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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Dolls and Stories

Our 8 year old daughter was given a beautiful doll for Christmas. She is absolutely besotted with her, and takes great care dressing her, brushing her hair and including her in all that she is up to. It’s very special to watch. She has even written a story all about her.  Of course now she is scouring the bookshelves at home and at the library for stories about dolls.  So I thought I’d share those that she has enjoyed in case there are other readers out there that would appreciate them too.

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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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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

Easter Picture Books

With Lent underway and Easter approaching, I’ve been digging out our Easter stories to enjoy over the next few weeks.  Here are some we read last year and will do so again through February and March as we prepare to celebrate. My Russian roots are very dear to me at Easter time so you may notice an eastern European flavour in my book choices.

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Valentine’s Day Reading!

Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  I’m not here to encourage you to buy cards, flowers and chocolates, although I’m sure they’d be appreciated! Rather here’s a short post to recommend this book that we read last year and intend to do again on 14th February. Beautifully illustrated short picture book telling the life of Saint Valentine from the 3rd-century – the man behind our celebrations.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Read Aloud Picture Books for 2 year olds

There are obviously thousands of wonderful books out there for you to read to little ones of this age but if you wanted some inspiration to make a change from that one book your toddler always asks you to read to them, Continue reading

Christmas Picture Storybooks

This is my last list for Christmas.  Just couldn’t resist!

A few years ago I began collecting Christmas stories – short picture books – to share with the children through Advent.  I love the combination of a good story with beautiful illustrations. So I thought I’d share some that we have started delving into in the lead up to Christmas:

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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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