Beauty in the Homeschool


‘Beauty will save the world.’
 Fyodor Dostoevsky

We listened to an inspiring and refreshing message a few weeks ago on Beauty. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and this week it was in relation to the small moments in our day when we allow the loveliness of music to flow into our lives.
I was very fortunate to have a dad who always sang – folksongs mainly, and it’s been something I wanted to give my children as part of their heritage, but I always thought it was just my little quirk; a way to pass on something personal.
Classical music was in a different category in my mind. Perhaps because it was described as ‘classical’ it seemed a more valid inclusion in our homeschool week. But I didn’t have a personal link to classical music. My exposure to it was virtually nil when I was growing up but I was aware that I had a deficit and I set out to repair it.
When I came across Ambleside Online and saw that Folksongs were part of the curriculum, a cultural heritage which has a beauty of its own and should be passed on to the next generation, I began to see my little passion differently and allowed myself to give it a place of importance in our days. Not to feel that it was taking up space that should be filled with something more important.

I’ve taught my children all the Scottish songs that were part of my heritage, and the songs of Australia as well as those of other nations. They really are a door of discovery into the life and history of a country.

This week we’ve been enjoying a new folksong, ‘Over the Hills & Far Away,’ sung by John Tams. It has been adapted from a traditional English song written in the late 1600’s and used as the theme song for a British mini-series of the Napoleonic Wars, ‘Sharpe.’ The series is based upon books by Bernard Cornwall. I haven’t seen the series or read the books but I love the song!


O’er the hills and o’er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain.
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away.

We’ve spent a couple of months listening to the music of Anton Dvorak and this week I read aloud some excerpts of his life from The Gift of Music by Smith & Carlson.
Dvorak (1841-1904) was born in what was Czechoslovakia at the time, and is credited as being one of the most human and loveable of the great composers. His music rose up from the wellspring of his Czech identity and in later years when the country of Czechoslovakia was overrun by Communist Russia, his music enabled the true spirit of the people to rise above the oppression they were under.

We were reading about his hard work and perseverance in his attempts at composition and how he kept himself warm by burning his early compositions which he wasn’t happy with in his stove.
This sentence made me smile as I’ve been going through Dawn’s ebook on Charlotte Mason’s motto, ‘I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will’ with Moozle:

“If I ought, I can” might well have been the motto of Dvorak, and he had a firm, inner conviction that he would eventually succeed as a composer. Dvorak was a hard worker and determined to overcome.

We’ve been listening to his music each day and these are some favourites.

How we fit this aspect of Beauty into our week:

Know the whysee the AO link above on Folksongs and also this short article from the University of Florida. And – 8 Reasons You Should Listen More to Classical Music.

I’ve used CD’s especially of folksongs if I have them. The library can be a good place to find folksongs of various nations.

I have a playlist on an iPad in the kitchen and Moozle listens when she’s emptying the dishwasher in the morning.

I play them when we’re making lunch.

Benj has them on his computer & he often listens while he’s doing copy work or writing in his commonplace book.

I link the folksong to the history we are covering if I find something suitable.


Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic, 2015
No matter what nation dominated them, the saving factor for the future of Czech music and dance was that the country remained obstinately Czech, and they kept in their hands a torch by which Smetana and, after him, Dvorak lighted fires that the whole world could see.
The Gift of Music


Psalm 27


One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord…

12 thoughts on “Beauty in the Homeschool

  1. We also really like Over the Hills and Far Away. We have not used it for one of our folksongs for school, but just to play and listen to and enjoy. Going to check out Sharpe. BBC is usually quite good when they make a mini series.My Grandma and my Mother both listened to lots of folksongs. So I grew up with folksongs played in the house and sung along with them on road trips and while making supper. Fond memories. Although they tended towards Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary. What was the beautiful and inspiring message on beauty? Is there a link to it somewhere? You have me curious now. =)


  2. I just bought the book \”The Gift of Music\” just a couple of months ago. I was thinking about using it to complement our composer studies this year. I usually try to include 2-3 folksongs each year in our curriculum. But this year, I want to try to include more…hopefully one per month as per the AO folksongs schedule. 🙂 We enjoy a wide range of folk songs, but especially Irish and English. My husband plays the tin whistle and I play the piano and we really enjoy evenings of playing both instruments together with a variety of folk songs and hymns.


  3. What a neat post, Carol! We have really enjoyed the folksongs and classical music that we've listen to as well. Recently, at LER, we actually heard some Australian, Peruvian, and other folksongs via people living there…Jeanne and a few dear other ladies…oh and a few Canadian selections also. They were so lovely! As I started talking with one gal about them, I was blown away with the history and cultural references that one can learn through folk music! I was convinced that I need to immerse us in folk music. I've been sitting on this idea and trying to figure how to do that! This is a beautiful post to push me in the right direction and to look at our songs a little closer! 🙂


  4. It was at Church, actually – sort of a mini conference and one of the sessions was on Beauty. My older daughter & I loved the references to literature the speaker shared – Chesterton, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn and Shakespeare. All the more so because it was so unexpected.


  5. Love the tin whistle. It's great to have instruments that are small enough to cart around! Says she who has a few children who play the double bass, drums, piano & cello…we have to think twice before buying vehicles & make sure we do the measurements first.


  6. How wonderful!!And FYI: my husband and I watched the first two episodes of Sharpe (Sharp'e Riffles and Sharpe's Eagle). They were quite good. History was very accurate and whoever writes the script does a great job. I can only speak for those first two episodes, but we are going to keep watching. Not for little kids, but no nudity or gratuitous violence. Let's hope it stays that way! =) Over the Hill and Far Away was in both episodes as well.


  7. I love folksongs! It's been a bit of a hobby to collect folksongs to sing to the kids at bedtime. I never thought of adding them formally to our school hours. Folksongs make a delightful contrast to classical music. 🙂


  8. So beautiful, Carol! I love your look at this and all the lovely examples. I'm just barely beginning to see the beauty, magic, and history found in folksongs. It's one of my most favorite things, I think…well, I have many favorite things about this CM education I'm receiving. Thank you for sharing!


  9. Thanks Amy. My Dad died 4 years ago & the folksongs he taught me have left me with some great memories of music & songs shared together over the years. Something very tangible to remember him by.


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