Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers TOS Product Review

About six weeks ago, we received in the mail A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press. This oversize 298-page book is beautifully presented, professionally published, and covers a full year's curriculum in 32 weekly lessons. The Introduction includes a letter to teachers as well as to students which I found to be very helpful and informative.

A number of years ago, we studied the history of classical music. We loved it back then, but I wasn't sure if it would be met with great enthusiasm again. I asked my daughter, Rachel, who is 12, to go through the book with me. It became clear very quickly that this was a curriculum to get excited about. After all, Rachel loves music and plays classical pieces on the piano daily!

Here's an excerpt from the Bright Ideas Press website which best describes this book:

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

A User-Friendly, One-Year Curriculum for Grades 4-8

Christian, Creative, Chronological

Why take the time to “Crack the Code” of Classical Music?

• Music is from the Lord. He created it, and He created us with the ability to both make and appreciate music.
• Classical music is uniquely part of our Western civilization.
• Research suggests that both listening to and playing classical music aids brain development.
• Even rudimentary exposure increases one’s level of enjoyment and understanding.

This course provides a close-up look at famous composers, their music, and their times, with special attention to character traits and Christian testimony (or lack thereof). Even the musically challenged will enjoy this course! It’s perfect for grades 4-8 but is easily adaptable for younger and older students. Minimal teacher prep will return maximum enjoyment!

• 32 Weekly Lessons
• 26 Bios of Famous Composers
• 6 Eras of Music Explained
• Easy-to-Use Comparative Timeline
• Easy-to-Use Maps
• Composer Info-Cards & Game Directions
• Note-taking Pages
• Quizzes
• Answer Keys
• Listening Suggestions
• Intricate Coloring Pages
• Resource Books

Let me see if I can unpack some of these wonderful things just a little bit.

First of all, I quickly realized that having the paperback book presented a slight challenge. While I love having the physical book in my hand, I think I might have preferred the CD-ROM book instead. Of course, the CD-ROM book has its own set of challenges (i.e., you either have to read the lessons from a computer screen or you need to print everything out). Anyway, because a number of the pages need to be used by the student (note-taking pages, quizzes, coloring pages, time-lines and composer cards), there's just no way around either need to photocopy pages out of the book or print pages from the CD-ROM.

If you'd like to see a few sample pages of this book, click here.

Here's my little suggestion to the publisher: Making PDF files of the consumable pages available at your website (either for a nominal fee or via a password which is given with the physical book), would be a huge help.

Anyway, I did the unthinkable in order to overcome my little consumable pages challenge. I used a ban saw to cut the binding off the book. Yes, it's absolutely true! Then we three-hole punched the entire book and placed it in a sturdy binder. All of the consumable pages are now loose and easy to photocopy. How's that for ingenuity?!

Rachel loves doing everything suggested in the curriculum... everything! Each lesson is laid out over a three-days a week schedule. We read the lesson aloud together (this takes us about 10 to 15 minutes) and then Rachel fills-in the note-taking pages (or the student review questions). We listen to the suggested music selections (links are provided in the book so a student can listen to the music via YouTube if needed). We happen to have a huge library of classical music on our iPod and so had most of the selections available without having to use the computer. Regardless, it's great listening to a piece of music after reading about its composer.

Composer cards are created (using an index card and a couple of the consumable pages I mentioned above) by coloring the composer's portrait, matching the composer with his country of birth (a little mapping exercise is always a great thing), and providing important information about the composer (when he lived, where he was born, 3 facts about him, two of his compositions, and whether or not there was evidence the composer was a Christian).

In addition, a detailed timeline is filled-in and colored as recommended by the curriculum. All of these items are then placed in a notebook for easy access and reference (there are instructions on how to create a notebook, but some pictures would be helpful). In addition, a great assortment of coloring pages are also available. These pages are fun to color while listening to the selected piece of music or while listening to the lesson while it's being read.

Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that the faith of each composer (if evidence supports it) is often included by using direct quotes. Introducing the composer's faith to the reader is not forced. Here's an example:

...when Handel was writing the "Hallelujah Chorus," his servant brought him food, as he usually did, and found Handel with tears in his eyes. Handel said, "I did think I did see all of heaven before me and the great God Himself!"

"...I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better."

What more can I say? Well, we love the idea of studying composers and found A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers a great way and a fun way to learn.

If your family hasn't yet studied the classics, I highly recommend this book!

Here's the scoop:

Recommended for grades 4-8
$29.95 CD-ROM book
$34.95 paperback book (298 pages)

Most products are intended and licensed for single-family use only. For co-op pricing, click here.

For more information, go to Bright Ideas Press.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

No comments:

Post a Comment