The Music of Africa: Using the SQUILT LIVE! Archives
I prefer to let the unit study unfold before us and let our curiosity dictate the rabbit trails that emerge naturally, and the archived lessons can be added whenever we’re ready. I know I’ll be able to find something to relate to our topic because of the wide variety of lessons!
This year, my kids and I have been exploring geography - book by glorious book.
Learning About Africa - With Music
SQUILT simplifies my research on how to integrate music appreciation and it teaches the lesson for me!
We watched a lesson on Ghana, Music of the Postal Workers, and learned about rhythm and how music is interwoven into everyday lives in Africa.
We did a bit of music theory work as we learned basic note values before practicing patterns with Miss Mary. We even created our own rhythms after the lesson!
(My oldest son joked that because music is a part of everyday life, I could no longer ask him to stop tapping rhythms on everything. Touche, son!)
My children listened closely and focused in on the details during that lesson which they would not have known to listen for otherwise. We enjoyed the lesson together but the magic happened after their new knowledge had a chance to simmer before being applied through discussion and connections.
Discussion & Connections Inspired by Music
As a family, we were considering how well the The Lion King Broadway represents African music.
My 9-year-old son piped up and said he thought it did a good job because of its use of rhythm. He declared that rhythm is the like the heartbeat of Africa and referenced the lesson on the postal workers of Ghana. He remembered that rhythm is just a part of their daily lives, just like a heartbeat works and brings life, not a performance.
The SQUILT LIVE! lesson on Ghana not only introduced new sounds and thoughts, but also stretched his understanding and helped him make that connection.
That boy was all ears for world music selections from Africa (in the African music listening calendar from the archives). Just as I did with the SQUILT LIVE! archives, I used past monthly listening calendars to find selections from Africa that we could listen to during lunch.
As we listened to the African pieces, my son really started noticing how pattern was used not only in the rhythm but also in the repetition of lyrics.
After reading the translation of the opening lines of “Circle of Life” in The Lion King Broadway he noticed that while the English lyrics were simple and a bit repetitious it wasn’t due to laziness or lack of creativity by the composers. It was instead an intentional choice that was very much in the style of African music and pattern that he had noticed in the SQUILT LIVE! listening selections.
My son’s observation of patterns from the listening calendar led him to draw the insightful conclusion that repeated lyrics combined with rhythmic patterns are representative of what he had heard in African music.
Super Quiet Un-Interrupted Listening Time is a powerful thing and when given the chance, my kids can produce thoughtful connections and insight.
His observation isn’t something that he could have made before our SQUILT LIVE! lesson or listening calendar selections, but rather it was because he was exposed to the wonderful pieces of African music and was given time to pause and consider.
Connections Through Hands-On Learning
Even though my middle son had been sick for a week we didn’t need to pause all of our homeschool. We watched another archived SQUILT LIVE! lesson on Africa. This time, we learned about the kalimba.
(This video is how Miss Mary introduced the Kalimba to the children:)
The SQUILT LIVE! archives are flexible and adaptable to life and situations—I’m so thankful for that! Even while sick, he had such a good time listening and comparing performances of incredibly talented musicians.
I purchased a kalimba to go with the lesson; I knew it would get played often and they are reasonably priced. Inspired by the lesson, each of my kids has tried their hand and each has realized just how hard it actually is to play well!
My 6-year-old daughter has composed a sweet little piece that she likes to play to me. The best part is that not only does she loves to play the kalimba, but she has made the connection that the kalimba is from Africa, giving her a more concrete idea of the place.
My 13-year-old son began his own musical mission. He listened intently to The Lion King Broadway soundtrack, determined to pick out the kalimba in the orchestrations. He is certain he can hear it in a number of pieces, once again making meaningful connections beyond the lesson.
We are hands-on learners so holding the kalimba and playing its keys, learning its sound and listening for it in other music, really brought Africa to life and will be remembered for a long time.
The SQUILT LIVE! archives allowed us to discover world music lessons and we explored the rhythms of Postal Workers in Ghana, the importance of pattern and rhythm in Africa, and listened to the delightful sounds of the kalimba.
Africa didn’t feel quite as distant from us anymore. And when we have personal experience with a subject, the knowledge stays with us because it’s more meaningful.
Incorporating archived SQUILT LIVE! lessons into a unit study not only opens my children's eyes to new music, but it also expands their thinking of how different subjects relate to each other, and they are making connections in thoughtful ways. Plus, we’re connecting with each other - what's better than that?
*The SQUILT LIVE! archives are available to all of our Plus members. Other benefits include:
- two new LIVE! lessons each month
- access to all previous listening calendars
- curated book and resource lists to go with EVERY monthly theme
- SQUILT Goes to the Movies PDF volume
- FREE Meet the Instruments Matching Cards
- Access to the Plus members online community
- access to bonus events including visits from professional musicians, book clubs, lessons for preschool aged children, and more!
About the author:
Lydia Rosado is a partial nomad (a hazard of being an Air Force wife) and
homeschool mom to 4 wonderfully creative kids. She's the curator of her
home library, adventurer wherever God has put her, and a homebody who loves a good nap.
You can find her on Instagram @happilyevercaffeinated sharing
fun unit studies which include creative art projects, good books, and ways
to layer hands-on learning.