Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Music Appreciation

With all of the material to cover each day, how can a family make time for the "extras" like art and music appreciation? It seems to me that the best way to make sure the children are regularly exposed to the arts is to find a way to seamlessly weave these subjects into the day. This is especially easy when it comes to music - just play it on a CD! If we can just remember to play the music, there are great gains in just listening to it. There may be occasional conversations about instruments, movements, etc., but they are not necessary for young children to genuinely benefit from the music. Simply enjoying Strauss while we do a few chores or eat breakfast is enough to introduce great music to our children.

It should come as no surprise that, as with the other subjects, Charlotte Mason urges the very best quality for our children. Our modern minds immediately jump to defend our preferences and we ask who can judge what is really quality. My reply would be that time is the best judge of quality. Music that has lasted the test of time and has been continually considered excellent most likely is excellent. With this view in mind, classical and folk music will take center stage in our listening choices for Year One. Hymns, of course, also qualify as quality music. We often listen to hymns in the van and Sam memorizes a new hymn each month with the children during bedtime devotions. I'd like to play hymns more regularly in the house during the day. I'll have to move some hymn CDs inside :)

Although I played around some with the idea of a "composer for each term" during this last year, I admit that it seemed more contrived than I liked for my everyone-six-and-under crew. I'm willing to give it a go, however. Above all, for this age group, the music is about beauty and big ideas. We may get to some of the details of the composer's lives, but if, at the end of the term, I can say that the children have grown to love classical music more, I will consider our term's "study" a success.

Keeping a regular time for this music seems to help me play it consistently. A habit of playing a CD every morning while I make breakfast, for instance, is an easy way to make sure that quality music is a part of each day. Even if we don't get around to it every day, though, a couple of days a week is better than none and probably enough to make a positive impression on the children. Beyond a regular listening time, we will also use our term's music for some of our drill & dance days (that's just fancy PNEU lingo for dancing up some exercise in the family room).

Beyond listening to CDs, we also hope to establish a bit of a family tradition by attending several philharmonic concerts together each year. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra has some great, informal "teaching" performances on Thursday and Friday nights that are reasonably priced and appropriate for preschool and up. Special nights like these can be a great way to show the children how much we enjoy beautiful music, besides just being a really nice way to spend an evening together. We have used the fall season's performance schedule to choose our composers for the term (we'll being focusing in on two composers from now until December). We plan to attend a concert in November with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major and Mahler's Symphony No. 7 in E Minor. So, Mozart and Mahler it is!

Apart from the set composer study schedule, Classics for Kids is a really neat radio program and website that offers a little more in-depth music study than just listening alone. There is a weekly show available as well as a backlist of previous airings. Worth looking into. Also, the Classical Kids Series of CDs has won award after award. We own the Vivaldi CD (purposefully a little spooky in parts - I could do without all that, but overall okay for children old enough to handle it) and hope to buy the Mozart disc soon. I haven't heard this one, yet, so I cannot vouch for it personally, but these CDs seem to be favorites with lots of homeschooling families. I didn't realize it before tonight, but apparently there are theatrical tours of these productions, too! That sounds like something I want to look into :)

*edited to say that Mozart's Magnificent Voyage wasn't really our cup of tea. We checked it out from the library, but we will not be buying it. Just wanted to say that ;)