Music Study is certainly a favorite enrichment study to enjoy with my children! I have always had a deep love for classical music. I remember the first time I heard Chopin on an old cassette tape that my mom purchased a homeschool convention… Instantly, I was enamored with his music; and he is still my favorite composer to this day! Now you might be thinking: “I have no love or knowledge of classical music.” While I am knowledgeable about music in general, as I am a classically trained pianist, if you do not feel confident, you can still do music study with your children! Please do not write off this valuable enrichment study – continue to read through to find out exactly how!
While we are a homeschooling family, even if you are not, you can still do music study with your children! Through listening and discussing music from the great masters, your children will enjoy vast expressions of music these composers have shared with us. Be sure to look out for the FREE digital download at the end of this post that contains the schedule for an entire artist picture study!!! (12 Weeks)
When doing music study with children, choose a composer to focus on, share about the composer’s life, listen and discuss the music together.
How to Do Music Study with Children:
“Let the young people hear good music as often as possible, and that under instruction. It is a pity we like our music, as our pictures and our poetry, mixed, so that there are few opportunities of going through, as a listener, a course of the works of a single composer. But this is to be aimed at for the young people; let them study occasionally the works of a single great master until they have received some of his teaching, and know his style.” ~ Charlotte Mason (Formation of Character, The Home Education Series Volume 5)
1: Choose a composer.
There are MANY wonderful composers to choose from. You can begin with one that you personally love, or one that you think will catch the attention of your children. You will go through 3 composers each school year – that is 1 composer every 12 weeks or per term. In this post, I will choose Chopin as an example. Here are some great composers to begin with:
NOTE: Simply Charlotte Mason produces fabulous composer studies – they contain everything you will need for 1 composer. You can find them here. If you are not confident or knowledgeable in music, I would encourage you to begin with one of these, because they will guide you and make it simple and unstressful for you to accomplish.
2: Choose a musical compilation.
There are many ways with today’s technology to do this. You can download, find free You Tube selections, CD, stream on your TV – whatever works best for your family. I personally pick a compilation, like a “Best of __” or Masters of Classical Music on CD. Whatever you choose, it should be different compositions from the same composer; and at least an hour long total. You will play the same selection for 12 weeks. A minimum of 8 selections by the composer is needed.
3: Find a living biography of the composer.
You will want to share some information about the composer with your children. Preferably, this will be through a living biography of sorts that will bring the composer to life and personalize him for them. My favorite living biography books for younger children are the Opal Wheeler Great Musicians Series, because they are well written with black and white illustrations; there is a nice selection too. For older students, or if you want a single chapter length story, my favorite books are The Gift of Music or The Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers. The first has the largest selection of composers included! You can also use the Simply Charlotte Mason Music Studies, each includes a living biography in the pack.
You cannot go wrong with any of these choices – choose which makes the best sense for your family and the season of life that you are in. Here are some of our favorite composer biography resources:
- The Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavenaugh – can be found here
- The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson – can be found here
- Great Musicians series by Opal Wheeler – Chopin can be found here
- Simply Charlotte Mason Music Studies with the Masters series – can be found here
- I also like An Introduction to the Classics CDs which combine music and narration – Chopin can be found here
4: Have a weekly music study.
This will usually take about 15-20 minutes. Here are some music study ideas for your weekly gatherings:
Occasionally, you will read about the composer with your children.
On these weeks, this will take the place of a music study. You may ask your children for an oral or written narration of the reading if you desire, but you do not have to. I generally ask my children to share something they found interesting about the composer. This is a great time to add the composer to your book of centuries (or a timeline) so that they can visualize when this person lived.
Most weeks, you will listen to a selection of music and discuss it.
You can complete a music study in 4 simple steps! This should take 15-20 minutes at the most to accomplish. Do not overthink or overwork this activity. Keep it simple and enjoyable! The end goal of music study is for children to appreciate good music and learn to recognize the style/works of a particular composer.
1: Select a specific composition to give focused listening to.
Remember, you will only select a composition from the composer of choice. (A total of 8 compositions per term.) Now that the composition has been selected, it is time for everyone to gather together for the fun.
2: Listen to the composition with full attention.
Gather everyone into one area. Have them all find a comfortable place to relax. Try to keep distractions to a minimum. When everyone is situated, play the piece. Learning to be quiet, still, and attentive is a valuable life skill that they will also be practicing during this activity. You may need to remind them of these expectations the first few weeks, and that is perfectly alright. After listening, if everyone was respectful and attentive, it is appropriate to thank them for their kind behavior before moving along to discussion time.
3: Discuss the piece. Tell the title and any additional information you want to share.
You can share the title of the piece and any information that you would like to share. Then continue by discussing it with the children. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some discussion question examples to get you started:
- Did they like the composition?
- What did it make them think of?
- How did it make them feel?
- Did they have a favorite part?
- What kinds of instruments did they recognize?
- What was the tempo(s) of the composition?
- What was the volume(s) of the instrument?
If you are not knowledgeable with music theory, you may find a simple music pocket dictionary extremely helpful for this part. I have used this one from Alfred for over 2 decades! It is extremely handy in many situations – I always kept it near in my piano music bag or bench.
4: Between music studies, play all the compositions multiple times.
You will play the entire collection of the composer’s compositions throughout your week. It is best to play it daily during a more peaceful time of the day. If you play it when a lot is going on, it will probably be drowned out in the chaos of the moment. Here are some times that I like to play our musical compositions for our family:
- When riding in the car somewhere.
- During breakfast, lunch, or snack time.
- When children are working on handicrafts.
- While children are doing a quiet, simple activity, like puzzles, coloring, painting, free reading, or a talk free game like checkers or chess.