When I wrote objectives for what we were going to cover this year in school, I decided to teach on a few topics for art and music that I could not easily find an already-written curriculum. The few things I did find did not suit my taste, so I created something myself.
I wanted to teach my kids about American music in the early 20th century. While there were probably a few types of music that were popular depending on the region in which folks lived, I chose to teach about ragtime, jazz, blues, swing, etc., the type of music that was most prevalent in the southern and eastern regions of the U.S. In order to teach about these types of music and their respective composers/musicians, I needed to do some research. I read a lot of library books and internet articles. I learned about the musical theory of the songs as they were played, about the history of the people influential in the style, and about cultural issues, including the fact that most musicians at this time were African American and were, at that time, not accepted by the majority of society except for their musical talents. When teaching my kids, we obviously listened to a great deal of music on CD.
The great thing about doing a study of this sort is that it lends itself to so many more topics. For example, we learned that Scott Joplin, famous for the ragtime song, The Entertainer, played his music outside of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. We were able to research the history and purpose of the World's Fairs. We were able to learn what sorts of entertainers and exhibits would have been present at the World's Fair.
You may wonder why we started with Scott Joplin since, as can be seen by the date above, he lived mostly in the late 19th century. Joplin was considered one of the prominent figures of ragtime music, and it was ragtime that developed into jazz, which was the next style of music we studied. We ended our study of these styles of music with Frank Sinatra, which led to many interesting discussions about the mob and who they were.
For art, I chose to forgo the usual study of color and symmetry but, instead, decided to look at architecture as art. We looked at a handful of famous buildings and bridges. We learned about their designs, their designers, their histories, etc. As with our music "program," we were able to learn so much more than just how a structure is built because each of the structures we studied has its own story. We could tie our music class into our art class because a lot of the structures we studied were built in the early 20th century. We could study the history during the time period, things like the Great Depression, World War I, etc.
So that the kids would have hands-on learning for their art class, I purchased 3D foam puzzles of the buildings and a wooden puzzle of a bridge for them to put together. When we studied the Statue of Liberty, I purchased cooper sheets and Wilton cake pans, and they molded the copper inside of the cake pans just like men molded the Statue of Liberty inside the wooden forms they created to make her back in the 1800s.
I enjoyed teaching these classes so much to my own children that I have offered to teach them at our co-op next year. This will require a little more preparation and creation of homework so the high schoolers can earn credit towards graduation, but I certainly don't have a lack of material to use. I'm glad I have a whole summer to prepare, though.