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Review: 21 Lessons in 20th Century Music Appreciation

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Do you want to engage your older students with music that they already know something about? 21 Lessons in 20th Century Music Appreciation begins with the marches of Sousa and ends with movie scores of the last few decades, showing a breadth and flow of music history that will resonate with teens as well as children.

In each lesson, music educator Gena Mayo outlines either a composer’s life and influence, or a style of music. The backbone of this curriculum, however, is the music itself in the form of links to YouTube videos. Older students can use the course information and extra research to fill in the composer notebook pages, and Gena recommends coloring pages (not included) for younger children. There are also listening notebooking pages to help the students think about each music selection.

The curriculum begins with Sousa’s marches and ends with ‘Does She Know?’ from Enchanted, covering topics such as Elvis Presley, jazz, and Leonard Bernstein in between. As you can imagine, there are a lot of YouTube clips of events and movies that were considered ungodly in the past, and Gena does wisely suggest that parents preview them. That does not take away from the fact, though, that the subject matter does not promote godly values, ideas, or lifestyles.

On the other hand, for anyone who listens to modern music and watches movies or TV, there is nothing new here. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is not the point right now; the point is that learning about the history of a culture one is involved in—if one is involved in it—can be valuable in many ways.

Unfortunately, there is no discussion of the worldviews that led to this music because the course was written to accompany history studies where these things would have been discussed in some detail. For those of us not studying modern history right now, this is a potential problem, and I would have appreciated some specific guidance on this point from Gena.

For years we have been doing Ambleside Online’s composer study, and that has worked because it is largely based on classical music, something I know a bit about. For modern music, however, I do not even know the most basic facts, and that is why we are using Gena Mayo’s 21 Lessons in 20th Century American Music. I will be thinking intensely about the worldviews involved, though, to be able to present more than just the music to my children.

On a very personal note, I love older classical music, Psalms, and hymns, and can discuss them with my kids. Because of my kids and their friends, I’ve been learning more about modern popular pieces, and we occasionally listen to them together. Now, with this curriculum, I am learning more about tunes and composers that my husband and father-in-law both love, and movie scores that my children enjoy. I can’t say it’s easy, because I have always purposefully avoided all this since so much of it seems wrong. On the other hand, if my family is involved in it, then I need to at least be aware of it so that I can discuss it with them, and I’m grateful to be learning about it from Gena. And I’m glad that she is planning to write Lessons in 20th Century Popular Music Appreciation, because the music my kids listen to is not covered in this course even though its background is.

So, how have we been using 21 Lessons in 20th Century American Music? What we do is simply sit at the computer together, read Gena’s outline, and then click on the YouTube links, leading to effortless learning. We will be doing some of the notebooking pages as well. Although high school students can use the notebooking pages and some supplementary work to expand this K-12 curriculum to a ½ credit high school course, we will just use it as a section of a music history and appreciation course.

Would 21 Lessons in 20th Century American Music work for your family? It depends. If you carefully avoid modern culture you will not be interested in this, and the music itself as well as the video clips may be offensive to you. If you or your children are interested in today’s music and movie culture, this will probably be a good curriculum for many reasons. Ideally you would also be learning about modern worldviews to be better able to understand this music and its sources.

You can download a sample of this curriculum here or buy it here.  If you buy it before September, you can get 50% off using the coupon code August50.

For more encouragement about homeschooling and child-raising, visit Raising Homemakers, Tell it to Me Tuesdays, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a free review ecopy of this curriculum and have shared my honest opinions. As always on Tea Time with Annie Kate, there are no affiliate links.

When Your Teen Can No Longer Focus


Fort Henry museum--out of focus

Sometimes it happens. Your brilliant, super-capable teen is no longer learning, and you sense it is not merely an attitude problem. You begin to suspect something is seriously wrong…and you are probably right.

In our many years of homeschooling we have come across this problem a few times, and this I have learned:

When your formerly capable teen can no longer focus, you need professional advice.

I did not always know that, and my teens suffered as a result. Why? Because teen ‘ouwies’, unlike toddler ones, are often not visible on the surface. We know what to do when we see a scrape or a bump, but most of us do not know how to deal with a significant change in ability. We neither know what it means nor how to fix it. So just in case you, like most homeschoolers, are a do-it-yourself type (and recently I even wrote about doing psychoeducational testing yourself for children who have always had trouble learning, which is different from a change in ability), I’m going to tell you again:

Anything that makes it impossible for a formerly capable teen to learn requires professional medical help.

Do you need help understanding the seriousness of the situation?

Then listen to the anguish behind the words, “I just can’t do that [school work] anymore and I hate to be reminded of it!”

One concussion expert told me of injured high school football players crying like babies in her office because their minds no longer worked. “I just can’t do it!” they would sob about their school work.

Yes, that is the way it can be for our beloved teens.

So what is a parent’s role?

  1. First, we must notice the problem. This is surprisingly difficult considering everything else that happens during the teen years, but is probably easier for those homeschoolers who use frequent formal evaluations.
  2. Then we need to find the appropriate professional help. A good family doctor is an ideal starting place and will provide the necessary referrals to specialists or other professionals.
  3. Finally we need to support our teen and help him/her deal with the issue, the diagnosis, any consequences, and the healing process.

What kinds of issues could be involved? There are many, of course, and here is a partial list:

  • illness,
  • allergy,
  • traumatic event,
  • concussion,
  • depression,
  • bullying,
  • abuse,
  • extreme stress,
  • injury,
  • anxiety,
  • substance abuse,
  • relationship difficulties.

Yes, it really could be one or more of these that is causing your teen’s inability to learn. Yes, even your teen…because life happens, and this is a broken world, and we cannot protect everyone from everything, and people fall into sin.

Whatever the cause of our teen’s distress may be, we must deal with it; there is no way of escaping this responsibility.

For a parent there are six important things to remember:

  1. No matter what is happening with our beloved teen, he/she needs our love, support, and guidance.
  2. Even if our teen pushes us away, he/she still needs our loving support. We may, however, need to learn how to give it in a more effective way.
  3. Seeing our teen suffer, in whatever way, hurts us parents, but in most cases it hurts him/her even more.
  4. We all—parents, teens, and children—are broken sinners who need Jesus’ saving love and the Holy Spirit’s guidance every minute of the day.
  5. Academics are less important than dealing with the problem, even if our teen is in high school and preparing for university.
  6. There are few better ways to build relationships and to come closer to God than to support a loved one in distress.

May God be with us as parents as we try to raise our teens for him. May he be with our teens as they mature and experience the difficulties and complexities of life. May he keep each one of us close to him.

Important Note:  These topics are not discussed very much and for a very good reason: it is difficult to do so without sharing information that needs to remain confidential.  Yet, for the good of our teens, there is a crying need for such discussion, especially in homeschooling circles.  So please share this post with the prayer that those who need to read it will be able to find it.

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Tell it to Me Tuesdays, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Review: Minds More Awake by Anne White

Minds More Awake

Anne White, veteran Charlotte Mason educator and one of the developers of the comprehensive (and free) Ambleside Online curriculum had a few questions. She wondered,

“…what is it that children need to be taught in order to grow into critical thinkers, problem solvers, decision makers? How do they develop the attentiveness to fix their minds on a problem, and the creativity to solve it?”

These are, of course, basic questions for every teacher. Over a century ago Charlotte Mason, an influential British educator whose ideas were endorsed by the Queen Mother, pondered these issues. Many have written about her thoughts since then, and in Minds More Awake Anne has added a unique, godly, and practical voice to the discussion. This new book summarizes and comments on Charlotte Mason’s ideas through the lens of a quotation from St. Augustine’s Of the Teacher:

“Whether you know the names of these parts now does not matter. I want you to see them.” 

Anne wrote her book to discuss the questions, “How did Charlotte Mason’s approach to nature study, to teaching reading, even to mathematics, evolve from this idea of knowing a thing by seeing it? How would it lead to growing maturity and character? And as this concept of education brings us to a fuller relationship with the world and its people, how does that relate to our spiritual lives?”

In answering these questions, she points out how following Charlotte Mason’s educational principles ideally leads to connections with the world, others, ourselves, and, most importantly God; it also produces responsibility, self-discipline, careful thinking, strong interests, great ideas, strength of mind and body (versus anxiety), and understanding of meaning and order in our world (versus depression).

Anne explains concepts ranging from habits and nature study to the ‘way of the will’ and narration. She also throws in tidbits about Charlotte Mason’s gifted and talented ‘program’, how education gives us ‘minds more awake’, how younger children need different goals in education than older ones, the danger of booklists, short lessons, and how to teach.

There are many academic subjects and Charlotte Mason and her followers often discussed how they could and should be taught. For example, many new topics require both playful discovery and hard-working class time, and the wise parent will try to provide time and opportunities to let the former happen before beginning the latter.

One danger homeschoolers face is a lack of effort and diligence in academics and child training, and we must remember that children have to answer to parents and parents have to answer to God. Raising and educating children is a very important task requiring large amounts of time. It also requires from parents a characteristic goal of a Charlotte Mason education—grit, i.e. energy, self-reliance, self-control, and endurance. So, if we read reflectively, Anne’s distillation of this wisdom is a blessing and inspiration to us moms as well as to our homeschools.

Although I love Charlotte Mason’s ideas and apply them wherever possible, I have often had questions about her approach. As a lifelong educator, Charlotte Mason developed a beautifully comprehensive and complex philosophy, but sometimes I wonder, “What if her foundational assumptions are wrong?”

In Minds More Awake, Anne White addresses such concerns from the thoughtful, biblical viewpoint of someone who has studied and used Charlotte Mason education for over two decades …and she does it without using the clichés one comes across so often. I was reassured. Best of all, I was inspired to think hopefully about homeschooling in difficult situations.

Unlike many self-published books, Minds More Awake contains neither typos nor grammatical errors. That makes sense; one would expect ‘perfect execution’ from an expert on Charlotte Mason education. This is a beautifully written book, worth recommending to both homeschool and public libraries.

Do you need Minds More Awake for your homeschool? If you have absorbed the writings of Charlotte Mason and her contemporaries, you will not need it. However, if you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and do not have all that wisdom and knowledge at your fingertips, I highly recommend the book, both for the practical advice and the sheer inspiration Anne brings to education. Even if you do not follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, you will find enough gems in it to make a difference to your homeschool.

For more information about Minds More Awake, visit Anne White’s website. For a free K-12 guide to a comprehensive Charlotte Mason education, visit Ambleside Online.  And if you’re looking at this curriculum and feel overwhelmed, read this introduction.

Currently the Curriculum Choice is hosting a giveaway basket that contains Minds More Awake as well as other homeschooling resources.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

For more encouragement, visit Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, R&R Wednesdays, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from Anne White for the purpose of this review.  All my opinions are my own, and I am not compensated for sharing them.

Soldiers, Frogs, Comments Working, and Lost!

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Last week was one of those crazy weeks. I actually passed my husband on the road and, as we sped off in opposite directions, we stuck our arms out of our cars and waved at each other. Sigh.

So, what kept us busy?

The usual: gardening, housework, eating, cleaning, hanging out with people, thinking about schoolwork, listening to music, making music, appointments, soccer, doing math, working crazy hours, emptying the dehumidifier, planning for university, enjoying nature.

And the unusual: checking out green curtains at IKEA, going on dessert walks around our orchard and garden, eating French raspberry pie (with cream cheese filling), whizzing through books at a small school’s library, and having adventures.

Or perhaps having adventures is no longer so unusual for us. One afternoon our adventure magnet, Miss 12, was wandering peacefully in the corn field with the dogs, listening to music, when she realized she was lost. In her panic she lost her sister’s MP3 player, crawled through long aisles of corn to find it, and then raced down more corn rows to find her way out. The leaves made tiny cuts all over her face and arms, and when she finally saw freedom, she was horrified to also see huge numbers of coyote tracks all around. Needless to say, she ran the long distance home as fast as her tired legs could carry her. Ironically, just the day before my husband and Miss 15, while walking past corn fields, had decided that it would be impossible to really get lost near our place.

A more peaceful adventure, but about more warlike days, was our family trip to Fort Henry in Kingston. Now Kingston is a military town, and the McDonald’s we stopped at was right beside the base and soon overflowed with soldiers, filling some girlish eyes with sparkles. Although I was instantly reminded of Pride and Prejudice, it wasn’t the young men in the uniforms but the uniforms themselves and the dream of wearing one eventually…. The Fort itself was amazing (you can see some pictures here) and the drive through hills and dales of goldenrod was magical. To top it all off, my husband bought steak on the way home and supper was grilled steak, fresh salad with the first baby carrots, cauliflower, and leftover red rice.

Outside it was a week of storms, fat raindrops, and dramatic clouds. There were the meteor showers, and I saw a shooting star from my bed even without my glasses. It must have been huge! One evening a heron flew lazily over our house and then croak-quacked angrily near the river. We sat under our butternut trees overlooking the meadow, listening to frogs croaking to each other in their different frog voices. Sometimes they were a chorus, but other times they would get their timing mixed up.

Schoolwork: Although we’re still on holidays, we have started some casual schoolwork using Drawing Textbook by Bruce McIntyre and Gena Mayo’s new 21 Lessons for 20th Century Music Appreciation. In preparation for university, Miss 17 is reviewing her high calculus and other math using Singapore’s New Additional Math.

Blogging: My comment form (and much of the back end of my blog) is finally fixed! I thought it would never happen! The next blog project is to get the statistics counter to display again.

Personal reading: Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Minds More Awake, Drawing Textbook, Hold On To Your Kids, Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue, and 1 Kings.

Reading with the family: Journey through the Night, Proverbs, and John. And in terms of kid reading, I noticed Scout lying around….

How is your summer going?  Is it almost over or are you still looking forward to a few weeks?  My comment form is fixed (!!) so you can comment here again.

Comment Form Working Again!

Several months ago, my blog’s insides went slightly crazy and no one was able to comment anymore.  I have missed your comments so much, although I’m grateful that it was occasionally possible to discuss things on Google+.

But now my comments work! It will be wonderful to interact with you here again!

Thanks to the readers and authors who alerted me to this problem and who offered help. Truly, such kindness in the midst of life’s other difficulties was like a ray of sunshine. Thank you again!

Technical info: Not only did my comments stop working but a lot of the behind the scenes things that run other aspects of my blog did as well. For those of you who know about such things, it was a PHP problem, whatever that means, but thanks to the kind and competent folks at Web Hosting Hub, almost everything now works.

All that’s left now is to get the statistics counter to display again; the SiteMeter people were having their own troubles while I was having mine.

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