Although music is not a required subject for some homeschoolers, many parents are choosing to include some form of music education in their curriculum. Many studies suggest that this is a wise decision, for the study of music may have a positive influence on concentration, confidence and many other critical components of development.
It is not necessary for parents to be expert musicians in order to introduce music to their homeschooled children. In fact, it can be wise to start with a basic, straightforward approach like playing some classical music around the house and during school hours.
Of course, the world of classical music is vast. How is a parent supposed to choose which pieces are worthy of listening and study when they have trouble differentiating between Bach and Stravinsky?
Prodigies Music has put together this list of timeless and fascinating classical pieces that actually are fun for homeschooled kids and their parents to listen to and study. We’ve also added our thoughts as to why it’s crucial for kids to be introduced to classical music at a young age.
Of course, there’s no need to take our word for it. You will find that there is any number of scholarly studies pointing out the advantages of listening to classical music.
How Children May Benefit from Listening to Classical Music
A review conducted by the Institute of Education at the University of London concluded that playing classical music for children enhanced the listeners’ ability to concentrate and their self-discipline. Teachers in London schools who participated in the music education programs noted that their students’ musical knowledge, attentive listening skills and language skills all improved as a result of studying classical music.
These advantages include:
- Better concentration
- Enhanced listening skills
- Improved language abilities
- More advanced problem-solving skills
When children are introduced to classical music, they may be surprised by how familiar some of the melodies are. This is because classical music has been used as the score for countless cartoons. Accordingly, kids and parents may discover that classical music is more accessible than they imagined.
Music Has an Effect on the Brain
Studies have shown that listening to any music can stimulate different regions of the brain. However, classical music, in particular, is believed to alleviate depression and physical pain as well as simply making people feel more peaceful.
Even more benefits may be gained by kids who play music in addition to listening to it. Because playing an instrument requires the simultaneous use of both hemispheres of the brain, it strengthens the corpus callosum, the structure that joins the two hemispheres together.
The better developed the corpus callosum is, the better the communication is between the two halves of the brain. This results in better problem-solving skills.
With the ability to:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Evoke emotions
- Calm hyperactivity and
- Boost to brainpower
it’s easy to see why listening to classical music frequently is recommended by education experts.
30 Classical Music Pieces for Your Homeschooler
Accessing and playing recorded classical music is easier than ever these days. Of course, having a CD gives you plenty of options. Don’t hesitate to use other sources such as YouTube, which has recordings of thousands of classical pieces. This enables you to listen to your selections anytime, anywhere with the aid of an electronic device and some Bluetooth speakers.
1. Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens
Composed in 1886 and consisting of 14 movements, it takes just 25 minutes to listen to the carnival in its entirety. Saint-Saens actually resisted the public performance and publication of this work during his lifetime since he had only composed it for fun.
Called a “symphonic fairy tale for children,” Prokofiev’s composition was written in 1936. A narrator tells the classic story of Peter and the Wolf, which is accompanied by a full orchestra. Your kids will love the opportunity to identify each character by their representative instrument.
3. Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
A set of four compositions originally for the violin, it isn’t necessary to listen to all of the movements to enjoy the composer’s work. The Spring movement is most-often cited as the concerto that is not to be missed. However, it’s always fun to listen to each season in succession to see how the tones change.
4. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Whether from ballet performances or movies, many kids are already familiar with the story of The Nutcracker, and much of the music is familiar too. The entire work is about one and a half hours in length. If that takes too much time, choose certain famous selections such as the Russian dance, the dance of the Sugarplum Fairy or the Waltz of the Flowers to capture your kids’ imaginations.
5. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten
Britten’s 1945 composition is a fun introduction to the instruments of the orchestra. Listening to this piece today is a wonderful way to begin to distinguish the varied sounds of a classical symphony.
6. Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner
Is there anyone who isn’t familiar with Wagner’s most famous piece? Composed in 1854, Valkyries is just as powerful today.
7. Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Composing for a piano and jazz band in 1924, Gershwin created one of the most memorable and indelible of American instrumental works. Ask kids to describe the different feelings that are evoked by each movement.
8. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg
From film and television to pop music and video games, this 1875 work has cropped up everywhere. Listening to the full piece will demonstrate why this composition remains popular.
9. Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Composed for a 1910 ballet, it’s fun to contrast how classical music changed from the 16th and 17th centuries to the 20th.
10. Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
Studying this piece reveals how music is capable of evoking powerful emotions. A 1936 composition, Adagio always brings a passionate response.
11. Carmen (Overture) by Georges Bizet
A single piece within a larger work, this is another one that the whole family will readily recognize. Use it as a gateway to explore other movements in the work.
12. Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven
This iconic work features the perennially famous da da da dum intro that many have referred to as fate knocking on the door. What does it sound like to your students?
13. Marriage of Figaro (Overture) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
From Mozart’s comic opera, the overture is well-known and likely familiar to your whole family. It’s a piece that your kids will love dancing to.
14. Messiah (Hallelujah Chorus) by George Frideric Handel
Proving that classical music also celebrates the voice, this glorious piece is famous for good reason. It’s also an excellent work for combining with a history lesson.
15. Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms
Part of a set of 21 Hungarian themes composed in 1879, this is an energetic work that’s perfect for helping your students work off some excess energy.
16. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
Frequently played on an organ and evoking a spooky atmosphere, this famous piece demonstrates how music can create a mood.
17. Symphony No. 94, 2nd Movement by Joseph Haydn
Also called the Surprise Symphony, this movement features a sudden strike on the kettledrum during an otherwise soft and melodious piano piece.
18. The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughn Williams
This short piece is so evocative of a bird’s flight that it’s impossible not to picture a lark riding the wind while listening to it. See how it stimulates your children’s creativity.
19. The William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Even if they’ve never heard of the Lone Ranger, your kids are bound to recognize and love this iconic piece.
20. Rodeo by Aaron Copland
For kids who are fascinated by the Old West, Copland’s masterwork is a dream come true. Choose to listen to one movement or all five. This work will have the whole family dancing.
21. West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein
Whether you listen to a Broadway cast album or an orchestral rendering, there’s no denying the brilliance of this work. Consider combining this work with a study of Shakespeare.
22. The Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach
A series of six instrumental works, this is one of the best examples of Baroque-era music. It was written in approximately 1721, but a series of mishaps had it lost to history until 1849.
23. Fur Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven
The Elise of the title is lost to history, but this fun, simple melody is known to people far and wide.
24. The Blue Danube by Johan Strauss II
A melodious 1866 waltz, this is a timeless and familiar piece.
25. Bolero by Maurice Ravel
This Spanish-flavored ballet music is thrilling, and it’s built on a single theme.
26. The Planets by Gustav Holst
If your kids are fascinated by astronomy, they will love this seven-movement piece that celebrates the solar system.
27. Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Lovers of The Arabian Nights stories won’t be able to resist this captivating work.
28. Jazz Suite No. 2 by Dmitry Shostakovich
The entire suite is delightful, but pay particular attention to movement number five, the Little Polka.
29. Pomp and Circumstance March by Edward Elgar
This dignified, powerful tune will inspire movement in any child.
30. Water Music by George Frideric Handel
Calming and contemplative, this is the soundtrack for peace and relaxation.