Homeschooling, Music

Homeschool Music: Classical Composers and the Orchestra

Suddenly our homeschool music class seems to be my kids’ favorite subject.

This makes very little sense because I am the one teaching it.  It’s a bit crazy because I don’t play an instrument, other than rudimentary piano, and I don’t sing.  I lack musical talent in every single way.  Yet, we are all having a blast, learning a ton, and there are days that my kids beg for more!

So what are we doing?

We are studying classical composers and the orchestra and having an amazing time.

You are capable of teaching homeschool music to your kids. There are great books, videos and other resources available to equip you with everything you need to introduce your kids to classical composers and the orchestra.

STUDYING THE ORCHESTRA

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Our first study of the orchestra occurred when my oldest was in first grade. Our Classical Conversations group was in cycle three and we spent part of the year studying the orchestra, both the music and the instruments.  It’s been 7 years since that unit and I knew it was time to hit the topic again for my younger three kids (12, 10, and 7).

I am using The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine and illustrated by Meredith Hamilton as the spine (core) of our Orchestra and Music Study. This book includes an audio CD with tracks that accompany the information in the book.

The first section of the book is the story of classical music from The Baroque Period to the Modern Era. As you read along, your family will learn about composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Debussy. Each page or double page spread about a particular composer is informative, but not too lengthy. A featured track on the CD is assigned at the end of most pages allowing you to enjoy a brief selection by the composer.

The second section in the book focuses on the orchestra. Your family will meet the instruments, hear their sounds, and learn about the organization of the orchestra.

This easy to understand book is only the beginning of what we have incorporated into our study. The Story of the Orchestra has provided a springboard for all sorts of musical fun and I’d like to share some of our favorite additions!

The Story of the Orchestra: Classical Composers

Got Amazon Music Unlimited? You can stream all of the Classical Kids and Beethoven’s Wig selections below for free on unlimited.  We signed up for a free month and will probably pay the $7.99 free for an additional month or two.  I think access all of these CD’s will be very worth it.  

Then we will order our favorites because owning a few is always handy for car trips.

Homeschool Music: Classical Kids

Our family had to purchase these when we moved to North Carolina because we enjoyed them so much and could no longer borrow them from the library. The Classical Kids audio CD’s come in two volumes or they can be purchased individually.

Classical Kids Volume I includes: Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy, and Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery

Classical Kids Volume II includes: Tchaikovsky Discovers America, Hallelujah Handel!, Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage, and Song of the Unicorn.

It is hard for me to choose a favorite because I truly enjoy all of them.  Vivaldi’s music includes some of my favorites and the storyline is a bit mysterious so that one is high on my list. My kids have enjoyed listening to both of the Mozart CD’s to fall asleep in bed at night.

Homeschool Music: Classical Kids: The Best of…

The Classical Kids: The Best of series includes the music of your favorite composers. Some of the CD’s contain excerpts from the Classical Kids CDs mentioned above.

These CD’s are perfect when you just want to enjoy the music of a specific composer.

Homeschool Music: Beethoven’s Wig

I still sing some of the tunes from this first CD in this series. But they are silly. So buyer beware.

Now that you have seen them.  Just remember that with an Amazon Music Unlimited membership, you can stream all of the ABOVE CD’s for free.

Homeschool Music: Maestro Classics

I simply love the Maestro Classic CD’s. The stories on these CD’s are told creatively through music. In addition, various selections are set to memorable lyrics.

When I hear the music of Swan Lake I still sing in my head, “Tchaikovsky wrote a great ballet, it’s name was Swaa-ah-ah-ahn Lake.”

NOTE:  These are NOT available on Prime Music.  They have to be purchased individually or as a set.

You can buy the full set of all 12 Maestro Classics!

The Story of the Orchestra: Meet the Instruments

Homeschool Music: Orchestra Instruments via Video

The Story of the Orchestra does a fantastic job of introducing each instrument. To enhance our enjoyment, we have been watching the videos on the Philharmonia Orchestra YouTube Channel.   As we read about an instrument in the Story of the Orchestra, I follow up with the corresponding video on the Philharmonia Orchestra Channel.

The Philharmonia Orchestra Channel’s Instrument Guides are informative and amusing.  Each musician explains the parts of the instrument, various playing styles, as well as fun little tidbits.  The cellist in this video demonstrates how to play the cello with fruit:

All of the videos have been fantastic so far. When one ends, my kids ask for another! Of course, I like to keep things fresh and fun so I make them wait.

The videos vary in length though most are less than 10 minutes. The cello demonstration is the LONGEST at 18 minutes whereas the trombone is only 3 minutes and 23 seconds. If one doesn’t quite fit into our day, we just pause and finish it up the next day.

There are instruments included in The Story of the Orchestra that are not included on the Philharmonia YouTube channel and vice versa, so they both are great sources. You could certainly pick and choose from each source rather than over do it!

FOR OLDER STUDENTS: (or younger with caution)

The Philharmonia YouTube channel also includes listening guides for various pieces of classical music. There are very few that overlap with the book. Parental caution is advised as the guides were not created for children. The Stravinsky Rite of Spring Guide explains the theme of the music, including the sacrifice of a virgin who dances herself to death. Beethoven’s fifth symphony is also included in the list of listening guides. I don’t recall any adult content, but parental guidance is ALWAYS suggested.

These listening guides are informative and interesting to me, but I haven’t tried them with my children.

Homeschool Music: Orchestra Themed Picture Books

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

M is for Melody by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Katherine Larson

I Know a Shy Fellow who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara Garriel and illustrated by John O’Brien

Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo by John Lithgow and illustrated by Leeza Hernandez

Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes and illustrated by Karmen Thompson

Homeschool Music: Classical Music Picture Books with CD included

The Carnival of the Animals (Book and CD) by Jack Prelutzky, created by Camille Saint-Saens and illustrated by Mary GrandPre

Can You Hear It? by William Lach

Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music by Ana Gerhard and Cecilia Varela

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket and music by Nathaniel Stookey (see video in resources section at the bottom)

Homeschool Music: Field Trip

Check out your local orchestra performances. Many orchestras have kid concerts as well as educational performances.

Here in Raleigh, the North Carolina Symphony performs Young Peoples Concerts as well as Education Concerts.

Homeschool Music: Other Fun Resources

The Piano Guys YouTube channel is definitely worth a visit.

The Cello Star Wars Duel is a classic:

The music and story of Peter and the Wolf introduce the sounds of the orchestra and their ability to communicate a story. I did not find a book that I enjoyed, but this YouTube video did the trick.

Finally, you can watch Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey discuss their book, “The Composer is Dead”:

Do you feel inspired and equipped to tackle Classical Music and the Orchestra with your kids? I hope so. What would you add to the list?

For more ideas, you can follow my Music Appreciation Pinterest Board or all of my Pinterest Boards for lots of Educational and Fun Ideas.

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You are capable of teaching music to your kids. There are great books, videos and other resources available to equip you with everything you need to introduce your kids to classical composers and the orchestra.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Priti January 31, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    I loved your well-written comprehensive post and the links to a treasure trove of resources. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

    • Reply notbefore7@gmail.com January 31, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks! I am happy to share what is working so well in our house!

  • Reply Karyn February 9, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    So proud of you math lady turned music appreciation teacher!

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