Composer Study: Ludwig van Beethoven
Adding “composer study” to our school subjects was really a no pressure way to expand our learning simply by being intentional. I enjoy listening to classical music, and it’s so easy to help my children become familiar with great composers just by choosing a composer for the month and listening to his music at least once a week. I tell them the composer’s name, and then we listen to the music and occasionally talk about what it sounds like. If that’s all we do, great. However, for some of the uber-famous composers, there are lots of other great ways to help all of us learn more about the composers’ lives and music, so I like to take advantage of those as well.
Last month we studied one of the “giants” of classical music: Ludwig van Beethoven, and there were a LOT of resources available. Here’s a list of some of the things we enjoyed as we learned about this incredible artist.
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs from Classical Kids (also the book and DVD)
- Classics for Kids episodes on Beethoven
- Beethoven for Children CD
- My First Classical Music Book section on Beethoven
The boys got a kick out of several pieces from the Beethoven’s Wig series, where silly lyrics are put to the tune of famous classical pieces. (There’s also a book that goes along with the title song, but we didn’t manage to get our hands on it.) All the albums are available on Amazon either on CD or for download. Each album also contains the original song without words, so I recommend buying the whole album rather than individual songs, though I’ve also included links for each one. There are pieces by many different composers, but these are the songs by Beethoven the we listened to:
- “Beethoven’s Wig” (5th Symphony) from the first album, Beethoven’s Wig (this song is available as a free download on the Beethoven’s Wig website)
- “Just for Elise” (Fur Elise) also on the first album, Beethoven’s Wig
- “Minuet for My Pet” (Minuet in G) from Beethoven’s Wig: Sing-Along Piano Classics
- “Beep Beep Beep” (Moonlight Sonata) from Beethoven’s Wig 4: Dance Along Symphonies
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs DVD (also available for purchase from Amazon Instant Video)
- Pastoral Symphony (6th) from Fantasia (I don’t recommend this one if your family is extremely sensitive to nudity. I don’t have a problem with it since it is animated and not graphic. My kids didn’t even notice.)
Little Einsteins episodes that have music by Beethoven (always a favorite in our house):
- “Brand New Outfit” and “The Missing Invitation” both feature “Ode to Joy” from the 9th Symphony
- “Brothers and Sisters to the Rescue” and “Annie and the Beanstalk” both feature the theme from the 5th Symphony. (Every time Elijah hears the opening of the 5th Symphony he shouts, “That’s the Forte Giant!”)
- There are also 2 other episodes “The Christmas Wish” and “A Galactic Goodnight” (both feature “Fur Elise”) that we didn’t have on our DVR so we haven’t gotten to watch them yet.
Books and Other Reading
- We read the page on Beethoven in My First Classical Music Book, a wonderful introduction to music, composers, and instruments.
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs book
- Beethoven for Kids: His Life and Music with 21 Activities by Helen Bauer. The cover says it’s for ages 9 and up, and I would agree. A few of the activities could be done with younger kids, but they’d get a lot more out of them later on. However, I was so drawn into the biography I read the whole thing in one morning.
- When my kids are older, I plan to read Beethoven: The Story of a Little Boys Who Was Forced to Practice by Thomas Tapper, which is in the public domain and can therefore be downloaded for free for Kindle or other ebook readers.
- There’s also a Starfall page on Beethoven
And for grown-ups:
Homeschooling is not just for the kids. I try to did a little deeper and learn new things myself about the subjects we’re studying. So I started practicing a piano Sonata I’d never learned before. I may not do this for every composer (even the ones that wrote piano music), but after learning so much about Beethoven over the course of the month, it made the piece feel very personal.
I also enjoyed watching a couple videos about Beethoven online:
- Keeping Score: Beethoven’s Eroica on PBS
- In Search of Beethoven (on both Netflix and free streaming for Amazon Prime members)
As always, if you have any suggestions of other resources, please comment! I love collecting ideas!