Classical music resources for kids.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

For the past six months, Liam has developed an increasing love for classical music and composers. It seemed to come out of nowhere and has grown with very little prompting from Shawn or me. It's truly one of my favorite parts of homeschooling him this year. While he can't name one Star Wars character or even professional athlete, he knows dozens of composers and even writes about them in his secret diary. We listen to classical radio in the car, per his request, and he can often identify the composer and period by the instrumentation, tempo, and themes. I know I'm biased, but it's truly an amazing thing to witness - especially from a 6-year-old. Just the other day, he said, "Mommy, I'm kind of confused why every time I hear 'The Well Tempered Clavier' by Bach it's played on the piano, when harpsichord was way more popular during the Baroque period." And the other day, I was proud of myself for being able to hum a short excerpt from Dvorak's New World Symphony, and Liam commented, "That was so good, Mommy! Except it wasn't in E minor." His aptitude for this has consistently blown me away.

While I do think Liam's interest in classical music goes beyond what most children's (or adults') ever may, I thought I'd share a few great resources we've found in case others are interested (click on the pictures to take you to the Amazon links).

The Story of the Orchestra is my very favorite resource we've found. It goes through many of the major classical composers and comes with a CD that they can hear excerpts of their most famous pieces. In a homeschool setting, it's perfect. But we've also just enjoyed looking through it and listening to the CD in a less formal way. I highly recommend this as a first look at classical music for elementary-age kids.

This one is a great resource for older kids as the writing is a bit more detailed, and it has some fun activities, like making a model eardrum. Beethoven is the composer who first captured Liam's attention. His music is intense and ground-breaking, and his story is fascinating. We've loved this book about his life. 

This is our most recent find and it's a great one. It also has multiple volumes available. This first volume features 17 composers and includes a detailed summary of their life and greatest works, some fun facts, and a crossword or word search or game at the end. It also includes a CD so you can hear their most famous pieces. I read that this was written for upper elementary or middle school ages, but with a good reader and adequate interest, it can be used by younger children, too. Liam and I have been going through one composer a week and really studying his work. I was definitely ready to move on from hearing Scarlatti's harpsichord music after an entire week of it. ;)
For piano lessons, we are currently using Hoffman Academy and can't sing its praises enough. It's a go-at-your-own-pace online curriculum that costs $18/month and is very comprehensive. The students learn ear training, sight reading, music theory, correct posture and fingering. We use it for both Liam and Lanie (at their respective levels) and they do a lesson or two a week, then practice what they've learned with printable worksheets and some guidance from Mom and Dad. Eventually, I want all of our kids to have formal, in-person piano lessons. But for right now, this has been a wonderful (and doable) resource for our family.

And finally, a little interview with the future composer himself, Liam Worth Newby:

What first made you interested in classical music?
When I first made a "Liam's classical music" playlist (on Spotify). I love to listen to different pieces every day.

Who is your favorite composer?
Edvard Grieg. Some of my other favorites are Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite classical piece?
Probably Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart.

What is your favorite instrument in the orchestra?
The violin

What did you spend your Amazon gift card on and why?
A conductor's baton because I wanted to practice conducting so that I can take my Poppy's job someday.

Who is your favorite conductor?
Sir Simon Rattle. I love how he conducts.

How do you think other children can get started learning about classical music?
By getting a classical music educational book and making a Spotify playlist of their favorite classical music pieces.

But God.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Parenting three (almost 4) little ones is hard work. There are endless spills and tantrums, sheer exhaustion, and your time and energy are pulled and stretched and twisted in every direction.

But that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

Parenting their hearts is what I find so challenging. Between making hundreds of chicken nuggets and reading thousands of stories and wiping bottoms, there is the need to gently guide their souls. To teach and train and discipline with patience, kindness, and consistency.

In this season with kids ages 1, 3, and 6, I've said it before that I feel the stirring to do less, and do it better. Instead of schlepping the kids all over town for soccer practice and play groups and even school, we've chosen less: to be home, together, for the majority of our time. Even though it's exhausting in its own way with so few mommy breaks, I doubt I'll ever regret this ongoing decision toward simplicity.

I'm learning that daily choices form habits, and habits form legacies. Fifty years from now, when Liam and Lanie and Brooks think of their mom, will they see me in their memories hunched over my phone? Will they see the back of my head in our minivan as I cart them to one more activity? Or will they see my eyes, engaged with them and eager to hear what they have to say? Will they remember seeing me read my Bible? Will they see me reaching out to others in need, consistently opening our home because we've made the space in our schedules?

A few months ago, the kids and I zipped into the church parking lot after a hairy morning (as most Sunday mornings as a pastor's wife are) and Liam tried to get my attention.

"Mommy," he said. "I think Jesus is kind of like a vent. If God is on the outside of the vent, we are inside and we are trapped and we are so cold in there because of our sin. But on the cross, Jesus breaks through the vent and helps us to get to God!"

"Buddy, did you hear that somewhere?" I asked, knowing I'd never thought of a Gospel metaphor involving a car vent.

"No. I was just looking at the vent and thinking of Jesus."

Right there in the car, it hit me once again that Shawn and I have planted tiny seeds of faith. Others have watered them. But God (my favorite two words in the Bible!) has made them grow. It is He who is growing our children's hearts with deep roots in Him. It isn't even the habits or rhythms or atmosphere I try to create in my home that will grow them in godliness. And you know what that means for me as a mom? The pressure is off! The very best thing I can do as I walk this journey of motherhood is also the best thing I can do as I walk this journey as a human: to be firmly rooted in God's Word, faithful in prayer, abiding in Him, and listening to His voice. The rest? That's up to Him. It is He who prepares the way and the good works before the world began. It is He who promises to complete the good work He began in each of us. Because of this, I can truly rest. I can experience true freedom. I can take a deep sigh of relief that it's just not possible to screw up this mommy gig too badly with Him as our safety net, our guiding light, the very hope for our souls.


Monday, November 26, 2018

On our way to the park the other day, Liam was talking about his friends he'd spent time with earlier in the day.

"I realized that [the boy] had brown skin and the rest of his family had white skin," he said, "and then I remembered he was adopted. From Africa!"

"Isn't his skin beautiful? It looks like chocolate," I replied.

He agreed.

I tried to explain to him that just like Liam is red-green colorblind, some people think we should all be colorblind - but only to skin color. But as believers, we believe God created those magnificent shades of brown and peach and gold and we should celebrate their beauty and diversity.

Liam sat for a while, then said, "I'm glad our brown friend didn't live during Civil Rights. Things were so unfair for brown people then." We talked for a moment about how, sadly, things are still unfair for our dark-skinned friends in many ways.

He thought a while longer then said very bluntly, "I'm just glad I have white skin..."

I paused, nervous to hear the rest of the sentence, until he finished, "so I can be like Abraham Lincoln and help my brown friends."

Just that morning, I'd listened to Dorena Williamson's interview on Jamie Ivey's podcast, and it couldn't have been more timely. She talked about the importance of having conversations about race with our kids and about celebrating diversity instead of pushing it under the rug as something inappropriate to talk about. I know the kids and I will have countless conversations about race and diversity in the future, and I am grateful to Dorena and others for helping guide this conversation and many others. May we be bridge builders for the Gospel.

(Dorena wrote a beautiful children's book called ColorFull that is one of my kids' faves. Click on the photo of the book to take you to Amazon to purchase!)

An announcement from the Newby kids....

Friday, November 2, 2018

Homeschool/Sonlight so far.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chalkboards via
We're 3 months in, and we've begun to find a rhythm in homeschool. (Yay!) I still feel 100% committed and thankful that we have chosen homeschool for Liam this year. It's working beautifully and we are all thriving. As it's become a more natural part of each day, it's not even something that's always on my mind. It's just something we do: show up every morning, give our best, and (for me) try to listen to my kids' cues for when we should be done for the day.

I wanted to list a few highlights and challenges we've encountered so far. I know I'll love looking back on this at the end of this year (and in future years, if we continue homeschooling), so I thought I'd document it now.

+ Sonlight has been an enormous gift. I can open my Instructors' Guide on Monday morning with little to no prep over the weekend and dive in. We already own every book that's used, so there's no hunting around in libraries or online for them. I'm continuing to work at the hospital 20+ hours every weekend, so this is such a necessity. I love checking off boxes, and it really helps us all stay motivated knowing our lesson plans are perfectly organized and ready for us whenever we choose to do school.
+ One criticism I've heard about Sonlight from other moms is just how book-heavy it is. With the read-alongs and readers, it is a lot of reading. For us, though, this has only been positive. Liam is an advanced reader for his age, so the books are what keep him challenged and coming back for more. And we've enjoyed all of the choices, most of which I had never heard of before Sonlight.
+ I am loving the addition of Hands-On History, which is a box you can order separately to include several hands-on projects that go along with our history lessons. These kits contain everything you need to make a great project from start to finish.

- There is a lot of Bible reading. I don't mean this as a criticism - I think you know if you read this blog that I love the Word of God. But for a kindergartener, it's a lot to listen to. We're slowly but surely working our way through this book, as suggested, but have slowed it down quite a bit because I've realized that my kids' attention span doesn't last the length of two (lengthy) Bible stories. The book itself is pretty dry, but I'm thankful it tackles not just the popular Bible stories but many that are more obscure.
- The Scripture memory CD that comes with the curriculum is... umm... not my favorite musically. The songs are like listening to Barney, but even more annoying. BUT the songs include the Scripture reference and Liam has had no trouble memorizing a verse for every letter of the alphabet (we are currently on the letter Q) so I really can't complain. I know there are plenty of other Scripture memory CDs, but it's so hard to find them with the reference woven into the song, which is really important to me.
- We are still navigating how to entertain and contain two very energetic younger siblings. Brooks has a knack for pulling all the books off the shelves or finding something tiny and putting it in his mouth the second we sit down to get started. It's easy to get frustrated, and I know it will be a while before he's able to truly participate. Some days are easier than others, for sure. I have to remember that we are all being taught and discipled - even me - and it doesn't have to be confined to the morning hours. There are days that it's just too frustrating to keep persevering with Lanie and Brooks in the room, so Liam and I pick it back up during their afternoon naps. This has been an adjustment for me as I crave that downtime, but it's not an everyday thing.

I'm realizing more and more that it is God who led us down this path of homeschooling, even though it wasn't originally my first choice. For this year, I can't imagine anything sweeter. I am so thankful that Liam has the time and the space to dig deeper into what he's passionate about (currently: animals). I love that he can practice his memory verses while scaling up the doorframe. We tromp through wetlands near our hours, identifying birds and trees and tiny fish from our field guide and count it as "science." Liam looks at the moon each night and identifies its lunar phase. Learning isn't confined to 45-minute blocks. We go on deep tangents (usually involving endangered animals) that we can use to learn math, develop our vocabulary, and deepen our love for our wildly imaginative Creator.

It's a dream come true for this 6-year-old boy with an insatiable curiosity, a hunger for learning, and a huge ball of pent-up energy. To be honest, it's a dream come true for me, too. A dream I never would have known or followed if the Lord hadn't led us to this place.
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