A few weeks ago I introduced you to how we teach music using literature. The catalyst to our music study was the opportunity to review Home School in the Woods and their Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers.
Home School in the Woods is a curriculum company that specializes in hands-on unit studies, lap books and similar activities. The Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers is a supplemental lap book activity pack that will help to introduce you and your children to 42 of the most influential and exciting composers in history. In addition to the plethora of information and activities for the composers themselves (timeline, music appreciation, composer info, mp3’s of related music) the Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers also includes activities and brief lessons on the different periods of music, musical vocabulary and an additional interactive folder entirely dedicated to the orchestra! As far as I’m concerned the only thing missing is instrument lessons.
The Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers is what I would describe as a “lap book on steroids”. The activities seemed never-ending (in a good way). This is definitely not one of those lap books that can be completed quickly… at least not if you want to take advantage of all of the awesomeness. Since we use an educational method that takes full advantage of the classics, we fully immersed ourselves in music for weeks. It was fabulous!
Rather than using this for just one child, we worked on the Composers Activity-Pak together as a family. This was incredibly easy to cater to my each of the talents and interests of my kids; and as a supplemental curriculum this lended itself nicely to our method of education. We began with Johann Sebastian Bach. Since we started on a day that wasn’t good for a library trip, we looked Bach up online to find what we could on him. With very little effort on our part we were able to find out that he was born in 1685, came from a family of musicians, and was the father of 20 children (don’t worry, they were all legitimate ;)). We then listened to various compositions and chose our favorites. The next day we went to the library and came home with an armful of composer biographies.
After that our routine was pretty straightforward. Lucy or I would read the biography out loud…
While Emma would color the composer card.
Then we would all listen (and often dance) to several of the composer’s most famous pieces and discuss which ones are our favorites and why. We would also listen as Lucy would fill in the information card for the composer while Emma would color that as well. Then we would paste it on to the lap book.
We would then put the composer on the timeline and talk about the other things that were going on in the world at the time that he lived. Beethoven was heavily influenced by the French Revolution and wanted to study under Mozart as a young man. Each kid would choose their favorite piece of music from that composer and complete a “music appreciation” worksheet. They would write and/or draw what the music made them think and feel. It’s no surprise that “Flight of the Bumblebee” made everyone think of bumblebees :)
We would spend as much or as little time on a composer as we wanted. I think we spent a full week on Mozart, but were able to cover Brahms and Gershwin in the same afternoon. Lucy (my writer) would often write essays because she found the composers so interesting.
I loved learning the history of each of these composers. They all have so many compelling stores to share! Bach was imprisoned when his employer (a Duke) didn’t want him to quit his job, and Tchaikovsky had an irrational fear of his head falling off during a performance. Mozart had a sister who was equally as talented, and Beethoven appealed to his country’s leader for full custody of his siblings after his mother died because his father was useless. Matt and I discovered that Chopin was the composer of both of our favorite songs and I absolutely LOVE Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin.
The only improvement I would make is with the Composer Cards. I would have loved to have all 42 composers included as Composer Cards rather than 20. They made for great matching games and more would have been great.
Hands-On History Activity-Pak: Composers has been an absolute blast and I look forward to seeing what else they will come up with! It comes as both a download for $18.95 or a CD for $19.95. It is suggested for grades 3-8 (though my second grader really enjoyed it as well.)
Prices are accurate as of the publication of this review and are subject to changeClick to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew