Homeschool Music Appreciation

homeschool music appreciation

It was 9 AM on a grey, winter’s morning. The wind howled and the rain poured relentlessly. But inside our cosy car we were lost in the world of Papageno and the Queen of the Night. The rain didn’t stand a chance against the magnificent operatic strains of The Magic Flute.

We’ve listened to Mozart’s Magic Fantasy many times now, but I’ll always associate it with that first, glorious car journey.  We arrived at our destination filled with excitement for the day ahead – in blessed contrast to the other families, with their yawns and grumbles about the weather!

Isn’t it wonderful, the way that music can transform everyday experiences into sublime adventures?

For me, one of the many joys of homeschooling is learning to enjoy classical music alongside my children.

Classical Kids

Our favourite resource is the Classical Kids CD series. We began in medieval Venice with Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery, which tells the story of young orphan Katarina’s adventures during the festival for the dead. The exciting tale is beautifully interweaved with the enchanting music of Katarina’s violin teacher, Antonio Vivaldi.

Next, we learned about Johann Sebastian Bach’s life and music in  Mr Bach Comes to Call. And Ludwig van Beethoven and his works were brought to life in the entertaining Beethoven Lives Upstairs.

homeschool music appreciation

Which composers?

The rest of our music “curriculum” I pull together from the internet. I search lists of noted composers (like this New York Times one or this one) and their most famous works. Then I source the music on YouTube.

I love it when I turn up gems like this “rant” about Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The comedian’s demonstration of how classical music permeates our culture is hilarious. My kids watch it over and over.

Historical and geographical context

I like to see where composers fit into history, so I’ve created a composers’ timeline on our Timeline Builder app. The kids haven’t paid much attention to the timeline so far, but they might do when we progress beyond the fourteenth century in history.

homeschool music appreciation
Composers timeline

We naturally learn about the places and eras occupied by the composers we listen to, and sometimes vice versa.

Eighteenth century Venice was brought to life for us by Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery, and it was interesting to learn a little about the music of Edvard Grieg before we visited Norway.

Homeschool music appreciation 2013-14

This year we have the Classical Kids CD’s Tchaikovsky Discovers America and Hallelujah Handel to look forward to, and I might look on YouTube for pieces by Schubert, Verdi and Brahms.

If either of my children expresses an interest in going deeper, I’ll be delighted to support their explorations. Until then,  we’ll be happy learning about classical music together in this easygoing, meandering manner.


I’m linking with these great link-ups:

Highhill Homeschool’s music lesson planning link-up.

iHomeschool Network Not-back-to-school Blog Hop – Curriculum Hop

It’s a Wrap – Weird Unsocialised Homeschoolers

Share it Saturday – Teach Beside Me

Hip Homeschool Hop – 08/27/13

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14 thoughts on “Homeschool Music Appreciation

  1. Hiya,
    As a piano teacher as well as a homeschooling Mum, I think this is excellent. A lot of kids don’t even know some of the main classical composers who eventually wound up over the centuries to include Rizzlekicks and Robin Thicke and Eminem (my sons faves at the mo). If it wasn’t for Beethoven, right at that time, or Shostakovich right at that time, we wouldn’t have some of the funk we do today and that’s always what I try and get across. (Sometimes, when I have to listen to the latest thing I wonder if there was a missing link somewhere along the line though!! HAHA!)

    I call it breadcrumb music… our artists today were led on a trail, whether they knew it, or liked it, or not.

    Its a bit old hat now, but one of my favourite songs to show to kids was Tubthumping by Chumbawumba – right at the end it has Pachelbel’s Cannon. Back in 1997 it was quite a useful pop song to use as all the kids knew it, but it doesn’t work well any more! I am still always on the look out for classical music within pop – so if ya ever come across something let me know 🙂

    I wonder what it would be like to bring Beethoven or Tchaikovsky back today and give them a spot on The X factor? Now that would make for some great TV!

    Also a good one for to try which I do with my little kids at school is to turn off a keyboard and ask them to make up a song – impossible right? Even with ear plugs and playing a piano you can still hear it. Beethoven composed the Ode to Joy whilst totally deaf!!(9th symphony) He was still tapping time and head bowed when a friend had to turn him around and show the audience clapping like mad Unbelievable. Its stuff like that I love.

    And what about Mozart nicking his bro’s music to copy it out AGED 3 in the loft in his house. A trip to his home of birth in Saltzburg is well worth it. The house is still a home, but the next door property they have transformed into a full whole house museum.

    Anyway, totally rambling now, but I think it is very important and soul beautifying to feel and delight in music – even when we don’t understand some of the subtext.

    When I explained to my son that today can say and do pretty much what they like because they can have freedom of opinion, but that in the ‘olden days’ they didn’t it led to a whole new path of discovery. They couldn’t vote freely or talk about the government or the king or society and were often repressed etc but the cautious and educated could Paint, or write literature or music that had a moral/political/subversive/progressive meaning behind it that everyone would understand even though it incurred massive risks. For instance Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf…. The art movements Peredvizhniki and the magazine Mir iskusstva and the book Animal Farm are all subtely about the same things… I love things like that. Art, music and literature often go hand in hand before or around a revolution.

    Anyway, that’s another story. I think musical appreciation is a fabulous addition to your programme. I would definitely suggest Romeo and Juliet and Peter and the Wolf (especially this one!) by Prokofiev as these were written for children.

    Let us know how you get on 🙂

    1. Hi Claire,
      What an interesting comment! You’ve given me so much to think about – thank you!
      I loved Tubthumping – I’ll have to find it on YouTube and listen out for the Pachelbel.
      I’m going to talk with my kids about breadcumb music … do you think I can google it? 😉
      Seriously though – Prokofiev’s now on my list.
      Thanks for all the inspiration 🙂

  2. We haven’t done as much music appreciation as I’d like, even though I have been holding on to the Classical Kids CD series for years… I like the way you’ve been able to incorporate them into your learning environment. Now I have to go away and really think about using those CDs… 🙂

    1. When I looked back I noticed I was much better at fitting it in at the start of the year and we seemed to tail off towards the end! I do find it more of a challenge now that we listen to so many audiobooks in the car – that’s when we used to listen. But my kids love those CDs so much I’m sure they’ll be keen whenever I can manage to squeeze them in!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m totally sold on the Classical Kids CD’s. I think I’ve heard of them before, but didn’t realize there were stories intertwined with the music. We have most of the music, but I will definitely be purchasing the CD’s to go with them.

    We have listened to Peter and the Wolf and it’s a big favorite due to the story/music going together.

    My daughter, father and I also watched the video. My father is a lifelong trumpet player who has told me many times how classical music shows up in all the pop songs. He especially really appreciated the video.

    Thanks Again,

    1. I’m glad you liked the video, Julie. I know so little about classical music but I love Claire’s comment about “breadcrumb music”. I’m definitely on the lookout for more!

  4. Oooh, thanks for sharing Mozart’s Magic Fantasy! We studied Mozart a few months ago and watched the Magic Flute opera and they just loved it. They will be excited to listen to this!

  5. What a wonderful post. We are not formally doing music appreciation but your post makes me want to sprinkle it in as we go. Have a great year!

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