Monday, May 9, 2016

Review of Zeezok Publishing LLC

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
Music appreciation is something that always seems to fall through the cracks in our homeschool, so I was beyond thrilled to receive for review this amazing homeschool music program, Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades, from Zeezok Publishing LLC. With so many wonderful composers to choose from, it was hard to pick a favorite, but we ended up starting our study with the inimitable Beethoven.
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
There is so much to this comprehensive music appreciation study that the only way to do it justice is to begin by listing everything that's included, so here goes!
  • Individual biographies of seven different composers (Paganini, Bach, Beethoven, Hayden, Mozart, Handel, and Schubert) containing both pictures and the composers' compositions.
  • 5 compact discs of music
  • a 354 page softcover, three-hole punched workbook
  • a CD containing lapbook masters for each of the composers

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

Each composer study is designed to last four weeks. A schedule is provided at the beginning of each study (in the workbook) to tell you exactly what you should accomplish that week. There is always a diverse mix of reading (from the biography), answering comprehension questions (from the workbook), lapbook activities, character qualities (as noted from the biography), Tidbits of Interest (also from the reading), and sundry other activities that vary by week (it could be an oral report, a recipe, or a music lesson. The activities are always interesting, and the work load for any one week is not overwhelming. There is enough variety to keep different ages engaged, and the materials, from the biographies, to the workbook, to the lapbook, are all of the highest quality. When combined with the music selections, you truly do have a complete music appreciation program that any child would feel lucky to be able to complete.
How We Used It
As I indicated previously, we began with Beethoven. Ever since Nicholas (12) learned to play "Ode to Joy" on the piano, and then had the chance to play it on a famous organ here in Houston (the organ at the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral Downtown), Beethoven has been a favorite. It was decided that everyone (the three youngest, that is, so the 11 year-old twins and Nicholas) would read the chapter to themselves, Michael would complete the workbook pages, Mary-Catherine would complete the lapbook, and we would do a group discussion of all of the material and listen to the musical selections together. Whew!

For the most part, we followed the weekly plan. Because it has been high debate season here, it actually took us six weeks to complete Beethoven, instead of the suggested four, but that's the beauty and flexibility of homeschooling! Beethoven was completed just in time for the kids to grab Paganini's biography on their way out the door as we drove to debate regionals last week! The best part is, they were excited to continue on to a new composer. Now *that* is a successful program. The other best part is (two best parts? We're going to go with it.) that because the music selections are all provided on CD, we could take the CD to listen to in the car. It means we're a little out of order (because we have listened to all of the Paganini), but I can't really see that as being any kind of a negative. It just means that we all have a little familiarity as we begin the "book study" part of his life. The balance in this program between scheduling and flexibility is one of its great assets. For example, it doesn't tell you to do this on Monday, this on Tuesday, etc. It just tells you what to do in one week. That means that for families who like a schedule, but don't adhere to a strict M-F (because of co-op or some other reason), they can still follow a schedule, but not have to feel like they are tinkering with it too much.

So for us, composer study looked like this: the day we got the box from Zeezok, the three youngest kids all read the Beethoven book (it's less than 150 illustrated pages - I would classify it as a beginner's chapter book - except it also includes many pages of sheet music). (I forgot to tell them they only had to read part of it, but I doubt they would have stopped anyway - the kids are all fast readers, and they all read well above grade level). Then, Michael did the questions for Week 1 and Mary-Catherine began cutting out the pieces for the lapbook. We did the rest of the activities for Week 1 over the next couple of days. Weeks 3-4 evolved in much the same way (with the exception that the reading had already been done, so when Michael did the comprehension questions in the book, he only needed sometimes to refresh his memory with the book).

In reality, the composer study of Beethoven has looked more like a unit study for us. For example, right off the bat in Week 1, we were able to tie in our study of Beethoven with our normal geography work, as the awesome student workbook has a Geography Oral Report to assign. Listing nine cities Beethoven visited in his lifetime (in Germany, Austria, Holland, and the Czech Republic), students are asked to write a short essay on one of the cities to present to the rest of the class. My kids were delighted! They have very recently studied all of those countries! Being able to relate them to Beethoven, and then being able to research one of them again in light of his life added a new layer to both studies.

Later on in Week 4, the kids got to do something they have done before, but really enjoyed: make Attribute Acronyms! They got to take the first letters of their first names and make acronyms of virtues they associate with themselves after looking at one of Beethoven's. They did so after reviewing examples Beethoven's character qualities from the biography they read.

To think that there are seven different composer unit studies within this one workbook is truly amazing. To think that we still have 5 1/2 to go is truly exciting!

What We Thought

The kids are really enjoying this program! They all love the biographies, which are quick and very interesting and engaging reads. Mary-Catherine has loved how well-done the lapbooks are. The pieces are colorful and the folds are simple and easy to understand (we are not hugely clever lapbooking people). She keeps commenting on how much extra she is learning through the lapbooking phase of the program (Beethoven is done and she is now working on Paganini).

The extra activities provided in the workbook are varied and not overly demanding (we have not had to sew any costumes or anything so far!). As I said at the outset, music appreciation is something that I just never seem to find time for. Zeezok Publishing LLC makes it easy to find the time. They do everything for you. Be sure to click the banner below to read all the reviews, because different Crew members began their studies with different composers!
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
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