Tchaikovsky and Cannons, Audubon and Flamingos:

Symposium has got to be everyone’s absolute favorite “subject” in our homeschool. It is the one time I get everyone (including the 2 year old) together focused on one purpose.

We listen to music and get creative!

This year, besides lowering expectations, I’ve lessened rowdiness and silliness by buying the children fancy little sketchbooks in which to do their drawings and writings. Sometimes just having new fancy materials is enough get the kids serious about what is going on. (And by fancy, I mean about $7 a piece from Walmart instead of the 70 cent wide ruled notebooks we had left over from binge shopping for school supplies in the fall last year.)IMG_1830IMG_1832

But, you know, it’s been a grand total of 2 weeks. So we’ll see how it goes. So far, though, I’m pretty happy.

I’m very happy.

(Booyah! I did something right!!)

For the first week of school we all gathered in the living room – fancy notebooks, colored pencils, crayons, and markers at hand – and listened to Tchaikovsky’s Festival Overture. This is the 1812 Overture. As I understand it, this piece represents Napoleon fighting against the Russians, whose brute force and even more brutal winters, turned the French running/limping back all the way to France.

My history is maybe a little oversimplified.

I wanted a version of the piece with full choral and cannons – just how Tchaikovsky wrote it (and how I heard it on the radio a few days prior), but Amazon Prime wasn’t coming through. Eventually I found a great recording on YouTube.  Instead of watching around the laptop, we set up our little bluetooth speaker in the living room and listened. Go ahead and listen while you finish reading and checking out our artwork.

I could listen to this every single morning. (It isn’t so great for trying to fall asleep at night, though. Cannons and all.)

The kids’ job was to either just listen and enjoy or draw/color/write about whatever came to mind.

This song, apparently, invokes thoughts of fire, earthquakes, lightning, floods, lava, battles, and dynamite.


5th grader


1st grader





I heard lots of stories about dynamite that week.

But at the same time, my 3rd grader was able to focus a little more on the beauty and grace of certain parts, which translated into flowers, fairies, and peaceful settings alongside tranquil ponds.

And a ghost with ducklings. (Actually, she says it’s a frog wearing duckling printed pajamas and she is a little frustrated that nobody else can figure that out!)


The contrast in artistic subjects may also have to do with the fact that my boys like things that blow up and my daughter doesn’t. As much. I think she secretly kind of likes dynamite, too. 🙂

For week two we focused less on the music and more the work of John James Audubon. Throughout week one I had hung up five Audubon pieces around the house for the kids to organically absorb into their beings.

I don’t think it worked.

I certainly didn’t pay any attention AT ALL to them and I can’t imagine my kids did too much either. But in the end I don’t think it really mattered.

Finally it was time to just play Tchaikovsky in the background and really study our pieces of artwork. There is this whole list of great ways to get kids to observe, study, and then creatively write about various pieces of art.

Day one I had the kids look at the art very closely and try to see all the detail. Then I had them turn over their pictures and try to draw as much from memory into their notebooks as possible.

This was not successful.

Day two I had the kids pick one of the pictures and try to come up with a story to go with it. It could either be a narrative of before, during, or after the scene. Or maybe just a description of the animals and birds in the picture. What are their names? What are they like? What do they like to do?

This was also not very successful.

BUT I did get a great picture of a cowboy riding an elk trying to catch some cows! Here is the original:IMG_2197 And here is the 1st grade reproduction:IMG_2185

I thought the Preschooler did a really good job with the Brazilian Caracara Eagle. (He is only 4 years old, after all.)

And the flamingo was a great success. I have multiple recreations of Audubon’s Flamingo.



After: IMG_2179IMG_2180IMG_2181

The only thing missing is the dynamite.

Maybe I would have gotten more docile drawings if I had picked a song that wasn’t about two battling armies and featured actual cannons as a musical instrument.

But what’s the fun in that?

And for those wondering why I paired Festival Overture with Audubon, it was kind of just random.

But for our purposes we will call it eclectic.

I didn’t have enough brain power left to do anything else but random. I had heard the overture on the radio and thought it was fantastic. And then I looked through the art prints I had ready and Audubon just looked nice.

Secretly I was hoping to put in a plug for our new nature journals (exact same $7 notebooks from Walmart.

(Yes, I bought 8 of them.)

(Yes, I spent $56 whopping smackers on fancy paper!)

And I’m happy to report, and don’t worry, I’ll report in much more detail later, that our nature journals are also becoming a great success!

Thanks Audubon.

And Walmart.

The next two weeks? We’ve got Rossini’s Wilhelm Tell Overture and five paintings by Vermeer.

I’m looking forward to what we’ll get out of those two!