Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review of Music Together

There are some homeschool moms who fit music seamlessly into their curriculum.  I am not one of them.  Things that I think of as particularly "public schooly" (art, music, PE) don't seem to be much of a priority for me.  Fortunately, I live in a state that doesn't require them.  It is precisely these "subjects" of course that little kids like the most, so it was wonderful to get a review product that compelled me to include music in our school day!
As part of the Review Crew, we received Music Together's Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and  Family Favorites CD.  Far more than just cute kid songs (although the CD is certainly that, as you'll find out if you listen to the samples on the site), Music Together is "an internationally recognized early childhood music program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarterners, first and second graders, and the adults who love them."  

In use since 1987, Music Together is developmentally appropriate and research based.  Suggested for 5,6, and 7 year-old children or children with special needs, Music Together begins with the premise that all children are inherently musical.  Music is taught through games, songs, and activities.  Although Music Together programs are available in all types of childcare settings, it works perfectly in a homeschool setting.  How do I know? My seven year-old twins loved it! 

What is immediately obvious from the moment you open this program is that it is completely professional.  I have used plenty of homeschool-mom produced programs (and I am *not* knocking those - I *love* those), but this program is not one of them.  It is heavily coil bound and the pages are thick and glossy.  This book will stand up to all of your kids.  At just over 100 full color pages, the book is composed of 3 parts.  The first part explains the Music Together philosophy and approach.

The second part contains the 19 songs that are on the accompanying CD (accompanying if you bought it!).  The song is introduced by its composer, with notes as to how and when it was written.  Suggested activities are explained (imagine a setting something like a library story hour if you need help imagining what these activities might look like).  The key, starting pitch, and meter of the song are given.  Finally, a list of the instruments used in the recording is provided.  After this introduction, the actual written music and lyrics for the song are shown, followed by several pages of activities divided by age-appropriateness.

The last part of the book has reference material including a glossary and guitar reference chart.

I have four kids, but the only ones who were really interested in participating in Music Together were my two youngest, which was perfect, as they fit the target age ideally.  We incorporated music into school once a week while the big kids were doing math.  We decided to go in order of the songs on the CD, which made the first one we used "The Hello Song." We probably should have skipped it, as it is likely the one song on the CD that is *definitely* too young for most 7 year-olds.  Still, we listened to it, sang it, and even played it on the piano (I don't play, but that much I can fake).  They liked "Biddy Biddy" much better, as it is a sounds song! We broke out the egg shakers and sang to the song with Jamaican roots.  We took the book's suggestion and made up our own sounds, too.  

We completed three more weeks worth of songs, and I have to say that my twins really had fun.  They got to hear some fun songs they had never heard before, play with rhythm instruments I had bought but never used, and attempt to sing in parts.  We spent about 20 minutes per lesson.  

Although I really think this is a great program, it confirms one thing: I am not a music-teaching kind of girl.  If I had had this program when my kids were younger, I definitely think we would have worked through the whole thing.  I would have had four preschooler/early schoolers, and it would have made sense.  I just think that my twins are at the upper ages of its use right now, and it doesn't quite fit in to our classically oriented school. However, I really like Music Together.  I like it so much that I am going to give it to my almost 3 year-old niece.  Her mother (my sister) is a children's librarian, and this seems perfect for her to use at home with her daughter.  That actually raises another really good point about Music Together: it is great just for home use -not just for homeschool use.  If there are any small children in your life who love music, love to dance, and love rhythm instruments, they would probably love this program.

The songbook/CD combo set that I received is priced at $39.95 (a $5 savings over buying the two products separately).  Additionally, by entering the coupon code "Schoolhouse" at checkout, you can save an additional $2! If you've been wondering how to make music part of your homeschool curriculum, you don't have to wonder any longer.  My kids really enjoyed Music Together.  To see how other Crew families liked it, be sure to read the Crew blog!

Disclaimer: I received this product free as part of my participation in the Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion.  I received no other compensation.

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