Posts filed under Free Lessons

Learn About Charles Ives: What Charlie Heard

Let's add to our growing list of music and book pairings!

Our subject is Charles Ives, the American composer who changed the landscape of music in the Modern Era. 

Through the book, What Charlie Heard, (along with another picture book about Ives), and the music lesson presented in this post, your children can learn about this musical pioneer - whose music was often SHOCKING and UNANTICIPATED.

Complimentary Lessons About Music & Stories: What Charlie Heard (Charles Ives)

Read the Story: What Charlie Heard

The extremely busy illustrations draw children into this picture book immediately. And, from the very first sentence we know that Charles Ives was going to become something great: 

"Charles Ives was born with his ears wide open."

Taking the reader on a trip through Charlie's childhood in New England, the author (Mordicai Gerstein) shows all of the places, events, and influences that would shape the music of the older Charles Ives. Interestingly enough, music was Ives' second career - his first was as an extremely successful insurance salesman.

His Third Symphony won a Pulitzer Prize, and when Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic broadcast his Second Symphony from Carnegie Hall, his music was known all across America - and eventually all around the world!

The fun thing about Ives' music is the way he chose to combine instruments (even two marching bands at one time!), and use snippets of already familiar folk tunes and hymns to create a uniquely American sound.


Learn About Charles Ives' Variations on America

Before we learn about one of Charles Ives' most famous pieces, his Variations on America, let's listen to the original "America" - also known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee". 

Samuel Smith wrote this song (which eventually became America's unofficial national anthem). It was his intent to write a song that would allow the American people to give their praise to God for their wonderful land. 

My Country 'Tis of Thee has become even an international favorite - being used in England as "God Save the Queen/King".

(You might also enjoy the picture book My Country 'Tis of Thee, which chronicles the interesting history of the song.)

Have your children watch this video. Note the beautiful chorus that sings the song, and how it stirs up our patriotic emotions. It was these emotions that Charles Ives wanted to build upon when he composed his Variations on America.

Theme and Variations?

In music, we have a certain form (a way of organizing a piece of music) called Theme and Variations. 

In Ives' piece the THEME is the main theme  -- the "My Country 'Tis of Thee" melody. The VARIATIONS are those changes to the main theme that Ives makes throughout the piece. 

The overall form of this piece is a theme and 6 variations

Charles Ives wrote this piece for pipe organ - although over time it has been arranged for band and orchestra as well. 

Listen to the piece -- can you hear the main theme?  Can you hear the variations?

( Hint:  The first variation begins at 1:46. )

This piece is SUCH FUN!  Just watch the organist explore the possibilities of sound on the organ and you will be delighted!

Now, how about a different arrangement of the same piece? This time - a symphony orchestra!


In our SQUILT LIVE! lessons for the end of June, 2018 we explore this piece in greater depth - following a listening map to learn where the variations begin and end, characteristics of each, etc...

Draw What You Hear

As your children listen to the music, encourage them to draw what they hear.

They can also listen for the different variations and what makes them sound different - different instruments, major vs. minor, etc...

Some children may want to complete a drawing for each of the variations they hear. 

Let them be creative - the point is to enjoy the music and to think critically about what they are hearing. 

More Music By Charles Ives

Play more music by Charles Ives for your children. Here are a few good pieces to get you started.



Variations on America will be one of pieces I teach about LIVE this summer in the SQUILT LIVE! membership.

We'll spend 45 minutes learning about the piece - the instrumentation, rhythm, mood, tempo, dynamics, and more!

It's going to be a wonderful summer of learning about patriotic music. Don't miss it!

Posted on June 18, 2018 and filed under books, Free Lessons.

John Philip Duck & The Washington Post March

Music and literature can be paired together beautifully.

As we teach our children to appreciate good music, we can engage them with quality literature as well. 

This post is the first in a series of music and book pairings.

These quick, easy (and 100% FREE) lessons will expose your children to a piece of music, a composer, and a story.

Of course, we're always here with music appreciation volumes and our SQUILT LIVE! program to help you give your children MORE, as well.


Music and a Story: John Philip Duck & The Washington Post March

Read the Story - John Philip Duck


This is a delightful story that immediately makes you want to turn on that march music. What a perfect way to learn about The March King, John Philip Sousa.

"Edward loves his pet duck more than anything. He raised it from a baby, and now it follows him everywhere - even to the big fancy hotel in Memphis where he works with his father. Everyone at the Peabody loves to watch that little duck do tricks; why, it can even waddle up and down in time to a John Philip Sousa march, which is why Edward decides to name it John Philip.

But one day the hotel owner finds John Philip in his lobby fountain and he is NOT amused. Until Edward has an idea. What if he can train a bevy of ducks to march along behind him, swim in the fountain all day, and then march out every evening? If Edward can do that, the owner tells him, he and John Philip will have a permanent place at the Peabody. But can it really be done?"

(via Amazon)


Learn More About The Washington Post March

Watch the following video with your children - it uses the first section of the music to give some interesting facts about the march.


Watch this United States Air Force Band perform the entire march. 

Can you move around the room to the beat?

Maybe you have drums or other rhythm instruments to use to respond to the beat?

This isn't "sit still and listen" music - it's is MOVEMENT music!


Draw What You Hear

Give your children this Draw What You Hear Sheet. Have them listen to the music and draw whatever comes to their minds.


Learn More About John Philip Sousa

Use the following links to learn more about the composer, John Philip Sousa:




The Washington Post March will be one of pieces I teach about LIVE this summer in the SQUILT LIVE! membership.

We'll spend 45 minutes learning about the piece - the instrumentation, rhythm, mood, tempo, dynamics, and more!

It's going to be a wonderful summer of learning about patriotic music. Don't miss it!

5 Reasons to Join SQUILT LIVE!

Children deserve a quality music education.

Music represents everything beautiful in the world. It gives us a window into the lives of composers in different eras. It puts us in touch with each other's humanity. It elicits feelings and emotions like nothing else can.

Music is a gift - one that is so very simple to give to our children.

Through Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time, children learn the essential elements of music through listening to beautiful music. They practice the habit of attention. They develop a repertoire of pieces they enjoy and can keep in their memory bank forever.

Children have been using our SQUILT PDF music appreciation curriculum for years. 

Through our simple, effective lessons - that are 100% scripted for the parents/teachers - children's vocabulary of and appreciation for music can be broadened and nurtured. 

Now, we've made things even EASIER for parents and teachers. 

Enter SQUILT LIVE -- where a music appreciation expert (Mary) teaches live, online lessons to children.


Here are the top five reasons to join SQUILT LIVE!


SQUILT LIVE! Makes Music Fun!

Our students are engaged throughout their live lessons. 

Through listening maps, chants, hand motions, silliness with their teacher, and interactions with each other, SQUILT LIVE! lessons are something children anticipate with joy! 

Many times a composer's life will provide interesting tidbits for children to latch on to - such as the fact that Tchaikovsky was afraid his head was going to fall off while conducting, so he conducted with one hand while holding his head on with the other! (I'm pretty sure when children hear The Nutcracker from then on they will imagine Tchaikovsky holding his head on! )

In the weekly email sent out to SQUILT LIVE! parents each week there will be suggested resources, books, and other engaging materials to make the subject come alive for children.

Music is FUN! 

And guess what?  If our children associate learning about beautiful music with fun and happiness NOW, those feelings will translate throughout their life.


This student is moving according to which instrument family she hears during a lesson about The Chinese Dance - from The Nutcracker.


NO Work for the Parent

Wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about this one thing?

A membership in SQUILT LIVE! assures you of this: all lesson preparation and teaching is DONE. Not only that, but it is done by a professional music teacher (Miss Mary) with over 25 years of experience in classrooms, churches, piano studios, co-ops, and homeschool. 

One of the hidden benefits of SQUILT LIVE!, however, is that parents are learning right along with their children. It's a great opportunity for YOU to reclaim your own music education!

These children are learning that the Modern Era of music can be SURPRISING!


SQUILT LIVE! Builds a Habit of Attention

Each live lesson includes an extended period of time to simply LISTEN. 

The children, however, aren't just letting their minds wander. They are listening for the specific elements in a piece of music - things like Rhythm, Tempo, Dynamics, Instrumentation, and Mood.

Even our youngest listeners (ages 3 and 4) are able to listen to 4-5 minutes of a piece of music and articulate their feelings about that piece, whether it is through verbal narration or drawing what they hear. 

How often in our world today do we require a child to sit for five minutes and just LISTEN to something without words?

(I would challenge many adults to do this without becoming restless.)


Children Learn the Vocabulary of Music

Our seasoned SQUILT LIVE! students know their Elements of Music well and can use them in a discussion about a piece of music.

This child is listening to Mozart's Variations on a French Nursery Theme (we now know it as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) and recording her impression about each one of the variations. 

Our Elements of Music posters can be quite helpful to children when learning to speak and write about music, too.


Children OF ALL AGES Gain a Lifelong LOVE of Beautiful Music

Children are sponges, and if we expose them to things of beauty consistently they will naturally crave them. 

We are building happy memories around music - creating a musical culture in the home. 

Just as an adult who loves reading was most likely exposed to books as a child, so an adult who loves music probably grew up in a home where music was valued and appreciated.

These children demonstrate how music from the Romantic Era can be happy AND sad.

Children ranging in age from 3-13 enjoy our live lessons. In fact, the lessons work particularly well with multiple ages sitting around the kitchen table learning together! We provide something for all ages to keep their hands busy and express themselves while listening.

It's a BEAUTIFUL thing.

Watch a SQUILT LIVE! Lesson and Decide for Yourself


Click below to gain exclusive access to a SQUILT LIVE! lesson about Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. This is a fun one! Children following a listening map to learn about one of the most famous Ragtime pieces ever written! 


What are you waiting for? 

Begin giving your children a quality music appreciation TODAY!


Posted on May 3, 2018 and filed under Free Lessons, SQUILT LIVE!.

Classical Music Inspired by Birds

Nature is the inspiration for so many beautiful pieces of art and music.

With spring just around the corner, it's a good time to listen to classical music inspired by birds. 

Whether you share these pieces just for their intrinsic musical value or incorporate them into a study of birds in your home, school, or co-op, we think they're a charming addition to any child's music appreciation repertoire!

Included are a few teaching and listening suggestions and a free printable to make the most of this charming music with your children.

We hope you enjoy this music "for the birds"!

Classical Music Inspired by Birds

Teaching This Music to Children

Each piece below has a few points for discussion. Children can also draw while they are listening, using this Draw What You Hear Sheet.

Children love this activity because it is creative, low-stress, and allows them to actively listen. Of course, we always encourage a first listening of the piece when everyone is SUPER QUIET - thus Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time! Then, the second time they can respond verbally or by drawing.


There are pieces from each of the four major eras of music. To explore these even deeper you might be interested in our Musical Eras series


10 Pieces of Classical Music Inspired by the Birds


Vivaldi - Concerto in D Major ("The Goldfinch")

Listen for the flute in this concerto. Why is the flute a good instrument to imitate bird sounds?



Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, "Spring"

A very familiar piece, your children should easily hear the birds in this piece - can you hear the violins sounding like birds?


Handel - Concerto in F ("The Cuckoo & The Nightingale)

Listen for the pipe organ and how it imitates Cuckoo and Nightingale songs. Your children will also hear a Baroque orchestra and harpsichord. 



Beethoven - Pastoral Symphony

In this video from Fantasia it should be easy to picture the birds (although they are flying unicorns!) that Beethoven had in mind. If your children close their eyes can they picture a pastoral landscape that Beethoven was imagining when he wrote this symphony?




Saint-Saens - "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals

This Romantic era composer was a master at depicting animals! In this piece, from The Carnival of the Animals, Saint-Saens used the cello to imitate the graceful and peaceful movements of the swan. While not actually sounding like a bird call, this does sound like a swan, doesn't it?



Saint-Saens - "The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods" from The Carnival of the Animals

Here's another lovely piece by Saint-Saens - this time he uses a clarinet to depict the sound of the cuckoo. How many times do your children hear the cuckoo call?



Messiaen - The Blackbird

Messiaen was actually a master of musical ornithology. Listen to the play between the piano and the flute. What do you imagine is happening? Messiaen, a 20th century French composer, was known for meticulously depicting birdsong in his compositions.



Vaughn-Williams - The Lark Ascending

What does the word "ascending mean"? Can your children hear the violin music moving upwards? This music depicts the very free sounding song of the Skylark. This piece is a staple of classical music.



Rachmaninov - The Sea & The Gulls

In this musical painting, ask your children if they can hear the sea with the gulls swirling overhead? Can they use adjectives to describe the sounds? Remember, all answers are correct - you simply want to get your children listening critically.




Joplin - The Silver Swan

How about some Ragtime? Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime, wrote this rag, "The Silver Swan". Why do you think it sounds like a swan?


Did you know we offer LIVE music appreciations online for children?  SQUILT LIVE! is a fun way to check music off of your list of the many things you have to do with your children - learn music from an EXPERT and fun doing it! 

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Free Lessons, music appreciation.

Lenten Listening Calendar

Music is an integral part of Lent.

The season of Lent (the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday - this year it is March 1 - April 15) is a time when we prepare our hearts and minds for the death and resurrection of Jesus.

From Medieval chants, Bach's liturgical music, and Martin Luther's hymns - to more contemporary hymns, there is a rich selection of music for the Lenten season.

Just as we can learn about eras of history through music, we can also learn about seasons of the church year through music. 

For Lent, we can immerse ourselves in music that quiets our hearts and minds - music that puts us in a contemplative and peaceful state.  We can memorize hymns rich with scripture.  We can place ourselves back in the early church as we listen to the Latin mass.

We can ultimately be drawn closer to God and his most precious gift to us, his Only Son.

SQUILT Music Appreciation is offering a free Lenten listening calendar.

This calendar includes a piece of music for each of the 40 days and 5 Sundays in Lent. Simply click the link on the day and you will be directed to a piece of sacred Lenten music. 

Also, we will send you a few emails to help you use the calendar in your home. At SQUILT Music Appreciation our goal is to make learning about and enjoying music as simple and low stress as possible!  It's such fun to hear from parents who are using and loving SQUILT in their homes!

I just wanted to thank you for making this available and sharing it for free. I have purchased a couple of your other curriculum and we really enjoy them. I can’t wait to use this calendar with my kids.
— Renee K. - SQUILT Customer

Take ONE thing off your plate. Let us teach your children music appreciation.

Sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee... Or learn with us. 


Posted on February 26, 2017 and filed under Free Lessons.

A Classical Music Playlist for Fall

As we're picking apples, getting out cold weather clothes, and carving pumpkins, there is something else memorable about fall - MUSIC.

Whether it is listening to Vivaldi's Autumn from The Four Seasons, or Grieg's In The Hall of The Mountain King, there is some music that is distinctly for THIS season.

Music triggers our senses and emotions. Music shapes our memories and our lives.

Music puts us in touch with our deepest selves, and for that I am grateful. 

As a parent, there is nothing I enjoy more than sharing music with my children. We play it in the car, while we are doing schoolwork, or during our morning time. Lately I've just been stopping the kids at random points in the day to sit with me and listen to a beautiful piece of music. 

Now is a perfect time to share a few beautiful pieces of Classical "fall" music with your children. This list is a good starting point - and  don't forget to download a free lesson at the end of this post to help you expand on one of the most famously "fall" pieces.

Celebrate Fall: A Classical Music Playlist for the Season - includes a free music appreciation download

Classical Music For Fall

Below are the pieces in the playlist - you can also view the entire playlist on YouTube. 

Our Town - Aaron Copland

This piece - Our Town - by Aaron Copland, transports us to a small American town. I can picture leaves falling and warm family room with apple cider and pumpkin pie. 

Have your children draw what they think this town looks like while listening to the piece.

Aaron Copland is studied extensively in SQUILT Volume 4: Modern Era

The Seasons: October - Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Many people don't realize the same composer who wrote The Nutcracker and the 1812 Overture also wrote a lovely group of pieces entitled "The Seasons".  This piece is tranquil and evokes images of leaves slowly drifting to the ground.

Tchaikovsky is studied in SQUILT Volume 4: Modern Era. SQUILT Music also offers an entire study on his Nutcracker Suite. 

Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) - Intermezzo - Pietro Mascagni

You may think you've never heard this piece before, but you probably have at some point in your life.

If not - you are in for a relaxing treat! 

This  little piece is from the one act opera by Mascagni. The lush use of strings evokes images of the coming of fall.

Listening to this makes me want to iron some fall leaves between wax paper! Or, how about getting out water color pencils or chalk pastels and asking your kids to create their own fall leaves? 

Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saens

This is a tone poem - perfect for Halloween and children.

Danse Macabre or “Dance of Death” is a medieval allegory on the universality of death. It has been depicted for centuries in paintings and poetry. Some Hispanic cultures celebrate it as Dia de los Muertos. It came into being during a time when people in Europe were facing difficult situations like the Black Plague, famine and wars. Danse Macabre reminds us that life is precious and fleeting.   (source)

Older students could research this piece and find out the many ways it has been used in modern culture. Younger students can simply listen and draw a Halloween picture. 

Saint-Saens was a composer from the Romantic Era, a fun era of music history for students to study.

In The Hall of the Mountain King - Edvard Grieg

This piece uses a gradual crescendo to build suspense and interest. It is a favorite of all ages!

Part of Grieg's larger suite, Peer Gynt, this is an essential for any child's Classical music repertoire. There is SO MUCH that can be learned from this little gem of a piece.

If you'd like to expand on this gem, download a free lesson

It includes all listening links, teacher instructions, notebooking pages, and a supplemental activity to the main SQUILT lesson. It's a perfect addition to your activities this fall! 

Download the Free SQUILT Lesson!


Do you have a favorite piece of music for this time of year? 

Take ONE thing off your plate. Let us teach your children music appreciation.

Sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee... Or learn with us. 


Posted on October 7, 2016 and filed under playlists, Free Lessons.