Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Learning with the Nutcracker - A Holiday Tradition Is the Lesson

A family holiday tradition of ours, of attending a performance of The Nutcracker Ballet, has become a tradition of performing in the ballet, for my teenage daughter. This year was her second opportunity to perform in a production of the Nutcracker. My homeschool plan for her, this late fall season, was to mold this experience into a comprehensive unit study covering; some classical musical pieces and composers, a little western civilization and some Russian history mixed in with her dance experience.

As most home school moms, any parent really, knows, any big idea for family and learning often ends up needing to be scaled back. Way back! The best laid plans....

So I began repeating to myself, the advice I've frequently repeated to homeschooling moms with a new baby "the new baby is the lesson" in an altered version. "The Nutcracker is the Lesson." In the case of a dancers participation in a production of The Nutcracker, it is most certainly true!

Rehearsing for The Nutcracker.

Following are some of my points of proof, of the learning that happens while participating in a full out production of a ballet.
  • First up: Time management. The amount of rehearsals required for dancers to learn and execute their part(s) is extensive. Maintaining a healthy schedule of rest and good nutrition is important in keeping up with the demands. Added to a dancers rehearsal schedule is time scheduled for costume fittings and learning the proper make-up application.
  • Music appreciation and music history. Appreciating classical music requires exposure to classical pieces. We added some research of Tchaikovsky and the creation of the music for the ballet.
  • Research about the creation of the music and the ballet led us into history generally and western civilization. Specifically the late 1800's, the era in which it was written.
  • And it all came full circle with conversations with my mother-in-law. Her own mother had danced in the Nutcracker herself in the late 1930's in Estonia. The connection brought personal meaning and depth to the historical aspect as well as validation to an aspiring dancer. Family history has been, for us, an excellent way to approach and make history appealing to my children.
All of these learning activities happened naturally as a result of planning for, rehearsing in and performing in the production. My plans to use additional reading, writing or listening resources didn't always come to fruition, but the learning happened regardless and the results were delightful.
From the late 1930's a Nutcracker performance in Estonia.

As a mom, I am delighted to see my only daughter pursuing the study of dance. At the young age of sixteen, her journey has already led her through competition gymnastics to this recent opportunity to perform in a local production of the Nutcracker. As a family, we enjoy our tradition of attending The Nutcracker with the added joy of watching a family member perform. For all of us, (performing or attending), The Nutcracker is the lesson.

Siblings and friends enjoy the performance and
support our daughter as a ballet dancer.

Many mandatory rehearsals requires
time management skills.

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