Is it possible for kids to learn to appreciate classical music? How does one learn to enjoy such complex compositions of music? And what about hymns…and folk songs…? Questions like these may leave some of us thinking that teaching music appreciation to kids is a daunting task at best, especially when we may not have a background in such music appreciation ourselves.
Just as is the case with kids, that “the more they are exposed to good literature, the better they get at reading the themes and language of literature. In art and music, the more they are simply exposed to pictures and music, the more they learn to ‘read’ the themes of the world’s classic compositions.” –quote taken from Ambleside Online
Listening without analyzing at first provides the opportunity to become familiar with and start to enjoy the style of a particular composer.
Once a week, you’ll find the kids and I lounging around the family room, listening to a story about the life and music of a famous composer. Everybody finds a comfy spot, cuddles up with a blanket and pillows, and I put in a CD entitled “The Story of _________ in Words and Music.”
We just listen; and we learn things like:
- Vivaldi taught music in an orphanage for girls.
- Handel’s father wanted him to become a lawyer.
- Beethoven composed music even after he became deaf.
- Mozart wrote his first piece of music at age 5, and composed his first opera at age 12.
- Chopin, Schubert, and Mozart each died when they were only in their 30s.
And of course we also learn the pieces of music each composer is famous for: Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons; Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos; Handel’s Messiah; and Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute among others.
We listen to these stories and music 15 minutes each week until we’ve heard the whole story. At the end of each listening session, the kids take turns giving a narration of what they remember. It usually takes us 6 weeks or so to get through one of these CDs. Then on subsequent weeks the kids get out their lapbooks and write a little about the composer in a booklet, and paste it on to a page right along with all the other composers we’ve learned about.
They also fill out a page describing a famous piece of music from that composer. They include some facts about the piece, and then they get to draw whatever they imagine as they listen to that piece of music.
We study just one composer during each 12 week term, which allows us to get to know three composers a year. Spending this much time with one composer gives us a chance to become familiar with his particular style.
In addition to classical music, we also enjoy learning hymns and folksongs. The kids have a “hymn of the month” in Sunday School, where they learn the music and a little of the background. That hymn then becomes the one we find ourselves singing (or humming, or whistling) here at home as well.
For learning folksongs, we follow Ambleside Online’s recommendations and schedule. A link to the song on YouTube is usually included with the schedule. We’ve become familiar with such songs as Waltzing Matilda, My Grandfather’s Clock, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and Botany Bay. We’ve also learned some of the background behind the songs — why and when they were written — which usually gives us a better appreciation for the song itself.
Learning music appreciation in this way isn’t limited to homeschoolers. And it isn’t even limited to kids. Listening to an interesting life story of a composer or drawing while listening to the music itself is an activity you might try with your kids this summer. Hey, if they’re bored anyway….. 🙂
The lapbooks are available at Homeschool in the Woods.
The cds I referenced and more like them are available at amazon.com.