Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Product Review: A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers


At the beginning of this school year, I began a composers study with the boys. I had decided to read aloud a book on the topic. I never preview read alouds but just do the editing as I read to the boys. While reading the first chapter on Wagner, I did more editing than actual reading. It went a little something like this:

Wagner was a German composer best known for his operas. He... uh... he did WHAT?! And he was uh... um... well, um.... He... oh, eeek, ugh. Well, that's enough about him.

I decided to shelve the book and the composer study until I could find a better source.

Then entered Bright Ideas Press. Their Young Scholar's Guide to Composers provided the resource I was looking for. Here is what they have to say about the sensitive issue of studying a man's life without applauding his sin.

There is much material available about these composers that is not information we feel is appropriate for the age level of students for whom this book is intended. Composers, even classical composers, were sinners like the rest of us! It takes no real digging to come across sins of every nature.

They go on to explain the caution they exercised in creating this curriculum and selecting which composers would be included... or not. Not every composer included was known to be a Christian; however, they did choose to omit a few, like Wagner. His openly immoral lifestyle makes it difficult to study him with any depth without also having to tackle issues too complicated for the intended audience of this curriculum. I appreciate their commitment to protecting the minds of our young ones.

I also like the presentation of the content. The study begins with ancient music, moves through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and then delves into classical and modern music.

They include an overview of each time period followed by biographies of the composers of that period. I liked how they present the big picture first and work inward. I saw the fruit of this approach as we listened to pieces by each composer. As my boys listened to the works of Bach and Handel, they commented on the use of staccato in the Baroque period. They did not just gather a bunch of random facts about the men but gained a greater appreciation for their music and became more discerning listeners as a result.

The curriculum is a bit routine and does not offer much variety. The study repeats a cycle of reading the section, answering questions, time lining, creating a "composer card", mapping, and listening to music from the time period. The reading sections are long, and I had to break them into shorter segments. I did the same with the questions. My boys could not process all the information included during one sitting.

My boys did enjoy creating the composer cards, mapping, and time lining. The curriculum suggests a way to arrange these into a modified lapbook. Their "folderbooks" are easier to assemble than a traditional lapbook. The emphasis is on keeping the study simple; however, I would prefer more variety and think additional hands-on activities and games would make this good study great.

Suggested music selections are provided. Most of the pieces can be found on YouTube.

I give the Young Scholar's Guide to Composers two thumbs up for its commitment to protecting young minds, organized presentation, and easy, hands-on composer card activities. I intend to continue this study but will look for additional hands-on activities and music games to include.

You can purchase the Young Scholar's Guide to Composers at their website. The paperback book costs $34.95 and the CD-Rom costs $29.95.

I received the Young Scholar's Guide to Composers for free in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation and have provided my honest evaluation of the product based on my experience with it. Your experience with this product could differ from mine. Please visit the TOS Homeschool blog to read more reviews of this product written by my crewmates.


argsmommy said...

Hmmm... I will have to put that on the list to look at in the future. Looking at the index, I can't imagine fitting all that into a school year, but it does look interesting. I've enjoyed the other BIP materials we've used in the past.

Oh, and I had to laugh at your read-aloud experience. I've had a couple of those moments as well!

Louisiana Laura said...

I had that experience just the other day with Wagner... I am using story of the orchestra, and it has it's strengths. But I think I will look into this for next year. I have found music & art to be wonderful venues for talking about history, as well as motivating the soul. Thanks for the review. Very well spoken, as well as helpful. :)