January 7, 2005

Music and Art Appreciation

One of the things that led me to a classical and Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling was their appreciation for the finer things in life. I really want my children to appreciate fine music, art, poetry, drama, literature and even cuisine. I look at what is fed to our children and their intellect today and I cringe. One of our first attempts to move into teaching our children the finer things was to give them an appreciation for classical music and fine works of art from an early age.

A friend of mine recently asked me what I would recommend to get started on this adventure with kids and I sent her some information that I thought I would share here. She asked me for my art curriculum and my music appreciation curriculm. I must admit I do not have a music or art lesson plan per se. Rather I got many of my ideas from The Charlotte Mason Companion and Karen got many of her ideas from the works and teachings of Charlotte Mason herself.

I would recommend studying one composer and one artist for a 3 month
period and really getting deeper into their work. The ones I would
start with are as follows:


Mozart or Boccolini


Mary Cassat
Vincent Van Gogh
Raphael or Michaelangeo or Leonardo Da Vinci

I did not sit the kids down and say now we are going to learn about Monet or Vivaldi. Rather what I did was put The Four Seasons on to play in the background while we prepared and ate meals and while they had craft or quiet playtime. After it had been playing awhile I usually got a question about it and then we would have a natural conversation about the piece and the composer. Then as interest grew I would check out a book or two on the composer and we would go deeper. Typically I found it best to listen to one piece or one movement until they recognized it and then move on to the next piece. I chose to stay with the same composer for a three month period - working on just four throughout the year. I find that bylisten to classical music during meals,and atleast one free play or craft time per day we are listening for at least an hour per day. We don't talk about it all the time just have it on in
the background so they absorb it.

As for art I took a similar absorbption approach. I bought calendars at discount (now is a great time of year for that) and cheap coffee table books of one artist at a time. I wanted ones that had large pictures and honestly I have found the calendars to be the best size for the price. I picked one artist and then placed a single page from calendar on a reading book stand (5 dollar plastic one) in their school/play room on display and I left the big coffee table book out in our library. I might mention it and draw their attention to it. I usuallu pick an intriguing first picture to draw them in. I might suggest they just look at it for awhile and leave it at that. I leave the same picture up and after a few days I might ask them what they like about it or think about it and then we will talk about the title and artist. After they know that piece by title I switch to another piece. They can always flip through the big book of art in the library as well but the calendar stays on one at a time. After interest increases I will again check out some children's books from the library on the artist and their life and read them. This proccess has worked very well in our home.

An amazing thing has happened, when I ask the question what would you like to listen to I get answers like "Vivladi, no Beethoven, wait Bach" and they do have preferences Ciaran almost always chooses Beethoven and Rhiannon Vivaldi though from time to time they will change it up. Now they can only recognize some of the most basic pieces and even those not always consistently - but that is fine. My goal is more exposure at this age and to build a love for fine music and art. They have listened to Robert Frost and Shaksperian sonnets (previewed of course) and they are not afraid of them - they actually think they are nice or beautiful.

I am not making this up, three and five year old children can and will appreciate the finer things in life if you expose them to them. The honest answer is it does not take much time or effort to do this either. Just making a conscience choice of what you spend your time and energy on.



  1. ITA! The boys cracked me up the other day debating which composer they'd heard in one of their movies. It was so cute to hear their discussion and what they recognize about different styles.

    We have the same attitude toward appreciating the finer things, as well as understanding their roots and learning to glean the beauty in life. I just love reading your blog. :-)

    Keep blogging and have a wonderful 2005, filled with wonder and love!


  2. Again, very inspiring. I would add Sergei Prokofiev to your list of composers. My children have always loved "acting out" Peter and the Wolfe.

    Mary Cassatt and Vincent van Gogh are two of our favorite artists. Matisse is also fascinating.

    Wonderful stuff. Thanks for the input. This is natural learning at its best.

  3. Anonymous12:29 PM

    "Mozart or ...." ?? W-H-A-T!?!


    I have just read your blog entry on Music and Art appreciation and though I applaud your words and value what you are doing, please, for the sake of true and right music and art appreciation, amend your composers list.

    You know about Vivaldi because of 1 concerto and the important of the Italian school before the Germans took it over.

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart surpasses Bach in every way and completed Bach's conservative revolution in music. Mozart studied with and under two (2) of Bach's children and surpassed them while in his early 20's. Beethoven was so inspired by Mozart that he stated that everything Mozart did was the pinnacle of expression in its genre and did nothing to "improve" or "revolutionize" it. In fact, Beethoven took one of the finale's of Mozart's early symphony's as the point of departure for the finale of his 8th, his second to last, symphony.

    Bach wrote no symphonies; Beethoven 9; Mozart 41. Of these 41, the last 3 are as good if not better than any one symphony Beethoven, Handel, or Brahms wrote. (Listen yourself to Symphony Nos. 39, 40, & 41 and tell me your are not blown away! Mozart or . . . ????)

    The numbers are boggling and the sheer masterpieces make it beyond argument that Mozart is the greatest natural genius of music, if not all of art. (For instance, Mozart wrote 26 string quartets, 17 piano sonatas, 42 violin sonatas, 27 piano concertos, 40 divertimenti and serenades, 19 masses, 42 arias, and 3 of the most magnificent operas of all time: The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro.)