Trivium Pursuit

Teaching Art and Music Appreciation

I’ve really enjoyed reading your website. I am newly married and my husband and I would like to homeschool our future children using a classical curriculum. You say that Arts should be included in curriculum, but I wonder how you practice this? I have no background in music or art and I haven’t been able to find material to help in this. Do you have any suggestions? Kate, NJ

I think what you are asking is how do I teach my children art and music appreciation — in other words, how do I teach them to enjoy art and music. Teaching art and music appreciation doesn’t have to involve listening to dry lectures or buying an expensive curriculum. It can be as simple as listening to good music and observing good art. And when children are very young I think it also involves allowing them to experiment with art and craft tools and supplies and experimenting with musical instruments. Whatever music you and your husband commonly listen to and whatever art forms you commonly allow in your home will most likely be what your own children learn to appreciate — or learn to like. If you want them to enjoy country western music, then you would want your children exposed to that type of music on a regular basis and you would want them to see that you appreciate country western music. If you want them to enjoy and appreciate classical music, then you would have that type of music played at regular times in your home. It’s like with most everything — children generally pattern their behavior and likes and dislikes after whoever and whatever they’re around the most.

Here are just a few suggestions. And please note, my efforts at art and music appreciation are not just for the benefit of the children. It was, and is, mainly for my own benefit — the children just came along for the ride.

Music

One of our first exposures to classical music, besides just listening to the local classical music radio station, was a recording of Peter and the Wolf (1936) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). It’s a simple piece of music with story-like narration which introduces children to the instruments and sounds of the orchestra. There have been many versions of Peter and the Wolf, with many different famous narrators.

Over the years we have purchased an array of musical instruments, not necessarily for the purpose of taking formal lesson, but often just for experimentation: autoharp, soprano, tenor, and alto recorders (both plastic and wooden), guitars (classical and steel string), flute, violin, various percussion instruments, piano, and keyboard. We didn’t start formal music lessons — in our case it was piano and classical guitar — till age eleven or older.

Art
Long ago at a garage sale I picked up a huge packet of large, cheap art prints, and I commonly would tape various prints, along with information on the artists, to the walls or door posts, changing them regularly. Twenty-five years of looking at famous art work makes for a lot of art appreciation. This week we are looking at works by Henri Fantin-Latour, Alexandre-Gabriel DeCamps, Paul Delaroche, and Edgar Degas.

3 Responses to “Teaching Art and Music Appreciation”

  1. Annabelle Kopf Says:

    Thank you for writing about this. Is there a reason to wait until a child is 11 to begin formal music lessons? How do you feel about programs like Suzuki that tend to start children at a very young age?

  2. LaurieBluedorn Says:

    I’m not familiar with Suzuki so can’t give an opinion. Perhaps others will comment.

  3. Seth Says:

    Good tips. Integrating art into your kids’ lives can be as simple as integrating it into your own. My mom started to teach me to play the piano when I was 7. She used the Suzuki and Fingerpower books, and I picked up on the music fairly quickly. It worked out well in my family. I think parents should just be cautious to cater to the child’s interest level, which is more developed in older kids. My mom also decided to pair instruments with siblings so we could support each other and perform together. And to be frugal, violin duet music is cheaper compared to buying individual pieces.

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