Joplin and Janáček ~ Composer ABCs

This week we are talking about two completely different composers. Joplin is an American whose music falls into the ragtime and early jazz category. Janáček is a Czech composer whose style falls in the eras of Romantic/early 20th century. Joplin is highly known; Janáček is not. Joplin wrote mainly for piano; Janáček wrote a wide variety of music from sinfonetta to opera to chamber music. Night and day, almost.

Leoš Janáček

Let’s start with Janáček. At Home Dad actually recommended included this composer. I wasn’t so sure but when I listened to the Sinfonietta, I was hooked. I love good strong brass parts and Janáček delivers with them early on in this piece.

Leoš Janáček was born in Hukvaldy, in what was part of the Austrian Empire in 1854. His father was a teacher but he encouraged Janáček when he realized what an influence music had on his life. Janáček enjoyed singing in the church choir and pursued a music education as young man. He chose to follow composition, though it took until about 1916 for him to find success. This was when his opera was performed and became a success. During that time, he earned a living by teaching and directing music. After being a choirmaster for a while, he was able to enroll in the Prague Organ School. He quickly completed the course, 3 years in a single year. All of this led to the founding of the Organ School in 1881. Shortly after this, he became deeply interested in the Moravian language and the folk music of the area. This become quite a driving force in his music, as did his friendship with composer Dvorak. He is known for developing speech melodies, bits of music derived from the melodic intonations of the language.

I believe this is act 1 of the 3 act opera Jenufa.

In 1914, he was asked to rework bits of his opera Jenůfa for its premier in 1916. This work had been completed in 1903 but he agreed to modify parts of it yet still kept in his speech melodies. This opera was a spectacular success and at age 62, Janáček entered what is considered his most artistic period of composition. Some of the pieces from this period include the symphonic poem The Ballad of Blaník, finishing the opera Katya Kabanova, and starting on his next opera The Cunning Little Vixen. He also worked on a string quartet After Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata and began even another opera based on Karel Čapek’s The Makropulos Affair. He was a contemporary and fellow inductee to the Prussian Academy of Sciences with Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith.

As Janáček approached what was the end of his life, his music got “younger” and more progressive. He fit into the 20th century style well, refining it with his work. The last year of his life saw him create the opera From the House of the Dead based on a novel by Dostoyevsky and his string quartet no. 2 Intimate Letters. He died August 12, 1928, in Czechoslovakia.

Resources for Leoš Janáček

Scott Joplin

I could listen to recordings of Joplin for hours on end. I love the ragtime music he developed. He is truly one of the early innovators of American music and a fore-runner of the development of jazz, which is a truly American style of music.

Joplin is believed to have been born in northeast Texas in about 1867/1868. His exact date and place of birth are not recorded anywhere, though he is noted on the 1870 census for Texarkana. His family lived in Texarkana when he was child. Both his father and mother were musical and encouraged it in their children. Joplin became a solid banjo player at a young age. Shortly thereafter, he began to teach himself piano, when he was allowed to play the one in the home of his mother’s employer.

As a teen, Joplin left home to become a travelling musician. Many of the reports of his early life are anecdotal but there are reports of him playing with different groups all over the midwest. He is noted as being a part of a minstrel troupe in Texarkana in 1891. In 1893 he is believed to have been in Chicago, maybe for the World’s Fair, leading a band and playing cornet. He is believed to have returned to Sedalia, MO, after that, making it his home base.

He attended music classes at George R. Smith College in Sedalia. About this time, he was also teaching a few students and beginning his composing. He published his first pieces in 1896. In 1898, he sold his first rag, Original Rag. He was forced to give arrangement credit to another since he was not strong in notation. For his next piece that he sold, Maple Leaf Rag, he worked with a lawyer to make sure he got full credit. It was a slow start to publication in 1999 but within 10 year, it had sold over half a million copies.

As Joplin continued performing and composing, he travelled and wrote. He was married briefly two times. The first ended in divorce; the second ended when his wife died 10 weeks after their marriage. As Joplin continued writing, he published many, many rags. He also worked on operas. He had one that was produced – A Guest of Honor. It was to commemorate the visit of Booker T. Washington to the White House in 1901. It was going very well until the box office receipts were stolen and that led to the inability of bill payment and the shutting down of the production.

Joplin worked for many years on another opera – Treemonisha. This was set in a rural part of northeast Texas and featured the story of how Treemonisha, the only educated member of her community, led her town out of ignorance and superstition. It is considered an allegory of Joplin’s view of the African-American community of his time. He believed that education would bring racial equality for his people. It was not fully performed until 1972. In 1976, Joplin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously for this work.

Joplin became very sick, quite suddenly, and passed away in 1917 at the age of 48.

There are plenty of recordings of Joplin’s music. I’ll just put one more here that has 27 of his piano rags all together if you want to listen to more.

Resources for Scott Joplin

Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook 
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses 

Featured from the letter ‘I’

Ives ~ Composer ABCs

Today we are looking at the American composer Charles Ives. Bridging the Romantic and 20th century music period dates, Ives’ music falls solidly into the 20th century category in technique.

Ives was born in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1874. His father was a bandmaster (having been the youngest bandmaster of the Civil War). Ives was taught music first by his father, who allowed him to experiment and taught him theory and harmony and counterpoint. His father allowed him to follow his ideas in music, which led to him pursuing them freely and with ambition.

At age 14, Ives became the youngest paid organist in Connecticut. By the age of 20, he had published a number of compositions. He continued his education at Yale and was enthusiastic in his pursuit of music, sports, and academics. He graduated from Yale in 1898. He continued as a church organist for several more years.

In 1899, Ives began working as an actuary for an insurance company. This became something he pursued, also. In 1907, he joined with another to form his own insurance company. He headed that company from 1916 until he retired in 1930. He was highly successful. One of his creations in insurance is widely known and used still today – estate planning. Ives is credited with this strategy of planning. He was incredibly successful as a businessman.

Ives as a business man by day and a composer by night. He wrote many pieces. Most of these were not well known during his lifetime but in his later years, when he struggled to compose new pieces, he worked on revising older pieces and premiering some of them.

As a composer, Ives experimented with music. He took inspiration from everything around him, considering that any sound could be considered music. He quoted folk songs (think Stephen Foster), gospel music, and symphonies (Beethoven) in his works. He utilized sounds from nature as inspiration (flutes trilling like birds). He took inspiration from poets and writers (Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, Emerson). He added his own observations (two bands passing around the town square) and his knowledge of music. He created something quite new and different. And very American.

His techniques included bitonal (two tonal centers at once) and polytonal (3 or more tonal centers at once) music. He used tone clusters (thick groups of notes that are dissonant and harmonic at the same time). He utilized quarter tones (pitch changes smaller than a half step) and polyrhythms (two different time signatures at once). He experimented with aleatory elements (unregulated in rhythm, tempo, or some other aspect). Even with all of these new and unique and quite different ideas, Ives is considered an truly American composer. Some say his work truly represents America – free and yet still within some constraints.

Some of his music for you to listen to:
Variations on “America” – A piece I enjoyed playing, when it was arranged for concert band, though it was originally for organ. It has also been arranged for a number of different instrumentations. This is perhaps his earliest known composition.

The Unanswered Question – A chamber piece that was originally for a string quartet, a flute quartet, and a solo trumpet. It is quite a different piece but quite interesting to listen to.

The Circus Band March – Marches always have an exciting energy to them and Ives’ composition is no different. It is said to have been inspired by two different bands marching in a parade on different sides of a town square. Who knows, since it doesn’t appear that Ives commented on that, but it is a fun idea.

Resources for Charles Ives:

Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook  (Ironman Legos this week!) and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses (Instagram Home educators to follow this week).

Featured from Week 4 all things ‘H’

Praise in Singing

Last Sunday, May 30, was our 5th Sunday singing at evening worship. I love those singing days a lot. Singing is a joyful way to worship and praise. This is a recording of that worship service. Sing along and enjoy!

List of songs (I think I got them all listed here)

  • I Come to the Garden Alone
  • To God Be The Glory
  • Flee As A Bird
  • Hide Me, Rock of Ages
  • Step By Step
  • I Stand Amazed
  • Just As I Am/I Come Broken
  • Thomas’ Song
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • Will Your Anchor Hold?
  • Night With Ebon Pinion
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • When I Go Home
  • O Lord, Our Lord
  • It Is Well With My Soul (When Peace Like A River)
  • Restore My Soul
  • Ten Thousand Angels
  • I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger

We live stream our services on Facebook every time we meet. You can join us Sunday mornings at 9 am CST for Bible class, 10 am CST for worship, and 5 pm CST for worship. We also meet at 7pm CST for Wednesday devotional and Bible study time. If you are in town, please visit in person. We’d love to meet you.

Lori, At Home.

Vanilla Scones

Facebook can be dangerous because some of these people cook such yummy looking things. These vanilla scones got me. A Dash of Sanity shared their Starbucks copycat recipe. Of course, it contains flour so I had to adapt but that is all cooking is, right? Adapting the recipe to what you can eat or what you have on hand? So, adapt I did and they are tasty!

Here’s the original recipe over on the blog by A Dash of Sanity.

I made two adaptations.
1) I subbed in 1/3 c almond flour, 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour (chickpea flour), and 1 T coconut flour. Make sure you sift these together as it really helps the overall texture of anything baked with these types of alternative flours.
2) I skipped the vanilla bean and doubled the vanilla extract.

That’s it. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. Have at it and enjoy! They make a great late breakfast treat or a snack.

A couple more snapshots of the making –

Lori, At Home.

Pursued To Eternity book ~ a Crew review

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Stories can often convey ideas and influence thoughts that we as people struggle to articulate. Pursued to Eternity shows us just that. This is a fictionalized story, though it is so well written that it can pull you in and make you want to research more about the people in the story. This short story is an easy read and is within reading ability for most middle school students and up.

John Riley is the author of Pursued to Eternity. He wrote this story to mix the truth of salvation and apologetics (defending the truth of the Bible) with fictional story lines that intersect. The story is written with the purpose of defending the Bible and bringing truth to those who doubt the Bible. The idea of evolution is addressed in the story, as is the idea of an old earth. One of the main characters is an athiest but God is pursing him, thus the title of the book.

The story line spans several locations and several centuries, bringing the old to the new through geology and archaeology. But first, there is an introduction that addresses ideas of time, pursuit, eternity, and history. Bible references are throughout but are particularly common in this introductory section.

Connor Bridges and Alan Bridges were brothers. The book starts with a retrospective from Connor Bridges. He begins by telling us who his brother was and that he died a few month prior. And Connor is rejoicing because Alan turned from athiesm to Christ right before his death. And then Connor tells us the story.

It begins centuries ago with the story of a dinosaur hunt. We follow the hunt to see that the wounded creature took a man to his death with it. Next we are in Egypt about 1000 years later. We follow the story of Egyptians who sympathized with the Hebrew slaves and helped them secretly. The man and his family have to quickly leave the city when it is suspected that they had been found out as helping the Hebrews with food, medicine, and money. After they leave, though, God does something even more amazing – the ten plagues are upon the Egyptians. The daughter of the family that has escaped to the desert is keeping a record of all this in her diary which she hides in a clay pot in the sand before the family is discovered and punished with death for treason.

Jumping forward in time to 2020, we find the Bridges family going through their lives with the two brothers at odds over beliefs. There is a great discussion included of Conner talking to Alan about why he believes the Bible and science are on his side. After this discussion, Alan announces he is leaving for a new job in Kenya. The family is concerned.

Conner’s life continues on as he goes about teaching biology. His students are smart, interested, and questioning. They ask him tough questions that the school boards has forbidden him to respond to with anything other than the teaching of evolution. Outside of school, he met his students one day and he encouraged them to pursue their questions and told them he would help guide them but all work must be their own. The students start a website of questions that the science curriculum doesn’t answer for them. They research it. They want to know.

Well, because Conner is connected to the students, he ends up facing termination from his position for it. Despite so many in the community supporting him and his students, he loses his job. But all is not bad – he is able to join Alan in Kenya. And wait until you read about what they find!

This all adds together to create a compelling story that is easy to read but has a lot of depth to the Biblical truths it teaches. The Biblical references are clearly noted so that the reader can double check them for truth and it makes for a strong apologetics storyline.

I found that by the end of the story that the characters felt very real and I wanted to go searching to find out more about the “finds” in the story. Of course, it is fiction so the characters weren’t real, nor were the archaeological finds. This is well written and can provide a good foundation with simple reading for someone struggling with the teaching of evolution, big bang theories, and athiesm. Will it be the only thing needed? No. You have to be involved with the new students learning about God but this is a good little book that can head them in the right way through a fictional story that has a lot of Bible truth in it.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the website for Pursued to Eternity.

You can also visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about what other families thought of this short novel with a fictional setting and apologetics storyline. I encourage you to do so.

Lori, At Home.

Holst ~ Composer ABCs

Gustav Holst was born Sept. 21, 1874, and died May 25, 1934, at the age of 59. He was born into a family of musicians, going back three generations. His grandfather had been a Latvian composer of harp music who moved to England. Holst was a natural at music, learning the piano and violin at a young age. Unfortunately, he had a nerve issue in his right hand and was unable to continue playing piano. He switched to trombone and spent many years playing to supplement his composing income.

After his education at a boys school, he attended the Royal College of Music. He learned composition and met Ralph Vaughn Williams, another composer who became a lifelong friend. Largely influenced by the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, Holst’s compositions grew and changed. While in London a bit later, he became interested in ancient texts, the Hindu philosophy, and learned Sanskrit so he could translate his own pieces. This influenced much of his writing and many of his pieces.

Holst was also influenced by the writings of George Bernard Shaw and William Morris, both outspoken socialists. Other writers were also influential for Holst, including Walt Whitman, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Bridges. The world that Holst was living and working in was changing and growing quickly, moving from the Romantic era of art and music into the 20th century.

Holst married a soprano from one of the choirs his directed and they seem to have had a pleasant life. They had one daughter, Isobel, that is noted in most biographies.

Holst is most well known for an orchestral piece, The Planets. This is a seven movement pieces, each movement named for one of the planets known at the time. Most popular of these are “Jupiter – Bringer of Jollity” and “Mars – Bringer of War.” This piece came about after a period where Holst traveled to Spain with Arthur Bax, his brother Clifford Bax, and Balfour Gardiner. Clifford Bax introduced him to astrology and he became fascinated with it. This fascination with the stars and skies led to what became the orchestral suite The Planets. The piece was almost immediately popular and this seems to have been an area of irritation to Holst since he was not completely pleased with this piece. This piece did, however, secure his financial situation.

Holst spent the second half of his life teaching, particular at St. Paul’s Girls School. He began teaching there in 1904 and taught there until the end of his life. He wrote the St. Paul’s Suite for the opening of the music wing at the girls school. He also taught at Morley College. The students of Morley College helped transcribe the 500 page score a newly found piece by 17th century composer Henry Purcell. The students wrote out the score, orchestra parts, and vocal parts for The Fairy Queen and then they performed it. It was a stunning success.

From his Indian influences, many works emerged. One of the best known is the grand opera Sita. He also wrote songs with vedic settings. Another piece included in this influence set would be Sivitri, which is a chamber opera.

Not mentioned in many biographies about Holst is his wind band music. He was actually a fairly driving force in the early stages of wind bands of the early 20th centure. His military band music is still important in the band world today. He wrote First Suite in E-flat for Military Band in 1909 and Second Suite in F Major for Military Band in 1911. Neither of these pieces appear to have been premiered until the early 1920s.

Holst experimented with music of all sorts and writing styles of all sorts. He wrote psalms in plainsong, experimented with minimalism, echoed the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote opera like the 16th century composers, set traditional texts to music, used folk songs and elements of them in pieces, and studied, translated, and utilized ancient texts. If you are looking for a composer with a huge range and variety of pieces to experience, Holst is one to study.

Reference materials for Holst:

Note: I know lots of folks do not like Wikipedia. For composers, however, it is a great source list of pieces. You will often find pieces and links to them mentioned in Wikipedia that exist but other biographies do not deem worth mentioning. An example of this is the military suites by Holst. They are a staple of the band world today yet are seldom mentioned in standard biographies.

Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook  (Harry Potter this week!) and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses (Homeschool Bloggers this week).

Featured from Week 4 all things ‘G’

Grainger, Ginastera ~ Composer ABCs

This letter was hard to pick; there are quite a few other composers I could have included. But top of my list had to be Grainger. Percy Grainger’s Children’s March is one that happily frolicks in my head many a day and I love it. Grainger’s pieces were always a joy to perform and I still love listening to them. Alberto Ginastera had to go on the list because, as a French horn player, he wrote fabulous pieces that were transcribed for wind ensemble. They were challenging but tons of fun.

Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger was born in Australia in 1882 to an architect/engineer father and a mother who encouraged his visual and musical art abilities. He learned to play piano first and then added harmony studies and composition later. He was primarily known as a pianist for a long time, commanding top performance fees and playing to sold-out crowds.

When he was about 11, he had his debut concert and was well received. He and his mother (his father had left) moved to Europe when he was 13 so that Grainger could continue his studies. He enrolled in Hoch Conservatorium in Frankfurt, Germany, to study composition and piano. In 1901, he then moved to London. While in London, he became known worldwide as a pianist. He also began to collect English folk songs which made their way into his compositions. Some examples of these folk songs influencing his music are found in the excepts shared here: Country Gardens, Over The Hills and Far Away (The Children’s March), and Lincolnshire Posy. These are well known and universally played band arrangements.

Grainger is also well known for championing the music of the Nordic lands and peoples. Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg were two important friendships that Grainger maintained.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America. He became a naturalized citizen. He lived in America the rest of his life, though he was constantly touring and visiting both Australia and Europe. Grainger became very involved in educational works and set up a museum in his name in Melbourne, his birthplace. As he aged, he continued to perform and to write and revise his works. He gave his final performance less than a year before his death in 1960.

Note – There are some hints (and perhaps more blantant statements than I found) of unseemly behavior on the part of his father in some of the resources out there. Just a note prior to having students research.

This is the first movement of the suite and it should continue playing on through all movements. If it doesn’t, you can watch on YouTube and it will play all movements. It is worth listening to them all.

Additional Resources on Percy Grainger:


This is a movement from Estancia

Alberto Ginastera (pronounced with the Spanish J/H sound) was born in 1916 in Argentina. He is considered one of the America’s most important 20th century composers. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied music privately as a child and then enrolled in the National Conservatoire of Music there. Beginning composing in his youth, he won his first prize in 1934 with Piezas Infantiles for piano. Also in 1934 he wrote Impresiones de la Puna, for flute & string quartet. These pieces and the next ones that he wrote featured heavily the authentic sounds and folk music of his native country Argentina. Through about 1947, he wrote strongly nationalistic pieces.

In the late 1940s, he traveled to the USA on a Guggenheim fellowship and studied with Aaron Copland. From this point forward, Ginastera’s music began to change a bit and featured less obvious folk melodies, though they were still present. Following a year in the US, he returned to Argentina and continued composing. His works through this period continued to focus on the sights and sounds of the Gaucho traditions.

In the late 1950s, Ginastera’s style changed yet again to a much more 20th century style. He still called upon the Gaucho tradition and traditional melodies but they are not so easy to recognize in his music. He also began using the serial techniques and 12 tone techniques popular with composers such as Berg. Throughout his life, Ginastera was an influential composer who touched many of the composers to come after him in Argentina. He wrote in all genres, though not really more prolific in one than in another.

In researching this post, I found out that Ginastera wrote some amazing pieces for individual instruments. One of those was the harp. This blog post by Yolanda Kondonassis was quite interesting to read about playing one of Ginastera’s harp pieces. There are some track previews available on the post showing off the unique writing Ginastera did for the harp.

Further resources for Alberto Ginastera:

Lori, At Home.

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré

Fun Writing with Creative Word Studio ~ a Crew review

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Writing – it can either bring excitement or dread, depending on experience and enjoyment. Dread used to be where Miss J lived on this one. She wanted to write but she didn’t enjoy the processes that we had been working through. We have tried several programs but this one just may stick longer than a semester. Creative Word Studio is just that – a way to deal with words creatively. Their creative writing program is simple yet productive and Miss J has been enjoying using Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1.

Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 is aimed towards 5th and 6th graders. Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 2 is aimed at 7th and 8th graders. Miss J just completed 6th grade and, even if she won’t admit it, has been really enjoying Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1. It is the first thing she chooses to do every day in her school work AND I don’t have to tell her to start her school. Now part of that is likely maturity but I attribute a good deal of it to the fact that she has found something she looks forward to doing.

Creative Word Studio is a family business. Andrew and Jennifer Yoder founded the company to develop a creative writing curriculum that they saw a significant need for. With an education background, there is a fresh approach to the writing processes found with the company. You can also find tips and ideas for all sorts of writing on their blog, such as this post about poetry.

Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 is the book that Miss J has been using (and secretly enjoying – just catching that smile she tries to hide when we talk about this is tons of fun for me). The consumable book is softback with laminated paper covers and a spiral binding. Each student needs their own book. The Introduction is written directly to the student and then there is a page of instructions, which are really just a heads-up for what the lessons will look like. The book contains 75 lessons. At about 2 lessons per week, this could take you through an entire school year. We have actually been doing one lesson a day, so four lessons per week. I told you she liked it! 🙂

So, what types of writing will the student do? It generally follows this order of lessons: free writing, mini writing lesson, reading response, mini writing lesson, mini writing lesson. Free writing is just that – writing freely for a period of time about whatever comes to mind. The reading responses are to excerpts from literature such as The Secret Garden, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Man-Eaters Don’t Knock, or poetry such as “Snow” by Lucy A Martin. The mini writing lessons may have them working on wording, paragraphs, onomatopoeia, or using a thesaurus. Lots of variety!

The lessons are unique and different. Many people would likely call them prompts but the format is different and instructive instead of completely open ended, as most prompts are. For example, one of the lessons is about writing a conversation. But it has to be a conversation between 2 inanimate objects. There is an example conversation written by a student and then some ideas of the objects that students might want to choose from. They can always choose their own but this way, they won’t get stuck on what to choose.

Another example was the question “What matters to you?” As with all assignments, there was a student sample to get an idea of the assignment. The student was given the instruction of selecting a shady circle of lawn and taking at least 5 minutes to think before starting to write. Well, it was rainy that day so Miss J chose a comfy place to sit and write. She then wrote about what she felt mattered most to her.

Each assignment page has the lesson number and type. There is a place for the student’s name and the date. The assignment and sample writing are given. This is followed by the page being lined. The back of every page is also lined so there is plenty of space for the student to write.

I love that Jennifer Yoder acknowledges for the students that sometimes you get stuck in your writing and that is okay. In the instructions, she actually tells them that if they get stuck to just keep writing “what shall I write next, what shall I write next . . . ” That is such a practical and helpful suggestions because all too often we tell the kids they can come up with something and maybe, just maybe, they truly can’t at the moment. This gives them permission to struggle a bit but to not quit. And honestly, it is what I do sometimes, so it really resonated with me.

Another bit of Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 that I like is the freedom to not finish out to perfection a piece of writing. As a writer, you don’t always love everything you write. Finishing a piece you don’t like is hard. Not every piece in this book is suggested as a “Gold Piece.” A Gold Piece is one that is suggested for editing, revising, and rewriting a final draft for grading. Even this is something that can be modified. But, again, I like the freedom of noting that just completing the first write is sometimes enough. The rubric for grading a Gold Piece is inside the back cover of the spiral.

I found this to be a fresh and unique feeling approach to creative writing. It is appealing to my reluctant writer. And I have already seen growth and change with this. Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read the reviews from other families who have been using Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1 and Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 2 from Creative Word Studio.

Lori, At Home.

Cross Seven Music Memory Tool ~ a Crew review

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Music is a fabulous tool to use for students to memorize material. My daughters all caught things so much faster when we used music and singing is constantly heard around our home. Cross Seven has created a tool to help students with their memory work. The Cross Seven Ventures – Homeschool Musical Memory Tool is intended to help students utilizing a classical education program or as a supplement to other curriculum options.

The Homeschool Musical Memory Tool includes the following subjects:

  • Scripture
  • Hymns
  • Timeline
  • History
  • Science
  • Math
  • English Grammar
  • Latin
  • Geography

Cross Seven’s program follows the typical 4-year classical education cycle and is aligned to the Claritas Publishing curriculum. Each year of the cycle has 28 weeks of videos in each subject area. The videos are all short (from about 15 seconds to a minute or two) and many repeat the memory sentences within the single video.

After purchasing a subscription, the videos are available on the Cross Seven website or can be accessed on Roku TV, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. The set-up instructions on the Cross Seven website are simple to follow and allowed us to set up the channel on our TV quickly. You can navigate by cycle year and topic or by cycle year and week. There is also a timeline section.

cycle year 3 subject videos

cycle year 3 weekly videos

We were most interested in the hymns (as I said, we love to sing), scripture, and the science (particularly the chemistry sentences in the Cycle 3 year). I was hoping to use these to supplement what we were currently are doing. The hymns are a combination of melodies we know and melodies we don’t. It was kind of interesting to hear what others sing for some of the hymns. The scripture uses melodies and translations different from what we typically use and so these were not as useful as I had hoped. The chemistry videos were simple sentences set to music. Actually, this is what all the subject areas seem to be – a simple sentence set to a chant or melody.

This program will be most useful for those who are using this particular curriculum. It will align exactly and be set so the memory work is just a play and go feature. It will also work really well for other classical education curriculums. When using it as a supplement, you have to find the topic you want to view. The search feature on the TV channel was not helpful for this as I searched several topics (for example: chemistry and atoms) and got no results, though I know there is a particular song containing the word atom. You can see what is in each section and cycle on the website.

Our daughter was at the upper end of this range (suggested for K-6) and we are not using the classical curriculum. We did not find this as helpful as we had hoped. Part of it was not finding things to align with what we were doing. I believe it would be helpful for the songs to be done with children’s voices, as this is aimed at children’s memory work, rather than a highly trained, adult, female voice, which is much harder for children to sing along with. That would great increase appeal to those at the upper end of the age range.

Please do note that there are pledges included in the opening section of the website that not all Christians use. I would not want my girls accessing those. I did not see them on the TV streaming, though I could have missed that. The website navigation is a bit different than the TV access. You can still access by cycle and then by either subject or week, as you can see in the image below. You also have access to some fun links. This includes things like a reading list to go along with topics, a game to print and play, and a whole host of YouTube video links related to topics covered each week of the cycle.

On the website, there is a parent dashboard where you can add students. This is how you can track student’s progress through quizzes. We did not utilize this feature.

This program is one that can find a lot of application and use in the classical education arena. If you are using the Claritas Publishing curriculum or any classical education curriculum, you should visit the Cross Seven site to learn more and also visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about what other families have thought about this program and how it worked for their families.

Lori, At Home.

Fauré – Composer ABCs

Gabriel Fauré is a French composer who lived from 1845 – 1924. He bridged the Romantic period and the 20th century. He was taught and influenced by many (now) well-known composers and he taught and influenced many who became well-known composers and musicians.

Fauré began, as many composers do, with piano. When he was just 9 years old, he was heard playing by Louis Neidermeyer. Neidermeyer was so impressed that he was immediately enrolled as a student at Ecole Neidermeyer. One of his teachers there was Saint-Saëns, who is on our list to look at when we reach the letter S. Studying at the music school brought out even more of Fauré’s ability. When he left the school after about 11 years, he had earned recognition and prized in piano, organ, and composition.

Fauré spent much of his life as an organist, teacher, and composer, though the last 10 years of his life were his most prolific writing period. While studying at the music school, he studied music by Wagner and Lizst and Chopin, among others. These were considered quite modern composers and not preferred by many of the instructors at this time.

In 1896, Fauré was appointed as an instructor at the Paris Conservatoire. He took over as head of the conservatoire. He instituted many changes that were not well liked, including studying some of the music that other instructors of this time did not approve of. Many instructors resigned as a result. He remained at head of the Paris Conservatoire until 1920, influencing composers such as Debussy and Ravel. He resigned then because of increasing deafness and ill health. He died in 1924 of pneumonia.

Fauré is not well known for his larger works, though he did write a few. He is mostly known for his smaller, more intimate pieces. His first piece was Trois romances sans paroles (1863). He was still a student when he wrote it. Below is number 3 of the trio.

Some of the piano pieces that Fauré wrote include thirteen nocturnes, thirteen barcarolles, six impromptus, and four valses-caprices. His also wrote a number of shorter piano pieces and a set of piano duets known as the Dolly Suite.

Perhaps one of his more well known pieces is one of his many, many songs. Clair de lune, (“Moonlight”) Op. 46 No 2, is a song composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine.

Other vocal works include a couple of operas, which are seldom performed, and Requiem in D minor, Op. 48. Fauré’s Requiem is a bit different than most in that he omits the Dies irae, an unusual thing. In 1921, he is quoted about this piece saying “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” According to sources, the last two parts of this piece are heard in many movies.

Another type of composing that Fauré did was incidental music for plays and dramas. His most famous is for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelleas et Melisande (1898). Below is the suite for this Op. 80.

Resources for more reading:

Lori, At Home.

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar

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