Music Appreciation Log Sheet

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...

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As Charlotte Mason advises, we study a Famous Musician for several weeks.

I usually read them a short biography and they write their biography narrations on our Famous Musicians Biography notebook pages.

We’ll paste the picture of our famous musician on our Famous Musician Wall Chart.

Then we  jot in his name on our timeline.

We listen to the composers’ most famous or important pieces several times during the following weeks.

Mostly we just listen while we do our art.  Sometimes we discuss the mood, tempo or instruments of the piece.

I aim to create an awareness and a love and appreciation for classical music.

My children love the Classical Kids CDs.  These narrative stories weave sample pieces of the musician’s music pieces throughout the story.

For Beethoven, I introduced our Music Appreciation Log Sheet.

I first saw this idea at Harmony Art Mom and thought it would be a really good addition to our music study.

Just a quick personal note ~

I take things really slowly and build up our written and formal study as my children gain confidence.   I did too much, too quickly with my eldest daughter in my early (and over-zealous) days of homeschooling and she “burnt out”.  I want my children to enjoy music and not dread our appreciation times. 🙂

Our first attempt was really interesting and successful.  They jotted some basic biographical details in the top information box after a quick biography review, then we looked up the music piece’s information off our cd cover, and we listened quietly.

I provided some writing prompts ~

Discuss what …

  • musical instruments you hear (not too technical)
  • images or colours or patterns you see
  • you feel when you listen to this piece
  • movie does this bring to mind (so many movies use classical pieces in their sound tracks!)
  • Young Children ~
    • is it loud or soft?
    • is it fast or slow?
    • what animal movement does this sound like?
  • For older listeners ~
    • Draw patterns of the piece on a large paper
    • If you were a movie director what scene would play during this piece?
    • What  story title and opening paragraph would suit this piece?
    • Describe this music in a nature scene

Image via Wikipedia

And there is a box for drawing images that come to mind as they listen to the piece.

My kids immediately got involved.  They jotted down thoughts and ideas and then sketched and coloured.  As they worked, the piece played several times over.

Beethoven’s ” Piano Sonata No.14 “Moonlight” ” has a place in our hearts and minds.

I think we will enjoy this new addition to our music appreciation times.

Have you tried this?

Click here for your free download ~ Music Appreciation Log Sheet


Motivation Within (Part 2)

Free Child Holding Happy Colorful Rainbow Taff...

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

Last week I wrote about Motivation Within (Part 1) where I looked at intrinsic motivation.

In September I wrote a post Turning those Frowns Upside Down – Motivation! I believe that it included some very practical suggestions, ideas and strategies.

But as I pray, research, and read about motivation, I realise that there are so many approaches and methods.

The methods one may use with very young children do not necessarily work with middle school children, and parents need new approaches when motivating young adolescents.

To be honest, I am not writing from a position of strength or success.

I am no expert.

My children are not perfect examples.

We are growing, learning, repenting, forgiving, praying and trying anew.

Today I wish to share some ideas I gathered from several sources:

Caolan Madden of shared ~

10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Learn

  1. Fill your child’s world with reading.
  2. Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices. Ask for his comments on decisions, and show that you value it.
  3. Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and urge her to explore subjects that fascinate her.
  4. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. 
  5. Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm. Discuss the different ways you find new information.
  6. Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. “Even if he doesn’t do well grade-wise compared to the other students, he might still be learning and improving.”
  7. Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work. If her task seems too daunting, she’ll spend more time worrying than learning.
  8. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Completing a book report calls for a special treat; finishing a book allows your child an hour of video games. You’ll offer positive reinforcement that will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself.
  9. Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents.
  10. Turn everyday events into learning opportunities.

At they describe motivation as “that inner drive that inspires us to action; to make plans and follow through with them, based on specific elements of our self-concept. Getting positively motivated and staying that way engenders the energy behind positive action.”

They suggest that children are motivated in different ways during each phase of a child’s development:


  • Very young children learn about motivation by watching and listening to us.
  • Thinking out loud can help kids know the “whys” behind things.
  • Listening to your child and reflecting back to them what they’ve said will help them become aware of what motivates them.

Grade K – 3rd graders

  • The need to be seen and heard is strong at this age.
  • Motivation stemming from fear can explain some negative behaviors.
  • Recognizing and encouraging your child’s natural bent and gifts can motivate them to succeed.

4th – 6th graders

  • Success at something of personal interest and meaning is motivating.
  • Listen to your child’s hopes and dreams without criticizing.
  • Activities that touch the mind, heart and spirit motivate repeat experiences.
  • Teach your child the power of their thoughts and words.

In an article Motivating Learning in Children, adapted from “Early Childhood Motivation” from National Association of School Psychologists they suggest ~

Several strategies parents can use to help children remain more fully intrinsically motivated.

(I had added how Charlotte Mason’s  principles apply)

  • Happy Child

    Image by GrowWear via Flickr

    Provide an environment that allows children to freely explore and to see the effect of their actions.

A Charlotte Mason education nourishes a child by great literature and great thoughts.  Her pupils spent their afternoons running freely in nature and enjoying free play.  In Vol.2, pg. 247, she writes that, “Education is a life, nourished upon ideas; and education is an atmosphere – that is, the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives.”

  • Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence.  Make sure that they can finish without interruption. Resist the natural urge to “help”.

Charlotte Mason stressed habits and character.  She wrote in Vol. 1, pg. 118 that, “Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming that habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.  It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up from others.”  On dawdling she was most insistent that it is a “habit to be supplanted by the contrary habit,” and “once the habit is formed, it is very easy to keep it up.” (pg. 119)

  • Respond to children’s needs in a consistent, predictable manner, but allow them to be as independent as possible. All children need clearly defined limits. Playtime, however, need not be structured and organized. Let your kid be a kid!

Ms. Mason is famous for her advice where she said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children …” (Vol. 1, pg. 136)  From birth, a baby thrives in a secure schedule.  Young preschoolers are happiest with play, rest and good nutrition, simple days and a happy bedtime routine.

  • Provide many opportunities for children and adults to explore together and interact directly. This lets you observe, model, and encourage your child.

Charlotte Mason advises parents to “personally know objects, or nature.” (Vol. 3, pg. 66) She advised that the parents enjoy discovery of nature together with their children.  Parents should read great books and discuss these thoughts and ideas together with their children.  Homeschool is the perfect environment for parents and children to learn and grow together.

  • Provide situations that give children an acceptable challenge.  Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished. This may take some trial and error at first.

Ms. Mason frowned on textbooks, abridged books, “twaddle” and simplified titbits of information.  She advocated (in Vol. 6, pg. 140) that “We cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favour of this or that conclusion.”

Narrations are a challenging skill required in a Charlotte Mason education.  In Vol. 3, pg. 191-192, she said, “From their earliest days they should get the habit of reading literature which they should take hold of for themselves, much or little, in their own way.”  When I read aloud to my children, they know that I will only read the passage once and they will retell it to me in as detailed and accurate way possible.  They have to concentrate, interpret and describe.

  • Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. You’ll never go wrong by asking the question, “What do YOU think?”

Charlotte Mason said that, “No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required of him as a matter of course.” (Vol 1, pg. 159)

However, perfectionism is not encouraged.  I ask my children to chose and mark the perfect letter or word that they copied.  There is always something they find they did well even if the whole passage was not perfect.

  • Do not use excessive rewards. They tend to undermine children’s ability to value themselves. Praise and rewards should be based upon children’s effort and persistence, rather than on the actual accomplishment.

At Mom Blog Network  What Motivates Our Children Part 1 the author concludes her post ~

“But what I think truly motivates our children is the same thing that motivates us…connection.

Connection to their own healthy sense of self.

Connection to their caregivers.

Connection to their peers and other important adults.”

Here are my closing thoughts on motivation:

  • Be prepared – pray and plan before you start the day
  • Be firm and consistent – stick to the schedule and your goals
  • Focus on short, clear goals – everyone must know what is required and how to get there
  • Use hands-on approach for young children – change tactics and methods for interest and variety of skills
  • Have fun learning together – cuddle while you read, smile and laugh while you learn, talk, discuss, listen to each other.  Share with dad.
  • Be flexible – stop when before things get ugly.  Go on when things really sparkle!
  • Focus on successes – remind them (and yourself) of what you have accomplished.
  • Every day is a new beginning!  Start afresh.  Change approach or try again.

There is so much more we can share on this topic.

Perhaps next week we can continue with some thoughts on praise and rewards.


Motivation Within (Part 1)

Charlotte Mason

Image via Wikipedia

Charlotte Mason introduced a now famous motto,

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

Notice – every phrase starts with “I”.

Intrinsic motivation is found and sustained within the person.

Internal motivation does not need incentives from others.

When education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life,” Charlotte Mason points us to a higher form of education;

not just a learning process,

not related to classrooms, studies or methods,

stars chart, percentages, grades and results,

but an attitude of learning

assisted by a character devoted to education as a part of the individual’s life.

Charlotte Mason called upon parents and teachers to inspire their children.

Star charts, sweets, stickers, grades, gifts and rewards are all lovely, but are external motivation. Children engage in activities because adults tell them to, or to please another party.

These activities are “extrinsic motivated.”  The reward comes from outside the child and it has to be provided by someone else, and has to be continually given for the child to stay motivated.

While it works, and for some children it has exceptional results and is enjoyable, I found that it does not bring about the character traits I am trying to instil in my children; namely to bring them to desire to do their best and meet the highest for themselves.

I read an excellent article Motivating Learning in Children,

adapted from “Early Childhood Motivation” from National Association of School Psychologists.

“Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives.”

“Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated – when he believes he is pleasing himself.”

Further on they describe behavioural characteristics that show a high level of motivation in a child.

(And beneath each point I have added how Charlotte Mason’s principles encourage a high level of motivation.)

  • Persistence –  A highly motivated child has the ability to stay with a task for a reasonably long time.

Ms. Mason advocated fairly short lessons.  She encouraged children to complete their work perfectly, with excellence.  She believed in discipline and developing good habits.

  • Choice of challenge – Children who experience success in meeting one challenge will become motivated, welcoming another.

Ms. Mason’s education was built upon “Living Books”, exposing children to great ideas communicated by great minds, allowing the child to make relationships of these ideas.  She wanted minds to nourished upon great ideas. She did not want the educators writing ‘twaddle’ and simplify books for children.

  • Dependency on adults – Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities.

Ms. Mason insisted that the educator moved out of the way.  “Teaching must not be obtrusive.  Avoid lectures. Don’t get between the child and great minds.”  (Vol. 3, p. 66)  She did not want teachers to explain too much, nor give grades, or rewards.

  • Emotion – Children who are clearly motivated will have a positive display of emotion. They are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.

A Charlotte Mason education provided children with short, happy lessons, and afternoons free for leisure.  Her education included great music and art, a love and appreciation for poetry and nature.  She encouraged the development of good habits.  Through narrations the child expressed his thoughts and ideas.  She said schoolwork should, “convey to the child such initial ideas of interest in his various studies as to make the pursuit of knowledge on those lines and object in life and a delight to him.” (Vol. 2, p. 247)

We need to differentiate between motivation through incentives or by inspiration.

We prayerfully need to find out how we inspire our children to say, “I am, I can, I ought, I will”

There is so much more!  Next post, I would like to discuss strategies to intrinsically motivate our children.

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Great Books … Great Friends

I would love to share another gem from

Beautiful Girlhood


Image via Wikipedia

The author Ms. M. Hale says,

“Who would not count it an honour to have among her friends

the wisest, noblest, and best of earth,

and have their friendship so intimate that at any time she might go to them and converse with them

and have their opinions upon matters of importance?

Through books we may, very intimately, know the wisest and best.

What a privilege this is!

With all these wonderful book friends we can understand what Jonathan Swift meant when he said,

“A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone.” “

We can all name at least one book that shaped our thoughts and filled our imagination with wonder and delight.

When I was about 12 years old, I clearly remember my mom lending me her 2 tiny, leather-bound books with the thinnest pages I had ever handled, and she told me to look after them carefully.

Little Women” and “Jane Eyre” were the first ‘grown-up’ books I read and I was transformed!  I sat upright (afraid I might crease the pages) and felt like a Victorian lady.  And those words … they painted pictures, characters came alive, I felt every emotion, and I was transported from my ordinary world into a time gone by.

And on the influence and choice of good books the author of  Beautiful Girlhood wrote,

“If a girl will choose her books from those whose ideals are high and whose language is pure and clean, unconsciously she will mould her life, like those portrayed in the books she reads.”

She presents these questions when a young person chooses a good book:

“Would I read this book aloud to my mother?” And I add, “Knowing Jesus is present listening?”

“Would I feel honoured in intimately knowing the people of this book in real life?”

“Would pure society approve of the conduct of these story characters? ”

“Can I profitably make my life pattern after the ideals I find here?”

“Would reading of this book help me better serve my Lord?”

My daughters and I tested these questions on books in our collection.  Almost all our books received the affirmative, but we giggled and realized some of our ‘fun’ books by Roald Dahl did not pass this test!  (None of polite society would approve of  The Twits! )

What other questions could you add to this questionnaire?

Charlotte Mason inspired Living Books.  Karen Andreola, in her book Charlotte Mason Companion says,

“The test of literature is that it must bring us truth, nobility, and beauty.

Literature must be somewhat intellectual and give us truth.

It must be ethical so that we are well-nourished with noble ideas.

It must be artistic and make its appeal through the emotions.”

Essential Classic Book Lists abound.  Here are a few:

Wikipedia’s book list

Ambleside Online provides an excellent book list for each year.

Simply Charlotte Mason has an online Bookfinder

Five J’ gives online databases for book lists.

Books make a wonderful birthday gift.  I like my children to build up their own private libraries!

Audio books are another great way of bringing great literature into your home.

A Picture of a Creative Zen X-Fi 2 MP3 player

Image via Wikipedia

Check through these sites:

I confess that my children don’t really enjoy some audio recordings.  They find the voices too bland and not expressive enough.  (I’m sure it’s because I try read aloud with expression and different accents!)

We enjoy listening to dramatized audio books in the car or while doing hand-work, arts and crafts.  I love listening to audiobooks while I iron.

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

These days, ebooks and Kindles (electronic readers) are a great way of saving space on the shelves, while still building up a collection!

Read Jimmie’s article on how they use their Kindles.  Check CurrClick for ebooks and downloads.

Make a practice of reading to your family every day.

Enjoy great books and inspire your children to love these books as friends.

Mom ~ The Narration Scribe

Recently I posted our geography minibooks and notebook pages

and wrote a brief description on how I act as a scribe for my youngest child’s narration.

One reader, on writing her son’s narration, asked,

“How do you address grammatical or other errors? (For example, my son loves to use “And then” at the beginning of every sentence or he’s used verb tense incorrectly.)”

Let me describe the narration process in a bit more detail:

Narration is the art of “telling back”.

It will start orally. They tell and you listen.

  • The young child will retell you the story or details of the story in their own words.
  • They must listen carefully and remember sequence (what happened first, second and so on.)
  • They should include as many original words as possible; give vivid and exact details.
  • The listeners should be active and positive ~ smile, nod, pay attention as the narration unfolds.
  • Some moms tape or video record their child’s narrations. (This may produce performance stress for some children, but other children thrive on hearing their narrations!)
  • The aim of the narration is to hear (and eventually read) how well the child listened to and understood the story.
  • I find that if my children know that they must tell or write their narrations after the reading, they pay extra attention.

To start the written process, the parent acts as the scribe.

Mom will write out or type exactly what the child narrates on the computer:

  • without interruptions
  • without corrections
  • with as few hints and suggestions as possible
  • Include all the “And then …” sentence starters.
  • Some moms even write the “Um … Err …” !  When mom reads these sounds back, the children often find it amusing!  But they become more aware of repeating unnecessary words.
  • If a child is really stuck, use a narration starter like,  “Who is this story about?” or “How did this story begin?”
  • When they have completed the narration, read it back to the child.  Let them suggest any changes.
  • If they suggest that sentences should not all start with “And then” and ask them how they could change it.

education Dread Writing?

At about 10 years the child should write their own narrations.

Writing is a very complex process.

The physical act of writing is stressful and exhausting.

They must learn letter formation, spacing and style.

Written work requires an extensive vocabulary.

Grammar rules are difficult to apply when all the other skills are applied.

These are  the basic steps we take when my child starts to write their own narrations:

  • First they dictate their narration while I write it on the whiteboard. (It is easy for us to rub out any changes.)
  • I write exactly what they say,  all their own words, word order and ideas.
  • I resist the temptation to suggest, hint, add, change anything! Seriously, this is the hardest part. 🙂
  • I read back what they dictated.
  • If they are happy with it, they copy the sentences in their notebooks.
  • If they get tired while copying, I offer to help them, or suggest they complete it later.  This is weaning process.
  • Eventually they should cope writing several sentences and then paragraphs.
  • It may take a year to learn all the skills to write narrations on their own!
  • They will write narrations on their own with some help; asking for spelling help or checking facts.
  • I accept all narrations without undue concern for punctuation, capitalization or spelling.

Narrations are not grammar lessons.

I use copywork for grammar, spelling and language studies.

We analyze extracts from current readers or quotes from famous people.

This is not threatening to the child.  We are not picking out their mistakes, but we point out all grammar rules, punctuation, vocabulary in context.

Children enjoy pulling apart someone’s writing!

It is amazing to see how much they learn from copywork and grammar studies.  My 8-year-old noticed every compound word in her reader after we studied compound words in our language arts.  My 10-year-old used new words in her creative writing after we did some vocabulary studies in her weekly copywork.

How do parents help when guiding their child in writing?

Janice Campbell asks in her article Are you helpful or nitpicking?

  • A negative, impatient, or critical tone can make even the most minor critique seem overwhelming to a sensitive child.
  • Be sensitive to each student’s abilities and don’t overwhelm a struggling student with too much negative feedback at once. Focus on the most important thing for the moment. There will be other days to fix other things.
  • If you and your student have difficulty communicating on a subject, it may be a good idea to enlist someone else to help the student in that subject. Preserving the relationship is more important than doing everything yourself.

a job well done - mom giving daughter high five

Let narrations be
and  original.
Narrations capture and make the child’s own the best of the rich literature we read to our children.

Narrations can take on several forms.  Here are just some ideas …


  • Describe what will happen next and why
  • Describe your favourite scene
  • “If I were the main character I would … “
  • Tell this story in modern times (if the story is about ancient times)
  • Describe the moral of this story
  • What are the golden rules learnt in this story?
  • “If I could travel to this place, these are the things I would love to see/ do … “


  • write a dialogue
  • write a comic strip
  • write a letter
  • make a newspaper report
  • create an act of a play
  • write a journal entry
  • create the narration as a story for a young sibling
  • write in a minibook
  • create a poem
  • write it as a song
  • write an obituary


  • Draw a map of the places in the story
  • Draw the story as a comic strip
  • Make a bird’s-eye view of the events
  • Draw any machine/ vehicle/ mechanical details in the story
  • Draw step-by-step instructions on how to do what was made in the story
  • Create a mural of the story


  • Act out the scene
  • Pretend you are the character interviewed on TV/ radio
  • Describe how you would adapt the story for drama


  • Make a model of the scene
  • Create a diorama (the scene inside a box)
  • Make a mobile
  • Create the machines
  • Use Lego to build the scene
  • Use clay to create the scene


  • Make a lapbook of the story
  • Fabric paint the story on a T-shirt/ table mats
  • Make a Power Point show on the story
  • Video record and play the story
  • Make a puppet show of the characters and events
  • Make finger puppets for a simple puppet show

Give your children many options and different methods to narrate.

This way they will discover their learning styles and strengths.