Composer Study 102

After I have given the children a brief foundation in music we move on to study individual composers. Now, a wonderful thing about this Charlotte Mason method is that mothers do not have to have an extensive knowledge or appreciation of music in order to teach it to their children. They can quietly learn along side the children.

We study only one composer over a 12-week term and it takes about 20 minutes per week. I make sure to schedule this into our week because I have learned that if I don’t schedule composer study, it doesn’t get done. In fact, I have learned that many important things will not be learned if you don’t schedule them into your life. So, let’s say, our composer is J.S.Bach. On Friday, the day that we have group lessons such as artist study and nature walks, we listen to an audio CD by VOX Music Masters for 15 minutes about the life of Bach. Afterwards, I have the children take turns narrating (telling back) what they just learned about him. There are no fill-in–the-blank worksheets that bore and keep the child on the lowest level of thinking.

It takes about three weeks to finish this CD, and then we begin listening to another CD that has his greatest compositions. We concentrate on one per week only. The children usually draw a narration while listening to ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,’ or ‘Magnificat’ and others. I simply ask them what comes to their mind while they are listening to a particular piece. Often, they draw scenery, or a beautiful maiden, flowers, etc… Sometimes, just the opposite is felt, such as war and sadness. If they have troubles getting started, I volunteer what I am thinking about… That’s all it takes and then they take off. I enjoy listening to them describe their pictures and they enjoy this form of narration. I keep each lesson very short to keep their interest.

Usually by the end of twelve weeks, the children are very familiar with the composer’s life as well as three or four of his works. We have a rule in our school that only the term’s composer, folksongs or hymns are allowed to be played as background music during morning lessons. This ensures that the children are getting an ample amount of time to listen to and enjoy the music. Eventually, they begin to listen to it on their own, as my daughter says, “just because it's beautiful, mom.”

If you are on a tight budget you can try Classics for Kids online. It has free audio biographies and music of famous composers. You can buy inexpensive ‘Greatest Hits’ CDs of various composers as well. Just be sure to focus on ONE composer’s works at a time. This is a basic principal of the Charlotte Mason approach. We don’t want to overload our children with information; we want them to develop an ear for excellent music and the ability to enjoy it for a lifetime. This is the art of ‘gentle learning.’