Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Zeezok Publishing (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Some time back, the kids reviewed a music appreciation course for elementary age students from Zeezok Publishing.  From that program, my kids have developed an appreciation and love for music by the masters such as Beethoven and Bach.  When we were given the opportunity to review Music Appreciation for the Middle Grades from Zeezok, I was pretty thrilled.  I looked forward to exposing Ashleigh and Garrett to even more great classical musicians.

Music Appreciation: Book 2 Collection includes one Student Book and the following nine composer biographies: 
  • Frederic Chopin, Early Years
  • Frederic Chopin, Later Years
  • Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
  • Adventures of Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray 
  • The Young Brahms
  • The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky
  • Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines

The curriculum makes use of various learning styles making it work well for visual, auditory and kinesthetic active learners.  Using several different components such as journaling, student workbook, the biographies and the audio component (which uses QR codes), and lapbooking (bought separately), students are introduced to the information covered in the curriculum in various ways. This curriculum meets and exceeds the national standards for music appreciation for the middle school grade level.

How We Used It

Over the last few weeks, Ashleigh and I have together been learning about Frederic Chopin who is the first composer taught in the curriculum.  The Chopin portion of the curriculum covers five weeks and utilizes two biographies.

In the student workbook, students will find the lessons that coincide with each composer neatly laid out in a weekly outline at the start of each composers section.   This outline shows what chapters to read in which biography (two composers, Chopin and Peter Tchaikovsky, both use two separate biographies) as well as which activities to complete in the student book that week. 

Each week, Ashleigh and I would cuddle on the couch and pull out the required biography and I would read aloud to her.  We would read the biographies on Monday and Tuesday (if two chapters were required for reading that week).  While Ashleigh's reading is at level, we found that the biography chapters were actually pretty lengthy and was a bit more than Ashleigh wanted to do on her own.   However, the text is pretty large with a bit of space between each line with many illustrations and sheet music included, so even though a chapter might be 40 pages in length, it's still manageable.  On average, it took us roughly 30- 40 minutes to read a chapter and listen to sheet music included in the chapter.

Once the reading was completed, Ashleigh would begin to complete the activities in the student workbook.  The  workbook offers a large amount of different activities - comprehension questions, character qualities, activities for vocabulary, geography, and a journaling activity that all tie into the composer.  Each week also includes an activity on learning to read sheet music, which will help Ashleigh as she is beginning piano lessons.

One thing I really appreciated with this curriculum was the addition of the QR (Quick Response) Codes.  There are codes found first in the music list at the beginning of the book, as well as scattered throughout the student book.

The first set of codes in the music list are used during the reading of the biographies.  Using a QR scanning app on any smart device, the student can simply scan the code that corresponds with the sheet music found in the biography.  Once scanned, they can quickly go straight to a audio recording (found on Youtube) of the music so that they can easily locate and listen to it. 
Scanning the QR Code
Listening to a Mazurka by Frederic Chopin

QR Codes are also used throughout the student book.   These codes bring the student to video lessons such as learning about the countries the composers are from and seeing locations they lived or performed at, as well as about reading and performing music.

Ashleigh using the QR codes to learn about Chopin's Birthplace
One of the many videos found using the QR Codes (showing playing music with classroom instruments). 
These videos can also be found on a website that Zeezok provides in the student book for those who either prefer not to use QR codes but still would like to access the videos and music.  Students can also take an online version of the quizzes located in the student workbook for each composure on the website.

I only have one very minor suggestion for the books (not with the curriculum itself).  The illustrations for the book Stephen Foster and his Little Dog Tray should probably be updated in order to reflect today's opinions.  While I found the illustrations for all the books to be wonderfully done, these books were written originally in the 1940s and times have changed - the depiction of African American individuals might be looked upon poorly and should maybe be revised.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with this curriculum and I am enjoying learning about the different composers and their music along with her. While we are not currently utilizing the journaling portion, I am looking forward to revisiting this curriculum again when she's in 8th grade and using that portion at that time.

#hsreviews #musicappreciation #homeschoolmusicprogram

For more information about Zeezok Publishing and their Music Appreciation (both for Elementary and Middle school grades), be sure to visit their website.  You can also find Zeezok on the following social media sites:

Be sure to click the banner below to read the reviews from the other members of the crew. 
Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades {Zeezok Publishing Reviews}

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