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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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

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

Exploring Pond Life

I’ll be honest – I know next to nothing about pond life, its creatures or plants – but that hasn’t prevented me from exploring our local pond. A whole unknown world exists that the children and I love investigating.  We like to go with each changing season so we can enjoy the transformation that occurs and observe the aquatic life as the year passes.

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Paris

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Navigating the Metro

“Paris? With three kids?”

Over the last year the children have started to learn French. We have also tried to learn something of France: some geography, history, art and culture.  We have enjoyed some wonderful picture books and fiction set in France.  I love good books! So this summer we spent three nights introducing them to this beautiful city.
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Living History

Today the great excitement was Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda!

Our older two children have been learning Latin this year with Ed and in the same way my French text books were always set in La Rochelle when I was little, their Latin ones are set in the imagined life of this historical Roman site, Vindolanda. We have also been studying the Romans this last term, so it was thrilling to see history come alive for all of us. The latrines and the sponge sticks were of particular interest, as well as discovering all the places you could stand and shoot the enemy from! We were not there for long as I always find short and sweet is best with little ones in tow!

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Learning to love poetry

‘The Blessing of my later years
Was with me when a boy:
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love, and thought, and joy.’

— William Wordsworth

Today we visited Wordsworth’s childhood home. We are on holiday in the beautiful Lake District and so a visit to Wordsworth House and Garden was a must. Over the last few days, we got ourselves excited by memorising the first couple of verses of the poem ‘Daffodils’.

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