Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Music Appreciation {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Recently, we have had the opportunity to work with an incredible brand-new product from Memoria Press.  Something that I have really wanted to do, but haven't been at all consistent with.  Music Appreciation I is simply terrific.

This program is intended for grades 3-5, according to Memoria Press, but it has worked quite well with my 6th and 8th graders.

I grew up with a lot of music.  I played piano for years, played viola, sang in multiple choirs, and taught myself a bit about violin and cello.  This was always something I wanted to pass along, but somehow it just hasn't happened.

So working through this course was something I was excited about.


Music Appreciation I Set

What you get for Music Appreciation I is a book and two audio CDs.  On the website, there is a link to a YouTube playlist of the songs covered in this course.  That playlist is wonderful just to listen to independent of actually working on the course.

I'm listening to the list right now, as I write this review.  This always helps to clear my head and regulate my breathing.  I need to get more classical music in my life again.

Anyway, back to the course!

The course confused me at first, as there isn't a really straightforward description of how to use it.  So I started at the beginning, and we have come up with something that works for us.

Each lesson has seven sections, and they follow the same basic plan each time.  Some lessons focus more on one section than on another.  We go through an entire lesson in one day.  The sections are numbered, and each lesson has all of the below sections, but the order does vary.  Chapter 6 is the one we are on, so I'll use it to describe the lesson:
  1. Listen:  we watch the YouTube video of the piece that is focused on for this lesson, such as Für Elise.  The video is around 3:30.  Most of the pieces are ones that my kids have heard before, but a few are ones they aren't terribly familiar with.  
  2. A Little History: this section gives some information about the composer and/or the time period in which it was written.  We read this aloud and discuss as we go. 
  3. Musical Concept: this section talks about some aspect of music itself.  In this lesson, we learn about the 12 musical notes and their names.  There are seven tracks on the included CD that show things like scales and chords, with text to read in between the example tracks.
  4. About the Piece: this gets into some specific background on the piece of music itself, like just who was Elise?  We also learn that this is a bagatelle, and we learn what makes up a bagatelle.  This part has another three tracks on the CD that give a simplified version of the A, B, and C sections of this bagatelle.  We learn that a rondo is arranged as ABACA.  
  5. Facts to remember: we read through these brief notes that summarize the lesson.
  6. Listen again: we pull up the YouTube video again (and again, usually) and watch and listen, looking for the specific things we have been learning about.
We follow this up by listening to the piece from other sources throughout the week.

There are also tests that cover the material for four chapters at a time.  We have not utilized these as much as we probably ought to.  I do give them an oral quiz though.

Some chapters have a section for Music History, which often discusses the musical period we are now in.  Some chapters have more than one section for Musical Concept, for instance.  In general, each lesson starts with a Listen section, and ends with Facts to Remember and Listen Again.  There are other history and music theory sections in between.

We are loving this.  The material is presented pretty simply.  It is not overwhelming, nor is it difficult.  It also isn't too easy to be doing with older students.  There are some fantastic photos included as well.

The book goes roughly chronologically, starting with Handel, working through Vivaldi, Bach, before spending a pretty good amount of time on Mozart (both Wolfgang and his father) and Beethoven.  Then you move on to Tchikovsky, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Wagner, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Dukas, Ravel, Copeland and Gershwin.  There is also a Christmas lesson, and you end with The Star-Spangled Banner.

Obviously, we're only on lesson 6 of 26, but in looking the list over, I only spotted one piece that I wasn't already familiar with.  There is a pretty good mix of composers, and some truly excellent music included here.

I dearly hope they are going to be coming out with Music Appreciation Book Two soon!

Meanwhile, you can go check the Crew reviews to see some of the other products the Crew was able to review, like the brand-new Traditional Spelling program.

Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}



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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Homeschool Diploma {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Two years ago, as I was preparing to graduate my oldest son from our homeschool, we were blessed to have the opportunity to review diplomas from Homeschool Diploma.  After seeing the quality, and hearing about their other products, we purchased a cap and gown for Connor as well.

Now as I'm preparing to graduate my second son, we again had the chance to review products from this fantastic company.  This time, the Crew received the Standard Diploma, with an option to add a Cap, Gown and Tassel.  We wanted to customize things a bit more, so we opted for the Personalized Diploma instead.

I talked in my previous review about how easy the ordering process is, even if you don't think you know what you are doing.  Just follow along, and it keeps asking you questions.  Make sure you read everything so you do end up with what you want.   One thing I noticed this time is that they have changed something so that dating the diploma is more obvious.  You have the option of choosing an exact date, or a month and year.  And you can go all the way back to 2000, so you can get a diploma for those kids who already graduated too!

For Connor, we used one of the suggested Bible verses on his diploma.  For William, we ended up using a quote from Winston Churchill instead.  A custom quote costs a couple dollars extra, but this is what makes this diploma absolutely perfect for him.  The quote was also the big reason that we went for a Personalized Diploma.

Photo of William's diploma, with the personalized quote.
"Success is not final, Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."  Winston Churchill



Once you get the order placed, the wait isn't too long.  I had mine in about a week, and there is an option to rush delivery too.

One thing I really love is how well presented this all is.  The diploma is printed on pretty thick paper, and it is all put together in the diploma cover, which holds it very securely.  As you can see in the photo here, you even get instructions on how to sign the diploma.

Which reminds me that I don't think we ever signed Connor's.  Hmmm.

This is all so much better quality than my high school diploma was!


The cap and gown is wonderful too.  You measure based on their height, in the shoes they will wear for the graduation ceremony.  The smallest gown on the page is for students who are 4'9", and gowns go up to 6'8".  Fortunately, we didn't have to go quite that high.  This time, we got the gown for people who are 6'3" to 6'5".  

Maybe, just maybe, I should have gone with the smaller size, but this is Thomas trying it on, and he doesn't graduate for another two years.  And he is still growing.

The matte finish looks great, though they also have a shiny finish option.  We liked how sturdy this looked.



Then it is a question of figuring out just how to present this to your child.

For Connor, we ended up having a ceremony one Sunday afternoon.  Our church allowed us to do it there, and we ended up with multiple people speaking, and the elders prayed for all of the graduates (two other graduates were in attendance).  It ended up more formal than we are likely to do for William.

Right now, we're thinking that we'll do a lower key version of that for him, though we might need to do a Saturday event instead.  Do a slide show, get a couple of people to say a few words, present the diploma, and have the elders and others pray over him, and any other graduates present.

It should be fun.

Can I just say that I do think it is hugely important to do something to acknowledge these milestones.  And I think it is as much for Mom as it is for the graduate.  Doing something publicly, in front of so many friends and family, really mattered to me far more than I expected it to.  There was just something more "real" about having our little ceremony and telling people that he was done with high school.  I didn't know I needed that closure, but I do think it made a difference for me, and I also know that there were many people at church and elsewhere who loved having the opportunity to cheer Connor on.  I expect the same for William.

It doesn't have to be a big production, but it can be too.  I just have come to realize that these rites of passage are important to more than just the person passing from one stage to the next.  



Other Crew members reviewed their 8th Grade Diplomas or their adorable Kindergarten Cap, Gown, Tassel and Diploma.  Go, check that out!

Kindergarten Graduation and Junior High Diploma for your Homeschool  {Homeschool Diploma Reviews}



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