5, and 2. Most of their narrations come in the form of dance! Often they will put on costumes and assume different 'roles'.

    I came across a CD a month or so ago put out by My Father's World. It is an introduction to classical music for 2yo and up. For each piece they give a suggestion for an activity. It looks fun. We're going to use this in the fall during the 2yo's Mom time.

    God Bless

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    June 7, 2006 - Hi

    Posted by SuperAngel

    How are you doing?
    That is a great post. Thanks for sharing!

    Hope you have a GREAT Week! Come by my blog soon!
    SuperAngel Kryptonite Angel
    *Rosie-Posie Iris Hardbottle* ~Luthien Alatariel Elanesse~
    Stop by “Daily” at “The Planet”

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    June 8, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by Anonymous

    Thank you so much for all of the great links you include in your posts and on your sidebar. You have a very high quality site and it's been a wonderful resource!

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    June 8, 2006 - You are one of my favorite resources to explore!

    Posted by mamma1420

    If I had only one blog to read for helping my homeschooling adventure, it would be yours. I love how you've structured everything...

    You've inspired me to:
    * Do Nature Journals
    * Make a strong Art & Music study for my children
    * Being a more disciplined parent (self and to my children)
    * To read more about classical education and want to help others like you do.

    I just hope you know how much you are appreciated. You can save this and read it when you're feeling discouraged! : )

    Thank YOU!

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    June 8, 2006 - Thank you

    Posted by ThreeLittleLadies

    This is very helpful!

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    June 8, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by lindafay

    Thank you, everyone, for the lovely comments! It's a real pleasure to serve you in this small way. You have encouraged me!

    Mama1420, here's a special Turkish kiss blowin' at ya. Both cheeks...


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    June 9, 2006 - Thanks again

    Posted by AussieinAmerica

    Thanks again for all the wonderful information. I am putting my curriculum together and have found much help and comfort on your blog!
    I was really excited that your family made the Pavlova. I hope it was fun.
    Thanks for taking the time to help all of us.
    With much gratitude,

  2. Great post. And great links :) Thanks so much for this post!

    You're so right about the benefit of being able to learn right alongside the children. I'm just getting started with homeschooling and I already feel like I've learned so much! I barely know anything about the lives of the composers at this point, but after 20 years or more I'll be sure to know something! :)

    Blessings :)