The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades - Book 1 Review by Charlotte Gochnauer

Elizabeth Tanner and Judy Wilcox
Zeezok Publishing
PO Box 1960
Elyria, OH 44036

Teaching music to children is so important. I come from a very musical family. While my daughters take piano lessons and we sing at church, there aren’t many opportunity for them to learn music appreciation. Zeezok Publishing has made it much easier with their course, Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades: Book 1Collection.

This year-long course is written from a Christian perspective with homeschoolers in mind. The curriculum is divided into seven sections, with 4 weeks devoted to each section. In each section you will learn about a different composer. These include Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert. The core of this course is the biography books. Written at an elementary grade level, these pleasant books in story book form paint a picture of each composer’s childhood, life, and musical accomplishments. These books are not fictitious stories and include all of the composer’s major milestones and accomplishments. 

The Student Activity Book is included; this is a consumable workbook and guide for the course. At the beginning of the book is a suggested schedule. This schedule gives you week by week assignments in each of the biography books, activity book, and other activities. There are a variety of activities, which include reading comprehension questions for each book chapter, character qualities and tidbits of interest, experiments, cooking activities, copy work pages, games, and historical timelines. At the end of each section is a quiz. The questions are varied and include matching questions, multiple choice, and fill in the blank.

You will also receive the accompanying CD set. These five CDs have musical selections from each of the seven composers. There are over 200 tracks on the discs so there is plenty to listen to! Included on the CD’s is an audio demonstration of each of instruments in the orchestra, which coincides with a section of the guide.

For those members who love hands-on activities, there are seven lapbooks to complete; one for each composer.  Conveniently located in PDF format on an accompanying CD, these lapbooks include musical terms, historical notes, and other activities that coincide with the Activity Book. I especially appreciated that at the beginning of the PDF there were photos of completed lapbooks. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out the folding directions when doing lapbooks and it was much easier with this guide.

I decided to use this with my two younger children, who are at the 2nd grade level and the 5th grade level. I taught the course three mornings a week, and easily fit all of the suggested activities into our allotted time. We would read the biography together, and then I would orally ask the comprehension questions. We would then do the activities together. In the story of Bach, there is a section where Bach and his friend Erdmann travel to Luneburg to sing in the choir school at St. Michael’s. The journey was over 200 miles and as they walked, they would stop to eat black bread and sausage. One of the suggested activities is to make Black Bread, and a recipe is conveniently included. Some of the character qualities we learn about Bach were industriousness, humility, and integrity. Christian traits and Bible quotes are included, as we see glimpses into Bach’s personal life. I loved the little bits of information throughout the activity book. For example on the copy work page, it explains that Bach would often initial blank manuscript pages with the letters,”J.J.” This stands for Jesu Juva, or “Help me, Jesus, in Latin. The copy work selections on that page are all Latin phrases that Bach was known to have used, either while he was composing, or through his lyrics.

This curriculum is so much more than a music course; there is map work, history lessons, character trait studies, geography pages, and much more. The schedule is very flexible and allows for adjusting as needed. On the schedule, each of the activities that meets national music appreciation standards is marked, which makes it very easy to prioritize. There is something for everyone—visual , kinetic, and auditory; all types of learners can benefit from the curriculum. Teaching it to multiple grade levels is easy. For example, there are two copywork pages to choose from, a kindergarten to third grade level, and a fourth to sixth grade level. Throughout the book there are also other places where different grade levels have differing age-appropriate assignments.

We finished the first eight weeks of the course and enjoyed learning about Bach and Handel. My girls loved the narrative and story-book style of the books and looked forward to each time we read another chapter. I loved one of the activities in the section on Handel: The book instructed us to listen to different types of music. First we heard the 1812 Overture, and then a lullaby, using the music CDs. We talked about how each of them made us feel. Then we listened to Old Susanna and The Marriage of Figaro. The Activity book then had a series of words that we talked about; some of which were complex, subdued, thin, and overflowing. My girls came away from that activity with more of an ear for music, and new vocabulary words to describe what they were hearing.

All seven biographies, the activity book, and the CD set sell on the website for $169.99. I do wish that the teacher manual part of the activity book was separated from the consumable worksheets; the copyright laws prohibit any reproduction so if you were teaching this to multiple children you would need to purchase a separate, 350 page activity book for each child. These are available on the website for $49.99. Also available on the website was a companion coloring book for $5.99; I may buy one for my youngest. She would enjoy coloring images from the books as we read through them.

I am excited to continue to learn through this curriculum in the coming year! Looking ahead in the book I see musical terms defined, (i.e., legato, andante,) instrument identification, music and culture, and sections on musical style. Music is such a wonderful gift from God, and what a blessing it is, to teach our young charges about His glorious music.

Product Review by Charlotte Gochnauer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2014