Milton? For Five Year-olds?

I didn’t even like Milton as a 35 year-old. I’m still not sure I like Milton. But recently, in our curriculum from A Gentle Feast (which is wonderful, by the way) we have been given some Milton poems to read aloud together. “At a Solemn Music” was one of the first ones, and it was one I had never read before.

I did my homework like a good teacher and “pre-read” this poem the night before, and I have to be honest, I was like, “What? No way.” I didn’t think there was any chance my five and seven year-old would get anything out of this one. I wasn’t even sure that I would.

But then came school time, and I was out of other ideas, so I went for it with the poem. Trust the poetry, I thought. I gave them some bells to ring every time they heard a word that made them think of music (If nothing else, this will keep them from being bored to tears while I read this.)

Surprisingly, my five year-old and seven year old boys listened through the whole way, ringing their bells with great gusto. Ok, I thought, well that’s easy enough…pretty much every other word is about music.

But then, just for the heck of it, I asked them what they got from the poem (not expecting much more than how fun it was go get to ring bells in the house), and my seven year-old said, “Well, when sin entered the world, the beautiful music stopped because people were separated from God.”

Ok. School dismissed 🎤

Trust the poetry.

{{P.S. here are some of my favorite children’s poetry anthologies}}

 

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The Four Seasons

Let’s talk about Vivaldi! He’s a new found love for me, all brought about by one children’s book.

Ever since I read I, Vivaldi, by Janice Shefelman, I think about the close-call/alternate universe in which Vivaldi died at birth and we never got to hear his music.

There was an earthquake in Venice on the day he was born and it’s also thought he was gravely ill at the start of life. Either way, he was baptized immediately after birth (not usually done) and his mother dedicated him to the priesthood if he survived.

Lucky for us, he survived and he wasn’t that into being a priest. He found a way to compose the amazing music that played continuously in his head — his first orchestra was a group of orphaned girls whom he taught to play his magnificent work.

Anyway, when I read this children’s book (which I just randomly picked up at the library for my kids) it changed my life. I had never known much about Vivaldi, and now I was curious and I started listening to The Four Seasons all the way through and crying.

All of a sudden I recognized “Winter” as the opening theme music for Chef’s Table. I realized I’d heard “Spring,” “Autumn,” and “Summer” as well, from movies or from life. But I had never known before that they were connected to the same person, much less the same piece of work.

Maybe this is something that other people learned at some point, but for me, it was a breakthrough, brought about by a children’s book that gave me one of the greatest musical gifts of my adult life.

I’m a “Summer” person. Which are you?

Speaking of people who have heavenly music playing in their heads! Another artist from the past that I’ve been introduced to since homeschooling (thanks to curriculum ideas from A Gentle Feast) is Hildegard von Bingen. This is a woman from the Middle Ages (1098-1179!! to be precise) who was a nun, writer, artist, activist, musician, and more.

Here’s the children’s book that gave us more insight into her incredible story/life. I highly recommend listening to a bit of Hilde, as we call her now ☺️ and just letting it sink in that  her music is still as timeless and transcendent as it was 800+ years ago.



Listen here: Luka Sulic’s
The Four Seasons on Spotify. He’s the best I’ve found doing The Four Seasons. Turn it up very loud or have it on softly in the background while you read by the fire. 🔥

Listen here: Hildegard von Bingen (various artists) on Spotify. Turn this on shuffle when you want to relax and get a little bit of heaven, too.

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