Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers

I sometimes get caught in a rut and focus only on the 3 R’s, neglecting topics that may fall in the fine arts or other area.  Making way in the schedule to study something that doesn’t fall within the basic skill set needed as an adult is sometimes difficult, especially if your student is struggling with things like writing a decent paragraph or other necessary skills.  After all, some may reason that writing skills as an adult are more important than knowing whether Bach was from the Baroque or the Classical period.  If only there were unlimited hours in the day with which to learn! My other obstacle is *my* time.  Not only am I often lacking knowledge in such areas, I don’t have time to put something together. Those homeschool moms that “just put together a study” on whatever subject you’ve always wanted to know more about, happily scouring the internet, creating timelines from scratch, and creating thought-provoking questions and activities always awe me and make me want to send my deprived kids to their house!

I realized I didn’t have to after receiving A Young Scholar’s Guide to the Composers by Bright Ideas Press. This program is a study of music for homeschoolers, regardless of previous knowledge of the subject.  Everything is done for the busy (and intimidated) homeschooling mom.  Furthermore, each lesson is completed over a short days three days a week.

A Young’s Scholar’s Guide to the Composers includes 32 weekly lessons covering 6 periods of music and 26 composer biographies.  The first few lessons cover give an overview of the Ancient through Baroque periods.  Once a broad understanding of the early periods is obtained, focus on particular composers starts with Lesson 4 and the Baroque period. The composer lessons are grouped and studied according to the period. 

This program is intended for grades 4-8, but is very adaptable. In fact, while I used it with my 7th grade son, I already have some materials on my shelves that would be a wonderful supplement to make it a comprehensive high school course for credit for my high school daughter.  The Appendix also makes many suggestions for resources to explore, including books, CDs, DVDs, and websites, as well as gives ideas for games and folderbooks (simplified lapbooks).

The schedule is very easy to follow and not overly involved in preparation. The suggested schedule is:

Day 1: read-aloud, note-taking or student review, listen to music (links provided). The student pages are all provided. The lesson/read-aloud takes about 15 minutes to read. Students can also read this to themselves.

Day 2: timeline, map work, and composer info card, listen to music again.  All of the prep work is done for you.  This is hands-on work and mostly involves highlighting lines, drawing a line from a picture to a map location, and using provided graphics and prompts to complete informational cards.

Day 3: listen to music selections again.

As noted, links to music selections for each lesson are provided, along with questions and things to which particular attention should be paid for each piece.

The music selections, graphics, timeline and map printouts, glossary, answer key, and other supplemental resources are all provided in the Appendix. While I see this is a very organized way to do things (e.g. all composer graphics together), I would have preferred to have some of it right within the lesson.  The lesson portion includes the reading and the student or note-taking pages.  The schedule information and hands-on instructions and printables are located elsewhere.
For the map work, students draw a color-coded line, which correlates to certain periods, from the composer to the country.
 We’ve never done a study like this and I was pleasantly surprised at how much my son seemed to enjoy it.  I had him complete the note-taking pages while I was reading, which helped him maintain focus on the material.  I thought he might not want to listen to the selections, since they are much different from his preferred music, but this was not at all the case.

For the hands-on component, we decided to use a blank spiral book, that will keep all of the composer information, in one place rather than individual folders.  I was shocked at how into the cutting, pasting, and deciding on the design he was.  Truly shocked. I am heavily considering more hands-on work in his studies.
We reduced the size of the timeline and map so they would fit on one page.  Composer cards are kept in a pocket on the opposite page.  Terms, designs, mini-books and more are planned to fill in the pages. At the end of the study, the completed notebook will be a great review and memory of the study.
Overall, I thought A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers was very nicely done and made this normally stick-to-the-3Rs mom want to branch out a bit.  It just took a snippet of our week and was extremely easy to execute with everything at my finger tips. My son has really enjoyed this study, and I have too.

 A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers is available from Timberdoodle. Visit their website or request a free homeschool catalog to browse other products.

Disclaimer: As a part of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team. I was provided this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Mary said...

Great review! I have had my eyes on this for a while!

Blossom said...

Thanks for suggestion of the blank spiral books. I used pocket folders but I think what you recommend would work great.
We've liked this as well. Very good point about integrating some of the appendix items into the lessons. I often forgot one or another page/resource because I forgot to look in the appendix :/