Maestro Classics – The Nutcracker

A few years ago we received Peter and the Wolf from Maestro Classics. We have always enjoyed listening to classical music but I was amazed at how much my children loved Peter and the Wolf. Even more wonderful was how much they learned by simply listening. Today, it is still a favorite in our home.

Was it any surprise when we heard about the newest release, The Nutcracker, from Maestro Classics that we jumped at the chance to review it? There may have been even some stalking of the mailbox for The Nutcracker to arrive. When it finally arrived, there was no delay in listening and enjoying this beautiful presentation of a holiday classic.

The Nutcracker composed by Tchaikovsky (a favorite composer here) has become a Christmas classic that tells the story of magical toys and dolls. In the middle of the night, the toys comes to life, Clara’s special gift, a nutcracker, becomes a prince, and they travel to the beautiful land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. In this one hour production, Jim Weiss, well known for his captivating storytelling, narrates this magical story and helps listeners of all ages enjoy all the action that plays out in this composition. The narration is weaved throughout the music and blends together beautifully.

The Nutcracker is intended for ages 5 and up. However, be warned, those younger than 5 will likely enjoy listening and dancing along.

We have enjoyed listening to The Nutcracker once, twice, and again and again. During lunch, rest time, or while doing school work, The Nutcracker provides for excellent “background” noise. Rainy afternoon and need a bit of exercise? The Nutcracker can be the answer! Heading out to do errands? Perfect time to pop in The Nutcracker cd.

It is possible that my fifteen year old daughter and myself are enjoying The Nutcracker more than anyone. Tchaikovsky is a favorite composer of my daughter and I think the music of The Nutcracker is delightful. I actually have it playing right now and I can’t help but see the toy soldiers in my mind as I type.

While we can simply enjoy the music and narration of The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics has provided a Free Curriculum Guide to enhance the musical experience. Whether used in a formal manner or just for added fun, the guide is a great way to take the music of The Nutcracker into all areas of learning.

Math, Science, History/Geography and other subjects are included in the guide. The guide includes links to other sites that have printables, videos, and other resources. While there is a short biography of Tchaikovsky included in the CD Booklet, I think we are going to use resources from the Music section of the guide to learn more about Tchaikovsky. I debated doing it now but decided to wait.

Why wait on the curriculum guide? We are simple enjoying The Nutcracker! And I wanted to wait until we were a bit closer to Christmas to implement a few of the resources.

As we begin to prepare for the holiday season, this is the perfect time to include The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics.  The music is stunning, the narration is perfect, and the story is ageless. This is an excellent way to encourage your children to not only appreciate but fall in love with the beauty of classical works. They are timeless.

Thank you Stephen Simon and Maestro Classics for another excellent production.

Want to get a taste of The Nutcracker? You can listen to a sample. The Nutcracker is available on a CD or MP3 format. Don’t forget about Peter and the Wolf and the other productions Maestro Classics has to offer!

Maestro Classics Review
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The Art of Poetry

When my homeschool journey began, I thought my biggest challenge would be to teach my children to read. If that was successful, then the rest would all fall into place. Then Algebra loomed on the horizon but with chocolate by our side, Bekah and I are conquering that beast together. The real challenge is tackling subjects like poetry. Yes, poetry. It is beautiful, expressive and sometimes very hard to understand, discuss and enjoy.

However, Classical Academic Press has once again written a resource that takes a subject that can be challenging to teach and makes it one of the favorite subjects in the day. The Art of Poetry takes the study of poetry and gives the students and teacher a framework to enjoy poetry of all forms.

Over the years I have incorporated poetry into our day. Reading aloud poetry and memorizing it is a common practice.  Enjoyed? Yes, we have enjoyed poetry but had never taken it beyond that.  Grammar texts always had a section on poetry that was worked through quickly (or skipped) so we could just move on. The Art of Poetry has changed that perspective.

What is The Art of Poetry?

The Art of Poetry is a literature resource designed for middle school and high school students. Throughout the course, you will learn to read and take poetry slowly, learn the different elements of poetry and understand the different forms that poetry can take. The course is designed in a manner that it can be used in a variety of settings; classroom, co-op, family discussion or independent study.

For this review, we received three products: The Art of Poetry Student Text, The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Guide and Disc One of The Art of Poetry DVD set.

The Art of Poetry Student Text -The student text is sixteen chapters that cover the Elements of Poetry, Formal History of Poetry and Application. Each chapter provides multiple poems to be read and discussed. Mrs. Christine Perrin provides plenty of information to guide your student through the study of poetry. Brief biographies of each poet are provided along with a time line. Questions following the poems really help the student to think through each work; helping them to feel, see and dive into what the poet is trying to express.


The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Guide is an amazing resource of information. As a mom who was not comfortable leading an in-depth discussion on poetry, the teacher’s guide was a must have tool.  This guide contains the same information as the student text, so you can lead discussion easily. In the beginning, Mrs. Perrin covers how to use this book at home or in the classroom.  Timetables of study are given; from an intense month long unit to digging deep over a few years, this course can work for any family’s style of learning. The back of the book contains  a simplified plan for the home; building skills in reading aloud, memorizing, collecting poems. Quizzes are also provided in the teacher text for those who prefer a standard type of evaluation.  A link to online resources is provided as well.  With this teacher’s guide in hand, any parent can effectively teach and share a love of poetry with their students.

Disc One of The Art of Poetry DVD – The DVD present Mrs. Perrin and four teenage students working through the lessons. Discussing the poetry, elements and  such as they cover the chapters in the book.  Disc One covers the material in chapters 1 and 2.  We enjoyed the DVD and listening in to the discussion and gaining a bit of knowledge on how to work our way through the text.  For those who may work through the course independently, the DVD set could be very beneficial in bringing out some points that might be missed without discussion.  It is also very helpful for the parent/teacher who may be new to this style of teaching through discussion.  We found that we preferred discussing and working through the lessons on our own. Viewing the sample online would be helpful to judge for yourself.

How did The Art of Poetry Work for Us?

The Art of Poetry was used with my two oldest children. They were the perfect age for this program; 12 and 14.  To fit into the flow of our day and method of study, we took a more laid back approach to The Art of Poetry.  We gathered on the living room floor and watched the first lesson on the DVD. After finishing up the lesson, we chose an activity to complete (a free write) for the day.

We would meet twice a week to cover poetry.  We kept the lesson casual; reading the poems aloud, discussing and choosing one or two activities to complete.  The teacher’s text was a valuable resource for me in leading the discussion.  It really helped poetry to be an “open and go” subject.

The surprising result for me was who really became interested in poetry. My literature loving writer was not eager for this course and would have opted out if I had let her. My 12 year old daughter is the big surprise. She has loved this course and does not let me forget that we need to cover a lesson. We will definitely complete this study; taking  a slow and leisurely pace.

Purchasing Information:

The Art of Poetry items can be purchased separately or in a bundle depending on your budget and needs.

The Art of Poetry Student Text – $24.59

The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Guide – $29.95

The Art of Poetry DVD set – $89.95

The Art of Poetry Bundle – $124.95

Upcoming Price Change! Starting April 1st, The Art of Poetry DVD set will be $69.95; The Art of Poetry Bundle will be $99.95!!!

Sample chapters are available for each text as well as a sample video at

As always, Classical Academic Press offers free resources online that enhance your study. For The Art of Poetry they have a suggested schedule and downloadable audio files. You can even visit The Art of Poetry Online.

While some of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew joined me in reviewing The Art of Poetry, other families have been using Discovery of Deduction. Make sure to visit the Crew and see how others have used these programs in their home.


Song School Spanish

“a, be, ce, che, de, e, efe, ge…..” or perhaps, “If you are feliz and you know it, clap your hands”….these are just two songs that are being sung by my little ones (and an older one or two). Classical Academic Press sent us a wonderful product, Song School Spanish designed for grades K-3.  We have used a few products by Classical Academic Press in the past and I couldn’t wait to introduce my young learners to Song School Spanish!

elementary spanish

Song School Spanish is a fun, energetic and interactive curriculum that will introduce your young student to Spanish and give them a vocabulary of over 100 Spanish words. We have been using three Song School Spanish items: Song School Spanish Teacher Guide, the Song School Spanish Student book and the Song CD that comes with the student text.  These books cover 30 weeks of lessons (plus review lessons).  Lessons cover topics such as Greeting Words, Family, The Body, Time to Eat, Manners and more! Also included at the beginning of the book is a pronunciation guide, scheduling tips and more.


Song School Spanish Student text provides opportunities for the child to see the Spanish words as they are singing and saying them.  While this is designed to be an introductory course, it is very thorough in its simple instruction. Small bits of grammar are included such as how Spanish is written with upside-down exclamation points or question marks. When to use “el” or “la”, stories like The Three Little Pigs with Spanish vocabulary and matching pictures to the Spanish word are examples of more learning.  The writing required is not too strenuous. It provides just enough practice for copying or writing the language without being overwhelming.

young writers

Review lessons are included in the Song School Spanish student book. The student reviews the vocabulary learned, reviews the songs and are encouraged to put on a play showing what they know.

The text and pictures are in black and white and not “busy” at all. For the child who can easily be distracted, this simple layout is great. At the back of the book are cut outs to be used in various lessons. Hands on activities like making puppets really help to reinforce what they are hearing, saying, singing and writing.

learnign spanish

Included with the student book is a Song CD containing 42 songs that help build vocabulary. Songs use both English and Spanish to help build a connection between the words.  Some of the music utilizes songs your children already know well like If You are Happy and You Know It, and incorporate Spanish into it (If You are Feliz and You Know It). The CD can quickly build that vocabulary! I find myself singing the songs!

Finally we have the Song School Spanish Teacher’s Guide. The teacher guide includes, at a smaller scale, the student pages with answers. This allows you to easily guide your student through his activities and songs. At the back of the book, there are extra review pages for each lesson. While they are great for extra practice, my daughter just enjoyed the pages for  the extra fun.


How Did Song School Spanish Work for Us?

Once I have my older students busy at independent work, I grab Hannah, 7, and Sarah, 5, and we find a spot on the floor and dive into Spanish.  Sometimes Sam, 3, will join in for a bit but I let his interest lead his participation. It is recommended to do 3 to 4 short lessons a week and that works out well for us.  We start our time by listening to the song CD. The songs are fun and we love clapping and singing along. The Alphabet Chant gets practiced often; it is quite interesting with our southern drawls.


Once we sing the songs and go over the chapter lesson, Hannah does a bit of the workbook. I don’t require Sarah to do any workbook writing but she does enjoy coloring while listening to the lesson. We generally spend about 15-20 min singing, talking, writing and coloring. I really like that, because of the workbook, Hannah is learning to read the Spanish. We are enjoying our Song School Spanish time very much! Both Hannah and Sarah ask me when we are going to do Spanish during the week. This fact speaks volumes about Song School Spanish.


Song School Spanish Student Book w/ audio CD: $24.95

Song School Spanish Teacher Book: $24.95

Samples are available! It is so helpful to be able to “see” a product. Make sure to take a few moments and take a peek: Song School Spanish Student Text, Song School Spanish Teacher’s Guide, and samples of the songs are in a zip file you can download.

Other Resources and Helps:

Classical Academic Press has other items to help or enhance your young student’s time with Spanish. You can purchase Spanish Amigo Match ($26.95) which are vocabulary cards that can be used to play games for retention and review. (Amigo Match was not a reviewed item.)

Free resources:

Helpful for me is the Spanish Pronunciation Files that can be downloaded from Classical Academic Press. It can be challenging at times to say a word just right so to be able to hear it over and over is lovely.

Coloring pages for each chapter of Song School Spanish are available for free. You just download and print as many copies as you need. (A favorite of Sarah’s.)  At, students can play an online game called FlashDash that reviews vocabulary.

There are extras songs available for download as well. For those parents who may need clarification or help, they can “Ask the Magister” at and get help from Spanish teachers.

So many great things from Classical Academic Press!

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had Song School Spanish or Bible curricula on the Old Testament. Take a peek at how others used these products in their homes!

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of these products. No compensation was made. The thoughts/opinions expressed in this post are my own.