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One of the easiest ways to promote learning at home is through Carschooling. In the car you’ve got a captive audience, you’ve got time, and if you have library card, then you have access to a whole curriculum of CDs to choose from.
Some of my favorite educational CDs for children are the Classical Kids series: Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy, and Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Right now we are listening to the newest addition to our collection, Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.
This CD is by far the weakest of the entire series because the writing is so abysmal. “What a bunch of spaghetti heads” is actually uttered at one point! On the plus side, my kids are becoming extremely familiar with Vivaldi’s music, are learning a lot about the city of Venice, and now know as much as I do (which isn’t much) about the life and times of Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi was a priest with red hair who was unable to lead Holy Mass because he had asthma. Instead, he taught at an orphanage in Venice called The Pieta, that had one of the most famous all-girl orchestras in the world. Much of Vivaldi’s music was composed for these orphans to perform.
What’s interesting to me is that at the same time we started listening to Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery I was also reading Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman, which describes the history of adoption and foster care in America. It broke my heart to read about kids who exit the foster care system at 18 being dumped into society with little to no safety net. My mom volunteers with the Orphan Foundation of America’s Foster Care to Success program, which provides mentoring, care packages and advice to these college aged kids.
I’m sure that the authors of Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery made The Pieta orphanage sound a lot better than it really was, but I was really impressed that people 300 years ago figured out how to house, educate and care for abandoned girls in such a way that many would leave the orphanage as teenagers equipped with desirable job skills and training. That really makes me think that our current foster care system should be better. We owe kids better.
Greathall Productions is outstanding as usual, in its production of “Sherlock Holmes for Children” as told by Jim Weiss. My only regret is that we purchased this for Bruce(6.5) after my husband and I went to London earlier in 2011. I’ve read a little bit of Sherlock Holmes a long time ago, but not enough to really make an impact on me when we visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum on 221b Baker Street. Now I wish I could go back to the museum, and know more about what I was looking at.
(Not my husband!) 🙂
Jim Weiss tells four Sherlock Holmes stories on this CD: The Mazarin Stone, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Musgrave Ritual, and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Nothing is too scary, too long, or inappropriate for children. This CD is good for listening to at least five times, before it will drive me crazy!
For Christmas this year we gave my daughter Jenna(2.5) a copy of “Mozart’s Magic Fantasy”. I was really surprised when we first listened to it, because it is a clear departure from the other three Classical Kids CDs we have heard; Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, and Tchaikovsky Discovers America. Instead of introducing children to the music and biography of Mozart, “Mozart’s Magic Fantasy” is a mixed up retelling of the opera “The Magic Flute“.
To be honest, I haven’t seen “The Magic Flute” in fourteen years, so I certainly do not have a clear memory of the plot-line of the opera. But just from a cursory refresher from the internet, it seems that although there are overlapping characters and some jumbled plot-lines between “Mozart’s Magic Fantasy” and “The Magic Flute”, the two stories are decidedly different. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Classical Kids version, because it was highly entertaining and definitely put a kid-appropriate story line to the music.
Jenna has listened to this CD three times now, and two of those times were not even in the car. She likes to put the CD in our DVD player, cuddle up with her baby doll, and listen to the music while sitting on the family room floor. A two year old choosing to listen to opera? Now that’s a magic CD!
We have just spent the last few days listening to “The Queen’s Pirate” by Jim Weiss several times. It tells the story of both Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake. This CD is very good, but I would pass on purchasing this if you already own Story of the World 2 on audio because it is redundant. “The Queens Pirate” does do a better job in telling the story of the defeat of the Spanish Armada however, and includes the part about the English fire ships forcing the Spanish galleons to cut anchor and flee. I was very bummed that Susan Wise Bauer left that part out of SOTW2!
I bought two copies of this CD and will be giving the second one as part of a Christmas gift to one of our nieces or nephews.
Incidentally, here’s a picture of Traitor’s Gate which Princess Elizabeth passed through when her sister Mary imprisoned her in the Tower of London.
Having just read Sherman the Ruthless Victor, I decided to get out one of our family’s all-time favorite Jim Weiss recordings: “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America” to listen to in the car this weekend. Bruce has been listening to this CD since he was four years old and is the background for one of our family’s all time funniest stories about Bruce.
When Bruce was four years old he was spending the night at Grammy and Papa’s house. Papa was watching a PBS documentary on Andrew Jackson, and Bruce had crept into the room and was watching with him. Then Grammy came into the room and remarked, “Oh, you’re watching something on the Civil War.” Papa said that this wasn’t the case, and they started arguing the point. Finally, Bruce broke into the conversation to settle the issue. “Grammy,” he said. “You’re thinking of Stonewall Jackson. This show is about Andrew Jackson.”
How did my preschooler know who Stonewall Jackson was? “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America”! We have listened to this CD about twenty times now, and unfortunately it is now scratched in places from overuse. It keeps skipping in the middle of the Gettysburg Address, which is really annoying. I might have to buy a new copy for Jenna when she turns four. 🙂
Jenna(26m) and I have been listening to Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! Vamanos! Let’s Go! for a few weeks now. This is a new product in our household, purchased especially for Jenna. I did not use this with Bruce when he was little and I tried to teach him Spanish. The Dora and Diego set is created in association with Pimsleur and includes two books, two CDs, and a parent guide. There are actually four stories in all, because the books each have two stories in them.
We have used this set in several ways so far. Jenna and I have sat down and read the books together and we have also sat down in front of the CD player and listened to the CD with me helping Jenna point to the pictures in the book. The easiest (for me) way to use this set is to play the CD in the car and hand the book back to Jenna in her car seat. I’m not sure how effective this is, but she’s a captive audience in her car seat and doesn’t complain when I turn on the CD!
How effective is this program? Hmmm…. I wish I could answer that, but I honestly don’t know. It’s a lot better than Pio Peep, but on par with Play and Learn Spanish, both of which I’ll review later. It’s definitely worth checking out if your local library has it, but I’m not sure if it was worth purchasing just yet. I’ll update this review in about six months and let you know!
Normally our family loves anything Greathall Productions publishes, and anything Jim Weiss reads. But “Fairytale Favorites in Story and Song” is only so-so. If this was the first ever Jim Weiss CD you bought, you would probably think it was pretty good. But compared to the other Greathall CDs, it is just not very inspired. I would recommend not purchasing this CD, but perhaps checking it out from the library if available.
Here are the stories included on this CD:
- Stone Soup
- Puss in Boots
- The Shoemaker and the Elves
Fairytale Favorites is appropriate for all age levels, which is why I purchased it, but neither my 2 year old nor my 6 year old found it very engaging. And I (yawn), would much rather listen to something else.
We have been listening to Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol. It is absolutely fabulous! The CD features many of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most popular compositions interspersed with the fictional story of a little boy who lives downstairs from the composer. The boy is writing letters to his uncle in Salzburg complaining about Beethoven’s erratic behavior, and the uncle explains Beethoven’s actions by telling his nephew the story of Beethoven’s life. By the end of the CD you learn a lot about what life was life in the early 1800’s, as well as meaningful biographical details about the composer himself.
I’m going to be checking to see if our local library has any more of this series which includes: Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery,and Tchaikovsky Discovers America. If not, these will be purchases to remember for Christmas!