Getting Ready for the Ballet

The fine arts find their origin in God, the Creator of language, color and music. Fine arts reveal within us an intrinsic need for beauty that is a part of God’s image stamped on our being.

— Clay and Sally Clarkson, Educating the Wholehearted Child

The Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s ballet of  ‘Swan Lake’ is coming to our city next week.  The English National Ballet and English National Ballet School collaborate together each year to perform a classic ‘My First Ballet‘ for young children. It has become a highlight we look forward to each spring.  It is a shorter performance with a magical narrator.

The Story

To help us all enjoy the ballet we have been spending some time since Easter reading the story of Swan Lake.  My own childhood copy of The Book of Ballet Stories by Annabel Farjeon has been our guide.  These are beautifully written short stories, which we will no doubt be dipping in and out of in the future.  As we read ‘Swan Lake’, the children kept remarking on the echoes from Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Wild Swans’.  I just love it when they start seeing these connections:

“Which came first Mummy?” “I wonder who influenced who?”

With our youngest, I have read Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake.  The British author and illustrator James Mayhew is passionate about introducing the arts to small children, and brings the ballet alive for pre-schoolers in this book.

The Music

Last week, in the car, we enjoyed Stories in Music: The Story of Swan Lake with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  (It is available as a CD or a download.)  It does a fabulous job of introducing the story, the composer and the music, and explained wonderfully how the music does the storytelling.

The Composer

Of course we could not forget Tchaikovsky himself and so are spending some time this week reading a short biography.  Opal Wheeler’s composer biographies are perfect for primary aged children. She is my ‘go-to’ when we want to learn more about a composer. Her books are full of life and engaging.  Thankfully The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky has not disappointed us.

So, hopefully, when we go to ‘Swan Lake’ on Saturday, we will be well prepared and enjoy it even more!

Here are the resources I’ve mentioned:

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‘These are the days when birds come back’

Observing

We have been studying birds this term – learning names of garden birds, spotting them wherever we go, listening out for the ever increasing bird song as spring takes up residence, learning about their homes, nest making, migration and more.  We are total amateurs and our garden’s most common visitors are wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins and magpies, but all the same we have delighted in having time to actually observe them carefully.  As well as enjoying the birds around us, this morning we visited our local RSPB Nature Reserve, where a delightful retiree took time to point out oyster catchers, herons, a yellowhammer and some grass snakes!

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Easter Traditions (part 1)

With Easter fast approaching I’ve been thinking about traditions.

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Traditions and celebrations throughout the year are important to our family – patterns of life that give shape to the onward movement of time.  Traditions that we repeat and seasons we observe situate us within a different mode of time – one that is more like a circle than a line –  bringing us back to times and places we have been to before.

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Poetry with Children

‘They must grow up upon the best… There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told. Let Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ represent their standard in poetry; Defoe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature–that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life.’

— Charlotte Mason

The British educator, Charlotte Mason, held that poetry was a key element of the feast of learning that children should delight in.  Young children don’t need to dissect and analyse – that comes later – but they do need to be helped to appreciate some of the variety and majesty and tragedy and comedy that exists in (and between) the lines of great poems.  And so we spend time enjoying them.  We read lots of poems, focusing on one poet a term, and try to learn one or two along the way.  Anthologies of different poets’ work are wonderful but we have found that taking time to explore one poet at a time has meant we have got to know the poet more deeply.

Here’s a list of nursery rhymes, anthologies, poets and books that we have enjoyed: Continue reading

The Bayeux Tapestry

If you’ve been watching the news recently you will have noticed that The Bayeux Tapestry is coming to Britain in 2020.  There has been great excitement in our house since we heard, as we are right in the middle of studying the Norman Conquest of 1066. Continue reading

Classical Music

Each term we enjoy learning about a different composer – this term we are getting to know Camille Saint-Saens and his Carnival of the Animals.  Our youngest was given this beautiful book for Christmas so it was a natural fit.

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Museums and Galleries with little ones

Happy New Year!

Many of us are making resolutions and hoping to try new things as we plan for 2018. One thing I was reflecting on as I looked back on last term was that museum trips and art exhibitions were real highlights in our homeschooling life. Continue reading

Christmas Stories and Poems

So many wonderful authors have written of this special time of year – some of the Nativity itself, others around the legend of Father Christmas and others are heartwarming fireside stories. Why not have browse and snuggle up with one of these books and read to the family during Advent?

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Christmas Audiobooks

Over Christmas we will be travelling to see family. For us this involves time in the car when we will listen to some audiobooks. If it’s the same for you, why not join us in listening to one of these Christmas themed stories?

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Classics for Young Independent Readers

Lists.

You may have worked out by now that I love lists, so here is another one for you:

Some stories that have stood the test of time and that have been enjoyed in this house.

I would recommend them for independent young readers somewhere in the 6-9 year old bracket.  Obviously all children are unique so you’ll need to work out whether they are appropriate for your child – some might be for younger children, some might be for older.

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