Thursday, September 20, 2012

Speaking the Language of Music

When we first started homeschooling, I attempted to teach all subjects the state required to the boys year-round.  Every week I would spend one day on civics, music, health, and PA history.  This turned out not to work very well.  I never felt like we had the continuity I wanted.  I also felt like these subjects didn't really require an entire year to cover.  Last year, I started splitting them out into quarterly units.  We found that focusing on the same subject for five or six weeks worked much better.

The first of our units this year is music.  For once, I managed to throw together something a little more organized than my usual method of staring at my planner Saturday night thinking, "What am I going to do for music this time?"  Instead, each week we are learning about a past American musician using an old book I picked up free from the library discard pile.  Famous American Musicians by L. Edmond Leipold, Ph.D. contains biographies of ten of our nation's most popular musicians.  This book, published in 1972, has also brought up conversations outside of the realm of music.  Let's just say, political correctness was definitely not a priority in the writing of this book!  Those problems aside, I like the collection of musicians that the author put together, so we'll stick with it.  Each week we read the biography and then find samples of the artist's music online.  I am also using these flash cards to cover musical concepts and vocabulary.  We are also supplementing our studies with the videos in the BrainPOP arts and music category. 

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon the TED-Ed page and fell in love.  I spent some time poking around the site and discovered a lesson titled Music as a Language by Victor Wooten.  This was a great find, since it fit right in with our music unit AND we are huge Flecktones fans.  JT has even met and spoken with the members of the band when we saw them in concert last year.

In the video, Victor Wooten compares the way we learn to speak to how we learn music.  We don't learn all the rules of language before we are allowed to speak.  We start talking and making mistakes.  As babies, we spend our time practicing language by talking to 'experts', our parents.  He argues that we should learn music the same way.  Playing with those who know the language of music, making mistakes, and not being forced to learn the rules before we are ready.

After watching the video, we talked about it for a bit, and went on with our day.  But after the boys' evening snack time, something magical happened.  JT sat down at the piano and started playing some songs he hasn't attempted in a long time.  Then my husband picked up my violin and started playing along.  Then EM went to his room and pulled out his ukulele.  They had a great jam session.  Mistakes were abundant, but it didn't matter...

...the conversation was great.

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