Composer Study – Handel

It’s already November, so hard to believe. I just now finally feel like I’m in the swing of school and now the holidays are just around the corner. It seems the days, weeks and months go so much faster than I do. We had intended on finishing up this composer study a long time ago. All I can say is at least we are finished now.

Zippy chose Handel as the composer to study this time because my husband and the kids went to a Messiah performance at Benaroya Hall around Christmas time last year. Zippy enjoyed it so much, so she wanted to learn more about the composer, Handel. To learn about Handel’s life, we read the book Handel at the Court of Kings (Great Musicians Series) by Opal Wheeler. It was a very interesting book. The part that seemed to get everybody’s attention the most in the book was the page about Bach walking a long ways to meet Handel and then missing him by a matter of minutes. JD Boy felt so bad that he had tears in his eyes. He tried to figure out how to solve the problem, but I reminded him that they are both deceased at this point.

We also listened to the The Story Of Handel in Words and Music several times and enjoyed that very much. We have found that listening to this series in the car is a great way to learn about composers and their music.

We listened mostly to two albums of Handel music. One was of the Messiah and the other was Water Music. I also managed to find a few other Handel pieces on different CD’s around the house. So we enjoyed immersing ourselves in Handel’s music. I definitely have some favorite pieces and not so favorite, but they don’t necessarily match with my kids. They enjoy uncommon pieces as well as the famous ones. Guess that means that they are definitely appreciating music.

The kids also did some notebook pages to go with this study. Even my three-year-old did one of these.

Handel Pages

Notebook page sources are: (top) from the Handel/Schumann Companion CD (goes with the Opal Wheeler book that we read); (bottom left and right) Great Composers (Coloring Book); (bottom center) Hold That Thought Advanced History Notebook Pages.

Piano Recital & Violin

One of the things that has brought both my husband and I quite a bit of enjoyment is music. My husband plays the violin and I play the piano. We decided that having the skill to play an instrument was definitely something that we wanted to pass on to our children.

A couple of weeks ago our second child had his first music lesson. He’s learning the violin. This week he was just so proud of the affirmation that he got from his teacher. He had complained a bit about the practicing during the week, but when the teacher was happy with his performance, his face beamed for the rest of the day. Yesterday, he was struggling with his new song, but he told me that now he is determined to practice even when it’s hard. Move over Joshua Bell, your competition is on his way!

Our oldest has been making music for quite awhile. She started playing hymns and Christmas tunes by ear when she was four. When she was six, we got her a violin, and she started playing hymns and simple classical tunes by ear on her violin. The child exudes music. She walks through the living room and she cannot resist sitting at the piano and playing. I can’t wait to see what she will become. I know she has a great future in music. (Okay, if I sound too much like an overly proud mom, forgive me. Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

She also just had her first violin lesson and she is thrilled to finally be taking violin lessons. She is learning to turn music on a page into music from her violin and she’s so happy and anxious to be able to sight read hymns. Recently she, along with her cousins and some friends, had the joy of participating in accompanying the singing at a church conference that we attended. She played everything by ear, but her goal for next year is to play from the hymnal. She was quite inspired by the experience.

Zippy and friends playing violin

Zippy has been taking piano lessons for about a year and a half. She has had a few privileges to bless others with her piano. She has played special music once for church and has played a few times at a retirement center that we go to once a month. She recently had her first recital. That was both exciting and nerve racking for her. She worked really hard to make sure that she had her songs memorized. (The music on the piano was left there by other students.) I was proud of her effort.

So much of the effort that I put into educating my kids is to give them the foundation so that they will be able to get into the occupation of their choice, but the time and money that I am putting into them learning music is my gift of enjoyment to them for the rest of their lives. I hope they will find as much joy in music as I have, even more. And I hope that their music will not only bless them, but will bless many others and ultimately point to Jesus.

Photography at Our Home

I have had a few comments asking what kind of a camera I have, so I just decided to make a post about it. Photography has definitely become a hobby at our house. We have four photographers in our family.  Let me introduce you to them.

G'tums Running

First, let me introduce you to G’tums, the not-yet-a-photographer, but our favorite model. He’s three and does love to smile for cameras and would love to take pictures, but he’s just going to have to wait a bit on that.

Shadow Photography

We have JD Boy, the soon-to-be-photographer. He’s six. He doesn’t have a camera. He usually uses an old camera of mine that dropped and broke so it doesn’t focus anymore (an important feature.) He doesn’t mind. He takes pictures of things like fingerprints and his own shadow and things like that. He’s quite thrilled though when he can borrow my camera, but it makes me nervous since he’s the one who dropped my last camera. Mind you, he was only two then. He hasn’t contributed many pictures to my blog, although, he did take some nice flower pictures a few weeks ago at the park and I posted those in the post about visiting Discovery Park and he’s actually beginning to get a good eye for nice shots.

Zippy the Budding Photographer

My 9 year-old daughter, Zippy, is the budding photographer. She saved all her birthday and Christmas money and purchased her own point-and-shoot camera, a Canon Powershot A1000IS. She has contributed a few of the pictures on my blog. She’s working hard at learning composition and just loves taking pictures of everything, especially nature. She’s got a really good eye. She can fill up a half a gig card in one afternoon, so now she has a bigger card. She recently posted on her blog all of her favorite pictures from a trip that we took to New Mexico.

Me the Wanna-Be Photographer

Then there’s me. I’m the wanna-be photographer. My husband purchased me a point-and-shoot camera several years ago, that I can stick in my pocket. It’s a Canon PowerShot SD1000. I love my little camera. Since I was carrying a diaper bag for years, it was so easy to just drop my little camera in there and take it with me wherever. I’m trying to learn how to use a big boy’s camera (my husband’s) now though, although I usually set it on all the automatic settings, because I just don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m the photographer that takes pictures of what happens around our home.

The Photographer

Last but not least is my husband. He’s the real photographer. He’s the one that takes all the pictures on my blog that are just amazing. Last year for his birthday, he got his beloved camera, a Canon EOS 40D. This picture shows his very special lens that he uses for his bird photography. I don’t know its specs though. (Did I mention that I’m the wanna-be photographer?) He also has a few other lenses. He loves to take pictures of birds and flowers and of his family.

So now you know, we don’t have a camera, we have three and sometimes all three are going.

Special Music

It’s that time of year when so many parents have the opportunity to smile as their children play in recitals and such. Well, I got my opportunity to smile this week. My daughter played her first special music for church. The only problem was that I wasn’t present to hear her play. Sigh. I got sick and stayed home. But I’m still smiling, because I packed up the video camera and sent it with my husband, so now you can smile with me!

Please excuse the fact that when the boys saw that video camera come out that they immediately decided to climb all over their dad so they could SEE.

Art Appreciation – Mary Cassatt

Art appreciation has always held the sound of dread to me. You see I had one of the worst experiences anyone could imagine in relation to this subject. When I was a college student, I put off art appreciation until the last, because I just didn’t look forward to it. I was an engineering major and thought I was mostly interested in science. It was a required class however, so I enrolled to take art appreciation as my very last class during the summer after my senior year. I was already arranging for full time employment as an engineer come August, so I did need to finish that class and get my certificate.

I signed up for a one month class. I had a little time between Spring semester and the Summer session and I was working hard to earn some money. The day came for me to go to my class. It really wasn’t a big deal. I’d been in college for four years and was pretty use to starting new classes. I had written down in my calendar the room number, time of class and the teacher’s name, so I looked at it and marched off to my new class. When I got to the door however, I had a real shock. The room was locked. "That’s funny," I murmered. I walked around in the art building trying to see if the class had been moved. Finally, I went to the student center and got a catalog of classes and looked up the class to see what I had written down wrong. Well, I had a made a huge mistake. I had written down the wrong month. It was July and the class had finished at the end of June. Horror! I might not be able to graduate.

I went to the chairman of the electrical engineering department and with the brightest red face you can imagine, I explained my predicament. He, of course, first had a hardy laugh. But then he took pitty on me and went to the dean of the college and asked if he would consider allowing me to take another class in place of art appreciation. I ended up taking a very interesting government class. I even got a nearly full refund for the art class, but only after explaining my situation to several more people, who thought I must be a brick shy of a load. Now you know though why I’m afraid of art appreciation. It gives me nightmares.

I never thought until recently about learning about art with my kids, other than learning how to make it. I have been following a few blogs of families that use the Charlotte Mason method in their homeschooling and I became interested in their art appreciation. They call it artist study. So, in spite of my fear of art appreciation, I asked my kids if they would like to learn about artists. They, of course, were thrilled. They both love to draw and want to learn about others who were artists of all types. I tried to think through how to start and I realized that I only knew a handful of names: Van Gogh, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Picaso and Normal Rockwell (even though some would argue with me on the last one.) I thought we would start with Van Gogh, since I knew my dad (who should be an art teacher…and I wish would have taught me a little more. Ahem, Dad!) really likes Van Gogh and I knew that I could only think of one of his paintings that I could identify. I thought I could learn a lot about him. It wasn’t to be though. (I’ll get to eventually though.)

I told my daughter that I would let her choose which artist we would study and she had heard of an American female artist that she would rather learn about: Mary Cassatt. That is because my daughter has hopes that she’ll be an American female artist someday. I already think she is an American female artist, but maybe I’m prejudiced. Anyway, Mary Cassatt it was and I enjoyed it too. I learned about somebody totally new and enjoyed a lot of her art too.

Mary Cassatt notebook page

Zippy’s notebook page that she did on Mary Cassatt.

I made this page. (I’m so proud of me! It’s the first notebook page that I’ve ever made.) You can download it here. You can also download a black and white notebook page from this Cassatt Artist Study lens as well as some free coloring pages. We used this lens/website a lot during our study and it has all kinds of ideas on studying about Mary Cassatt, so check it out if you’re interested in studying/learning about her.

We got a hold of a few books with Mary Cassatt’s art and we just started looking at her paintings and drawings. We also read the preface out of a couple of them, because that told about her life. Even though she was an American, she spent most of her life in Paris soaking up life with the other Impressionist artists. Her favorite subjects were women and children.

Mary Cassatt Books

We also purchased the book: Mary Cassatt by Trewin Copplestone. (Thanks to a suggestion from Jimmie at the One Child Policy blog.) This is part of a set of books on different artists that is fairly inexpensive. (That’s always nice.) We also got the Cassatt Activity Pack by Dover publications.

 My kids did some of their own renditions of some Cassatt works.

Helene de Septeuil

JD Boy’s rendition of Hélène de Septeuil from the Dover coloring book. (Click on the link to see the original painting.)

Mary Cassatt renditions

Zippy’s renditions of Cassatt works. From left to right: Summertime (Grandpa did the ink on this and she did the painting), Young Woman Sewing in a Garden, Hélène de Septeuil. (Click on the links to see the originals.)

Beethoven–Composer Study

Who doesn’t love Beethoven? We all love Beethoven and his music. After our holidays were over, I told my children that I would like for us to start learning about one composer and they could choose. Of course, they couldn’t quite agree, so we decided that they could take turns choosing. JD Boy chose our first composer and he chose none other than Beethoven. So for several weeks we have listened to Beethoven lots and lots–while we do our chores, while we drive and while we make crafts. We do listen to other music too! We are still in love with the hymn CD’s that accompanied the books we read before and during the holidays–Hymns for a Kid’s Heart (See my post on those.) and we just have other albums we enjoy listening too. But we have immersed ourselves in Beethoven’s music and it’s oh, so inspiring.

I’m sure you can guess which piece is the kids’ favorite: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Probably along with most other kids their ages. The only thing is my kids’ now call it “Beethoven’s Wig” because we listened to a version of it with silly lyrics from a CD called “Beethoven’s Wig” It has put lyrics to several classical pieces, which perhaps wrecks the music, I don’t know. One of the pieces is called “Beep, Beep, Beep” and is to the tune of Moonlight Sonata. My brother-in-law says that he’ll never be able to play that song on the piano again without having “Beep, beep, beep” going in his mind. I have to feel sorry for him. I’ll have to admit that I really laughed when I heard it too.

We also enjoyed some good stories about Beethoven. We read the book: Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler. This book is a very good book. I highly recommend it. We liked it so much that I purchased the whole series, so we have some really great books to read about composers for awhile to come. We also purchased the accompanying CD about Beethoven which has several Beethoven piano pieces. We didn’t try the accompanying teacher’s guide though.

Our other favorite source was The Story of Beethoven In Words and Music CD. We’ve had these CD’s for awhile, because my husband listened to them when he was a homeschooler and loved them so bought them perhaps even before we had children for his own listening enjoyment. They really are excellent. They’re very inexpensive too. On Amazon this CD is only $3.00.

And the third story that especially my son enjoyed a lot was Beethoven Lives Upstairs. We got it on CD. So he listened to it over and over. It is the story of Beethoven in a boy’s words. I haven’t made my verdict on this one. It is really interesting and engaging, but I personally am very careful to not mix fiction into history studies so that my kids don’t mix up the facts for the fiction and I can’t quite tell if this is historically accurate or not. Everything I’ve checked on has checked out, but I’m not done checking.

Most importantly we enjoyed lots of music by Beethoven. My husband is a collector of classical music, especially violin. Perhaps that’s because he’s a violinist or perhaps it’s because he was homeschooled, whichever the reason, we had access to hours of Beethoven. And we really appreciated Beethoven’s music.

We decided to try our hand at notebooking rather than lapbooking on this project. Here are pictures of our pages that have been added to our notebooks. This is the first thing that we have “notebooked” so we’re new to this concept, but figure that since we successfully figured out how to lapbook, that we can figure this out too.

Zippy's Beethoven pages
Zippy’s Notebook Pages on Beethoven

JDBoy's Beethoven Pages
JD Boy’s Notebook Pages on Beethoven

Mexico Art

I’ve been being so delayed about getting all of my posts up and now I have things I want to share about what we’re doing now, but I’ll finish my Mexico posts firsts.

I’m not going to make too many comments on this post, just pictures. These are pieces of art that we saw in Mexico. It’s nice that they have artwork on display all over town. I guess that’s because of the tourists. We enjoy many styles of art and enjoyed looking at all that was on display.

Oil paintings for display on the sidewalk:

Mexican Painting

Mexican Painting

Sand Art along the beach:

Sand Art

Sand Art

Sculptures along what is called The Malecon, which is a cement walkway along the beach:

Sculpture of man working in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Sculpture in Puerto Vallarta Mexico of Couple Dancing

Landmark Sculpture of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico -- man riding seahorse

That man on the seahorse is the landmark piece of art in the area. You can get many postcards with it on.

As you can see, I definitely felt that I could say we got in some art appreciation on our trip.

Music Study–Hymns for a Kid's Heart

We recently finished two excellent books called Hymns for a Kid’s Heart vol. 1 & 2. These books each come with a CD with exceptional arrangements of the hymns. The music is beautiful and is appropriate for people with more conservative music taste, like myself. The singing is done by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada and a kids’ choir. We listen to them several times a week. I loaded the music on to my iPod and Zippy’s so we can listen to them in the car anytime. We also listen to them while we are working together in the kitchen. It’s a great time to sing and to memorize the songs.

We are currently working on memorizing "Like a River Glorious" from vol. 2. We’ve already memorized "Fairest Lord Jesus" and sung it for special music at two churches. The kids memorized "Onward Christian Soldiers" on their own (because of encouragement from friends.) Even my two year old memorized the first verse of "Fairest Lord Jesus" and is making good strides on "Like a River Glorious".

The books have a story about the hymn writer and then one about the meaning of the hymn and then the music for the corresponding hymn. You can sing along with the CD after you read the story about the corresponding author. The kids enjoy so much singing a song by somebody that they now "know". We found these were really great for our evening family worship time.

I also think that the illustrations are beautiful too. If I was asked to rate these books I think I’d give them 6 stars on a 5 star scale!

These may be few and far between, because I noticed that Amazon only has one volume available, other than used. And Christian Book doesn’t have them anymore. I did find them at If this is something that you are interested in, you’d better grab them while supplies last. If you love hymns, you will not be disappointed, I promise. You can also download the sheet music for free and the background tracks for free here.