Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Opera Music Lesson for Elementary Age Children

This is the third in the Prince Bob Music Lesson Series:

Matilda Leads an Opera

Our Cast of Characters:

Matilda: The Diva – One who thinks the world revolves around her. She is it!

Matilda is preparing for her big Opera for Prince Bob – celebrating the recapture of all of the greased pigs and the prowess of Prince Bob at being a world class Greased Pig Catcher.

The Chorus: This fine group of young people divided into four groups.
One group sings: The Prince, he catches the pig!
The second Groups sings: Yes, Indeed he does!
The third: Hurray for Prince Bob!
The fourth: The pigs are back!

Our Story –

We find Matilda in the dressing room preparing for her starring role in the
Celebration of the Pigs Return Opera. An Opera is a drama set to music.

Matilda: Oh, hello children! You are finally here. Oh my, we must really hurry. The performance is just this evening and we are not ready!

Matilda to herself: Hmmm… I wonder what these children know about an opera…I think I will ask them…

Ahem! Children! You! Little people with big grown up attitudes…what do you know about opera? Hmmmnmm? Come, Now. Do not be shy….

(Talk about Opera and their opinion of it. What do they know?)

Fill in some here with facts: Opera can be traced back to ancient Greece. As Opera began to flourish in 17th century Italy it also spread to other parts of Europe. An Opera is a Drama set to music. An Opera available at the Local Library is Hansel and Gretel. Mozart and Handel wrote Operas as well as others that we may not be as familiar with such as Arnold Schoenberg who wrote Moses and Aron.

How to sing with a classical voice. As Renee Fleming once said: “We are screaming in a very cultivated fashion”. The reason? A big theatre and no audio mikes in the early days. The sound had to be projected. This takes the training of certain muscles in the body and learning breath control. As an athlete would train, so must the classical singer.
Singing with an “Open Throat” - To insure the least possible strain on the vocal chords.

Parts you may hear are : Sopranos, Mezzo Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Baritones and Basses. They go from highest pitch to lowest pitch in this order.

Did you ever hear of the Three Tenors? They have an operatic sound.

Back to the Story...

Well, if you have been sent to me today to prepare for this evening’s performance we had better get to work.

You, young man – come here! I need you to be the Prince for our rehearsal. These children need to learn to bow and curtsy. You will please be seated while these children sing to you.

Young lady! You will be the Prince’s escort for the evening. So…. You sit here just beside the young man and mind your manners. You are a fine lady indeed!

Now, you, you, you, you and you! Come and stand here….now no wiggling! You must be very still. You will be singing a most important part….well, not as important as mine, but still….anyway you must learn your part. It goes like this:
“The Prince, he catches the Pig!”
Please, sing it with me now. Oh, not so good…please sing it again! Ahhh much better.
Do you know that you must sing it with all of the joy enthusiasm expected of us by Prince Bob!

OK – Now dear funny faced children: I need you, you , you , you , you, you and you! You will be singing a part that goes like this: “Yes! Indeed he does!”

Stand still and be very serious! This is big business! My fourth cousin three times removed, Alfreda, started in the Opera when she was about your age! How old are you, my dear girl. Why yes! She was exactly your age when she first performed in the Grand Opera Houses of Italy!
I, myself got a bit of a later start when I stumbled on this wonderful musical form in a town called Venice. Oh, it was sweet. The soprano – you know the most important one in the Opera – wink! – was just adored by her fans and I soooo love to be adored that I just sucked in all of the air around me and began to let out these noises. At first I sounded like this….(little sound)

Then this….(medium squeaky sound)

But finally I began to sing like a bird (give a real open throated clear tone)
and the crowds came out to see me that it has been a big pleasure ever since!

Oh, my dear little ones we must keep preparing for our performance…

Now I need you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you and you! Over here! This is also a very important part so you must pay attention!
You will sing: Hurray for Prince Bob!

Sing with me now… Hurray for Prince Bob!

Quickly now, the rest of you sweet cherubs over here please. We need to learn your part for this evening’s grand performance.
You will be the …ahem…most important part of all…except mine, of course.
Here is how it goes:
“The pigs are back!, The Pigs are back, the pigs are back!” (think Figaro)

Do you have it? O.k. My Dears this is what I need you to do:

When it is your turn to sing your verrryyyy important parts (Big wink) I will wave my freshly manicured hand in your general direction. Please, young ones, watch my hand!
Do you like it, The nail color, I mean….It is the newest thing….

Oh, my, how I digress…back to the show!

Matilda Sings:

It was a lovely day. The day the pigs were found. We found the one called Gospel and then the one called Blues…although he was a tricky one.

We took them to the fairgrounds where the Prince he played his favorite game.

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

We captured Hip Hop piggy and then Praise and Worship was a trip.
They capered all around the place costing Mrs. Smith her hip.

Once again the Prince he played:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

That young Spiritual was a hoot as he ran around the laundry shoot!
Then Showtunes put on quite a show as she slipped on some wet balloons.

Then again that happy Prince played:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

Matilda Sings

Rock and Roll took off and stayed until the last
And then was caught and so we played:
While Prince Bob came out
To catch that last one for himself:

Part One: The Prince, he catches the pig!
Part Two: Yes, Indeed he does!
Part Three: Hurray for Prince Bob!
Part Four: The pigs are back! (3x)

The End!
Everyone Bows or curtsy’s for Prince Bob and His Lady.

If we were going to genuinely perform an Opera we would, of course, learn parts and act things out. In this class setting, however, my only goal is to introduce the musical style and some of the history. I hope to take away that shudder that we often experience at the very thought of opera. While doing research for this class I have found that “clean” opera seems to be hard to find. Still, it does not need to detract from opera as an art form and can be absolutely beautiful as some that were written by Handel, who also wrote the oratorio, Messiah.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Music Class Lessons...

O.k. This is me being vulnerable. I could not decide whether to share this with you, or not...but here it is...Lessons about Prince Bob.

Lesson One:

As my helpers took attendance I stepped into an adjoining room and into a silly costume consisting of a very bright green sweater, purple, pink and green swirly pointy hat, and a multicolored scarf.

I came loudly into the room proclaiming: Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye...then proceeded to tell this story about Prince Bob. I am Schmee...Prince Bob's Personal Assistant.

Once upon a time there was a great Prince of a great land. The Prince’s name was Bob.

Everyone loved Prince Bob. He had curly red hair and wore knickers that had pink and purple polka dots on them. It was a fashion mistake that just endeared him to the people of his land.

(I colored a silly picture of a young boy dressed like this and showed it to the class.)

Prince Bob has two passions in life; music and greased pig catching. Anytime he could think of an excuse there would be a festival and you could find Prince Bob there among the people of his land, having the time of his life.

Prince Bob loved music so much that he named the pigs in the greased pig catching pens after it. He named one Classical, the others Jazz, Blues, Rap, show tune, Rock ‘n Roll, Country, gospel, Ballad, Praise and Worship and Spiritual.

It was a rule of the land that whenever a pig was caught the band would strike up a song in the genre of the name of that pig. Ahem: can you help me with that word, genre? Everyone is too ashamed to ask Prince Bob….

Well, one day the people of this fair land were out at the games. The band was ready to play and the winds were blowing. Prince Bob’s red curly hair was tossed by the wind and his knickers were unusually bright on this day. This scared the pigs and they tried to get away.

Sure enough, out through the pen they went. They scattered all throughout the local neighborhood. People began to find them in their garages and basements. Sometimes these pesky pigs were rooting through their trashcans…sometimes they were sleeping on the big comfy couches in the basement family rooms. Either way, this was not something that the people of this happy land wanted.

Prince Bob was inconsolable! He pulled at his hair, he cried out to the people…you must help me gather in my pigs. I need them! I need the music to play!

Now, he is calling out to you…”Will you help me find my pigs?” Please find, Rock ‘n Roll, Blues, Classical, Ballad, Spiritual, gospel, Praise and Worship, Country, Rap and Show Tune. I need my pigs! Please, help me!”

Are you wondering how you can help him?

Here is what you can do…we are going to pull a pig from this container. For each one we pull, we will hear the music that goes with the name of that pig. IF you can tell me which kind of music it is the pig will be caught. If you get it wrong the pig gets away and has to be caught all over again.

Prior to classtime I had numbered each paper pig and had a corresponding piece of music pulled to go with it. I had the class vote on music style and if they got it right they caught the pig. I would then explain the history of that musical genre and took the moment to warn of modern/non-christian hip-hop.

We only got to catch 4 pigs and there was much begging and pleading to catch the rest this week. I am ok with that but have added the following mad lib to today's lesson.

As an aside, the funniest thing happened during the lesson last week. One of my helpers interrupted the lesson to ask for Schmee's autograph. Schmee, of course, was delighted and recognized it as a "perk" of his job...there are few, you know.
Soon, Schmee was at a table signing autographs for students and their siblings as we listened to the musical pieces. Hysterical!!!!

Now for that Mad lib:

A Musical Mad Lib – A letter from Schmee

Dear Friends,

Once upon a time…in a _____________land far, far away. There lived a

__________________prince, named Bob. Prince Bob was an interesting sort who loved

music so much that he would often __________________ it while he was

_____________________. This drove his _________________assistants crazy!

Sometimes, Prince Bob would play __________________ soothing music and the

People of his land would all gather around him to hear it. But then there were the times

that his music was a bit ______________________. That would make his

______________ people cry!

Prince Bob like such music as Jazz and Blues. Which made the people cry or swoon.

He liked the beat that came with rock and hip hop…though the Queen was not so happy

about that.

Then there was the gospel and the spirituals which got his toe to tapping and made him

think about a land that was somewhere out beyond.

Sometimes, Prince Bob, when he was in the mood for soothing, would sit down in his

favorite ________________chair and listen to the classical music written long, long ago.

Do you know that Bob even liked an opera, or two?

Now here is what I know about this _______________ Prince of ours. He is

_________________ and ________________________ but his is a friend of ours for

sure. For he has brought the ______________________music into the _________ land

of his. The people of that __________________world can never not love music!

Thanks Prince Bob!!! Signed, Schmee, Assistant to the Prince!

I know this is silly! It is supposed to be. But how many classes have you set through where you are just being lectured to about music and their styles and forms. I have a class that is more than half boys and many have let me know how much they hate learning about music...until last week!

Coming soon: Prince Bob hosts an opera!

A Week Already?

Yikes! It has been a week since our last post here at Homeschooling at Hospitality Lane. During this week my husband has left on a business trip, the kids and I have been very busy with our school work, a painting project in the bathroom and playing with friends. O.k. that is the simple way to explain this past week. It has actually been crazy.

Poor Mrs. Rabe and family have been battling a nasty "bug" that had better get out of their home soon. Poor dears! Feel strong soon, my dear friends.

Today's music class at co-op will be a continuation of the silliness that was begun last Thursday. I ran into one of the students this week and he was quick to bring me his paper from class and tell me about if I didn't already know! Ha! Made my day, that little Caleb!

For today's class I have written a madlib. These are such a blast and I love to write them myself to go along with the theme of the class. The only trouble is that they will ask for more....

How is your school year progressing? Any fun ideas to share? Feel free to email me at and let me know. You never know, you may end up as a guest contributor! We are looking for fun and creative ideas to share.

Becky K.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Today was a Blast!

O.k. people. Many of you who are reading this do not know me personally. Those of you who do...know that I have a silly streak. I try in certain situations to keep it under was not one of those...and IT WAS FUN!!!!

I have about 38 students in the 4-6th grade music class. They are awesome kids! The boys are rambunctious sometimes but they are all so dear!

Today was the first day back to co-op for the Spring Semester. I pulled out all of the stops and made a perfect fool of myself for their sake. They reacted so well and have asked for this to continue next week. I hope that I am up to a repeat performance. It required a costume, acting, coordination of various musical selections and a silly storyline.

If you could have just seen their laughter and enthusiasm...ahhhh...I could have been a teacher! Wait! I am a teacher. How many times do I lose the enthusiasm here at home but get excited about the new and different at co-op. Sigh...

Oh well, we have had a great week of school here, as well. I am very thankful for the opportunity both to homeschool and to be with others that are like minded through our co-op.

Becky K.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Magic Formula!

I have been learning a hard lesson over the last several years. It is this: There is no magic formula for raising your children. I, like many others, somehow bought into the idea that if I raised my children a certain way, if we home educated, if we were careful of their OUTSIDE influences, etc...we would get the expected outcome, which is of course a perfect, christian child. Of course, they would speak foreign languages, play multiple musical instruments, test 8 levels above their grade... I know you KNOW what I mean.

This is a fallicy.

Of course we are careful parents. We love our children and want them to thrive in a warm and loving atmosphere. We want them to be able to learn to their hearts content. We want them to pick friends that are on the same path that they (or we their parents) are on.

But what to do when they determine to go their own way? What to do when they really aren't interested in learning? Anything. Seriously.

We have a child like this who by the grace of God did graduate from our homeschool last year. He really isn't a child anymore, and in many ways is mature. He however has chosen a path that we didn't raise him to want. He was influence in two ways by other "Christian home educated kids."

1. This influence is painful, as it involves other kids from Christian families, picking on others. These are kids who on the outside look like perfect angels, but have the need to tear other kids down. You see it at churches, youth groups etc...

2. Is almost worst. It is the Christian kid who seems to be walking with the Lord, says all the right things, and yet they are on a path that doesn't glorify God. This kind of kid, seems to your child to be more "spiritual" than themselves or the others who have influence in their life. It is a subtle influence because the child sees this one as someone who cares and they want to emulate this kind of person. They feel like the compromises must be ok, because this kid is "Better" than they are.

These influences really hurt a sensitive child. They cause anger. Now, they don't have to choose anger and bitterness. It is their choice. I am just saying that these are influences in the child's life and what it can lead to.

The Key to parenting your children is to walk closely to the Lord yourself. Talk to Him constantly about your children and what areas He wants you to work on in their lives. What does He want to teach you through it, etc... I have learned that God is Sovereign. He will take your child down necessary paths for your child. He loves them and has all their days planned for them. Your struggles are no surprise to him. Trust Him and hold on to Him tightly.

God Bless you all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Fun Writing Exercise

This can be fun if you are doing a unit on poetry and want to encourage your students to think descriptively. Chances are the end result will be silly but that is what makes it fun.

Have your student(s) cut a blank sheet of paper into approximately 25 slips. Next they will write short phrases on the papers. For example: The spotted dog, The fluffy pillow, The short boy with brown hair, etc.

Next have them make up about 15 slips of paper with verbs and adverbs such as: swang the bat wildly, ran after the ball, jumped from the swing carelessly.

Now, this is more fun the more children you have adding to the creative pile. All of the slips get turned face down and each child gets to choose until all are gone. Making sure that they get equal amounts of descriptive phrases and then everyone getting verbs.

Have them write a poem or paragraph using the papers they have chosen as the base. They are allowed to add a word here and there to smooth it out but you must be able to tell that it came from the papers that they have chosen.

It is good for a laugh every time and helps to break up the monotony of daily writing exercises.

This helps your child develop the ability to naturally use adjectives and look at the things around them differently.

Hope you have some fun with this. If you do it let me know. I would love to see some of the things your kids come up with.

Becky K.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Farm Show

Yesterday we attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
It was neat.
I have been going to the Farm Show from the time I was in Elementary School,
not every year, but often.
It seems to get more and more crowded every year.
You would think this would not be the case
as people are so busy doing non-agricultural things but there is
something about the family atmosphere here
that keeps drawing us back.
I am so glad for that!

One of the neatest things we saw was cow cutting...
relax, no cow was injured.
One of my sons wanted to know if these were "emo" cows.
If you are not up with today's slang...check this post out. HA! You are so funny, Mikey.
Cutting is the term for
separating a cow from the herd.
It is important if a cow should be hurt or
need to be safely removed from a large herd.
Horses are trained to mirror the every action of the
cow to keep it from returning to the herd, once the cowboy/girl
has singled it out. Once the cow is free of the herd, the cowboy drops the reins
and it is up to the horse to keep the cow in place.
This woman did all of the explanations and
commentary from the back of this horse.

It was amazing!
If you ever get a chance to watch!

You can find out more about the PA Farm Show at their web site here.

There are cows, chickens, horses, sheep, alpaca...just to name a few of the animals.

This is a huge time for PA 4-H. They bring their projects to be judged.

There are cooking demonstrations, huge tractors, booths about just about anything you can imagine. Warren and the boys visited a booth about hydrogen power...

You name it, it is probably here...if it is wholesome. I have never had to be ashamed of anything I have ever seen at the Farm Show!

While this year's event will soon be can plan for next year if you happen to be in the area.

Just as a side note...Chelsea and I can tell you that the behind the scenes spaces are just as neat and clean as what the public sees. We accidentally took a tour of the halls intended just for the staff and animals coming and going to the arenas. A very nice security man helped us to find our way out! Really, he was nice! Many thanks to him....we were just looking for the little girls' room! We saw verryyy beautiful white horses attached to carriages...up too close! We saw the security office and many, many security people who, at first did not seem to think it strange that a woman and young girl were apparently lost. I did actually have to ask for directions to get out. As the nice man was showing us out we were stopped by a more efficient security person who was in charge of the hallway that the riders are coming in and out of the various arenas on. Several horses and riders passed us. Boy, were we glad to get out of there. It was not intended for people on foot!

Just a few more pictures of this year's adventure at the Farm Show...

Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Jonathan and Math

This has been an interesting year for Jonathan and his new Math program. We are using Teaching Textbooks (link) and he is doing the 7th grade level. I am not telling him how much above the last level he worked at this far, so good.

The interesting thing about Jonathan's Math disorder is that some days it seems clear for him. Others, he struggles so much. Yesterday after school we were in the car and Jonathan said..."This was a good math day. Sometimes the answers just come to me and other days I cannot remember a thing." I have noticed this, but it was interesting to hear him commment on it out of the blue on a good day. He was thrilled.

He is working on his math in the next room, as I type now. He came over a couple of minutes ago and said, "It must be another good math day. Look at this problem I just did." I am happy for his good days. They build his overall confidence. So far this year he has far surpassed his progress any year to date.

One major compensation I am allowing him this year is the ability to use a multiplication chart when he is doing division. I want him to be able to understand the division process without having to attempt to remember the multiplication facts that so elude him. He said, "I have tried every year to learn them, I really wish I could. They just won't stay in my head." I know this to be true and so am allowing this compensation in order for him to not be stopped at this level another year.

What have you done to assist your children through learning disabilities? Anything you would like to share?

P.s. Jonathan just burst into the room saying,, "Oh yes! Oh yes! I just..." and proceeded to brag on his accomplishment in long division. He walked me through the problem and how he solved it!
If you knew all of the time and tears, tutors, vision therapy and effort it has taken to get to this point you would be on your feet doing a jig with me right now!

Blessings on these special children!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Around the lake they went!

For what seemed like the twentieth Sunday in a row they were calling for rain. I know it hasn't been quite that bad but still...there have been many rainy Sundays. Several people from church were hoping to take a trek around the lake at Muddy Run, owned privately by the Power Company but a neat park to explore. As we came out of church the sun was shining and it was remarkably warm. It was so neat! So this is the crew that went on the hike. I did not go...I stayed home to prepare brownie sundaes for the hungry hikers upon their return. I did sneak in a walk on our country road with our dogs...

Playing on the side of a bridge. Mikey, the adventurer....

Please try to ignore Mikey and look at the great view of the water and trees. I love this shot...but even more I love that I wasn't there. It was sooo muddy and there are so many roots and rocks that try to trip you up on this trail.

Time to head home...the park closes at dusk.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Writing Poetry

Yesterday I enjoyed surprising the kids as we continued in our study of poetry.
We began a new book called Poetry Matters, Writing a Poem from the Inside Out by Ralph Fletcher. As we finished reading and discussing they were getting all set for me to tell them to write a poem.
I had already decided that I want to get further into the book and build some momentum before I get them to put it into practice. You should have seen the shock on their faces.
I wonder if they weren't just a tad disappointed...hmmm...maybe Chelsea. I doubt very much that the boys will ever be sad to skip writing.

My goals for this Poetry Unit:

1. Enjoyment of poetry writing.
2. The ability to read poetry aloud.
3. For creativity to be inspired...about more than dragons and video games! :-)
4. Increased observation skills.
5. To enjoy reading poetry.
6. Memorization of at least one classic.

There is more, but you can get the idea of where I am headed with this.

At this point in the book I would definitely recommend it to you. It is written in an easy to read conversational tone. I would guess that your 4-8th graders would gain the most from it. I am happy to use it for all of mine. I figure if it is written in a way that I can enjoy it... and not feel as if I am being talked down to, so will my older boys.
It definitely inspired conversation. The reading stopped several times as they piped in with good comments. I LOVE it when that happens.
You can see how it has effected me on my Jabberwocky post at Hospitality Lane today.
So...with the understanding and qualification that I have not read the entire book...I would encourage you to check it out. I am borrowing this one from our local library.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Photography for One, Gym Class for Another

Mikey got skate wheels for Christmas. They are the very awesome Spitfire wheels that he has been wanting. Since we have no snow he has been able to use them some but hadn't been to the skate park yet. We thought our local one was closed for the winter but when I picked Mikey up from work yesterday he asked if we could just see if it was was.

Since it was, oh, about 20 degrees outside with a wind chill of about 5 to 10 degrees the park was amazingly empty. Wonderful...Not having the skateboard or anything we headed home and I figured that would be it.


Soon Mikey was working on his brother to walk over to the park so he could skate. Now, I may be overly protective to not let my 15 year old go to the park by himself but that is just tough! I don't even let the two of them go unsupervised most of the time. It just doesn't seem prudent to me. But, I figured that there weren't that many kids committed enough to be there in this my guys went.

Jonathan borrowed our new camera...I can't believe I let him...but I am so glad I did. He was careful and got some great shots, as you can see.
Clicking on the pictures will enlarge them.

Sliding on the rail...

At the top of the bowl. I forget what he called this...something 50? Anybody have a skater at your house?

So, Mikey got some serious Phys Ed and Jonathan is discovering the joy of photography. We are looking for something to catch Jonathan's eye for a career path. He is very artistic...maybe this will be something. Maybe not...the point is exposure to different mediums and opportunities. I think he did a fabulous job with these pictures!

Have an adventurous day in whatever you are up to!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Evaluations Already???

I just received an email from our Special Ed Evaluator,(Jonathan's), wanting to schedule an evaluation for May or June. I am so not ready to begin thinking about evaluations yet! We have a lot to cover before we get there...This Mommy/Teacher has lots of fun plans to finish before this year ends.

I know that it is a lot for our evaluator to prepare...she teaches full time in a Christian school and evaluates quite a number of homeschooled students so I just caught me by surprise.

Pennsylvania requires an annual independent evaluation for each student by a certified teacher. These teachers review the work from the year and document progress. They usually give suggestions and feedback. We turn in an evaluation form to our local school district.

Another requirement in PA is testing. Each child in grades 3, 5, and 8 is required to take achievement testing.

What are some of the requirements in your state?

Back to the Books!

We had a wonderful Christmas break. We saw family that we adore. There were field trips to: Sight and Sound, Living Waters, and Longwood Gardens. We were bowling, saw National Treasure..the second movie, went Christmas Caroling and learned new ways to serve at church since we are in a temporary facility.
Mikey continued to work and even went to his first business Christmas Dinner. He took his Grandmother! Isn't that the greatest?
Every day is an adventure in one way or another. Today's adventure is getting back to the basics of the three R's. We also need to get to the library and pick up a book we ordered at last week's visit there.
We learn in just about everything we do. How about you?
Are you ready to get back into a routine?
Becky K.