The "Themes to Remember" and "Classical Karaoke for Kids" series of books and CDs is an exciting way to introduce music appreciation into the homeschool environment. Marjorie and Clyde Persons developed the program to help teachers and parents offer children "bites" of classical music with a way to remember who the composers are and what the pieces are.
"Themes to Remember, Volume 1" will introduce you to composers from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods. The 109-page hardback book includes the lyrics to each song, written to help you remember pieces by composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and even John Philip Sousa. I enjoyed the background information about each period, along with introductions to the various musical terms. One section even offers a seating plan of a symphony orchestra. My 3-year-old music lover really enjoyed looking at the adorable pictures of Piano and Forte, ("a quiet little cat" and " a rather noisy little dog", respectively) while listening to the 40-track CD included with the book. While this program was originally created for use by school teachers, it worked out perfectly in our home as well. There is a biography for each composer and the lyrics Persons has written to remember his composition are included as well. On the CD, you listen to a portion of the composition without the lyrics, hear the title, and then listen to the same piece with the lyrics. For example, lyrics to Haydn's "Symphony No. 94 - (Surprise) - Mvt. 2" start off saying that Haydn has a big surprise" and lulling you to sleep...then, when the "surprise" appears, the singers announce "Jump up on your feet! SURPRISE!" My younger daughter enjoyed Bizet's "Toreador" and Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" while my 7-year-old was thrilled to recognize two pieces from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". She had heard the music before on a Barbie video, and this was the perfect way to TEACH her about the composer as opposed to just telling her, "That's classical music, ya know!" "Themes to Remember, Volume 2" continues the fun of the first. In the second volume, listeners revisit some of the composers but learn about different compositions. You'll also get to know some new composers. Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" makes a large showing (again, a favorite thanks to Barbie!) but personally I enjoyed the lyrics for each portion of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". I've always enjoyed it but could never remember WHICH season was which. Musicians will appreciate the appendices in each volume with the musical notations of each piece. I really like the fact that each composer's biography is concise but fact-filled, allowing me to create mini lessons for my preschooler, who is NOT known for her patience. The appendices also offer a glossary of terms and bibliographies, which work well for those who like to learn via unit study methods.
While the first two volumes offer wonderful teaching tips and lists of "Good Listening" from each period addressed, "Classical Karaoke for Kids" takes the lessons a step further. In this volume, you'll find a nice long list of "Questions for the Musical Prodigy"! Younger children can narrate their answers to you, but older students could answer them on their own after reading the information provided and enjoying the CD tracks. This volume also includes a reproducible set of stick puppet patterns. My girls had a great time coloring Piano, Forte and their mouse friend, Allegro, and dancing around the room with them. "Classical Karaoke for Kids" still includes the appendices and CD, and only improves upon a really interesting system of teaching and learning. Teachers can also get other teaching aids, like transparencies (great for those co-op classes!) by visiting Classical Magic's website. This entire series went over VERY well with my entire family. The recording quality is excellent and I enjoyed the singers' voices. The kids really enjoyed the lyrics and the fun illustrations. I, being a visual learner, learned a lot just from reading the biographies and glossaries in each book, but the girls (both auditory learners) loved learning the same things through the songs. The CDs are great for just listening to at home, but I found we made more use of them in the car. We literally live 30 minutes from "everywhere", so we got a lot of learning in during what would have been wasted time running errands. The winning vote for this series was cast by my husband, though. Not a classical lover by nature, he stuck the "Classical Karaoke for Kids" CD in the CD player expecting toddler sing-along songs. He was shocked to hear classical music, and when he heard the lyrics of the songs, he deemed them "COOL!" Any one of these books with the included CDs would make a neat gift for a fellow homeschooler or for a family member or friend who tends toward fun educational items for their kids.