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Beautiful Music: A Chronological Study of the History of Classical Music Review by Heidi Shaw

Mike and Debra Flewelling
Tree of Life School

By using the text, The Gift of Music by Jane S. Smith and Betty Carlson, and suggested samples of classical music, the Flewellings provide a framework of activities designed to help you and your students enjoy the amazing beauty of classical music. Written to follow the text through five eras in history from Medieval to Modern, there is enough content and flexibility in this little book to stretch the study of each era to last a year. Or you could condense the study down to flow through history with whatever spine you are using. I like the idea of using this guide, with the suggested musical pieces, and matching them to my history studies. Thus, when we meet a composer through the text, we can read the guide, learn more about the pieces he wrote, listen to some pieces, choose a few activities, and enter him into the time line we are creating. Then step back and see what else was happening in the world at that time that may or may not have influenced this particular composer.

The suggested text, The Gift of Music, will give you all the biographical data you need for each composer. The guidebook Mike and Debra have written has suggested activities to highlight each era and suggestions as to musical pieces that best exemplify each particular era. I love the "A night with" idea. The idea being that after you have studied through a level and learned about a particular composer, you then spend an evening with him, encouraging the children to role play all the major characters from his life, and eat the food he would have eaten, etc. Sounds like fun! The kids will have researched the food, clothing, and mannerisms of the time and this is a great way to present what they have learned.

The CDs that Mike and Deb suggest are from Naxos music and are called Discover Classical Music. They have excerpts from all the named composers in the Beautiful Music guide. Tree of Life can supply the CDs or you could use your own music. This guide makes possible what many of us home school moms find quite intimidating. The joyful introduction of classical music to our lives and our children's lives is a gift for which we will always be thankful. I don't feel at all overwhelmed with the idea as I read through this great little guide. It's a small book, inexpensive, and so highly useable. CM followers and classical educators will love the simplicity, and "traditional" or text based home educators will appreciate its conciseness. You will be able to fit this program into any curriculum. I highly recommend it. Check out Mike and Debra's site and see for yourself their many offerings to the home school arena, most especially in classical education. Please watch for the reviews for Mike's "Great Book" study for high school students. This little guide would complement it beautifully! Their website is is Canadian, which makes it a doubly good deal for you Americans! They have prices in both currencies. Add some fun culture to your studies this year; you will be glad you did. You may want to request a catalog as Tree of Life has many books available that are not on the website and you don't need to be registered with them to order individual books or curriculum.

-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine