Woven Melodies

Woven Melodies

Woven Melodies is a 36-lesson, multicultural study of musical instrument families. It can be completed in a year with one lesson per week or a semester or less with more frequent lessons. Spreading the course over a year is likely to provide more time for repeated listening to more than 200 songs linked in the study and reading the recommended children’s books. The study seems best suited to students in about fourth grade through high school. It should work great as a whole-family study, even if children below fourth grade only listen to music and look at the illustrations.

This PDF course consists of a teacher guide, a student workbook, and instrument flashcards. You will want to use the teacher guide in digital format so you can click on the links, but you need to print out the student workbook and flashcards. All three components are beautifully illustrated with watercolor and ink.

The design of the study reflects influences of both Charlotte Mason and Montessori methodology with the inclusion of the beautiful illustrations, narration and dictation activities, copywork, listening and responding to the music, and open-ended questions. Along the way, students learn many vocabulary words, label illustrations of instruments, and play a memory game with the flashcards. Optional children’s books related to the instruments and composers are recommended.

Lesson Layout

The 36 lessons are divided into 12 units, each centered on a musical instrument family and featuring a composer. The three lessons in each unit follow the same pattern. The first teaches about the instrument. The second introduces a composer who is associated with the instrument. The third expands into related history and geography and explores variations of the instrument. I’d recommend having a globe or world map handy as you work through this study to point out countries as they are mentioned. YouTube® links in every lesson provide opportunities to watch and listen to a huge variety of music.

The topics of the 12 units are the mandolin, the drum, the harp, accordions, the piano, wind instruments, the guitar, the banjo, bagpipes, horns, the sitar, and bowed instruments. I’ll describe the three lessons on the mandolin to give you a better idea of how the lessons work.

The first lesson describes the many shapes of mandolins and explains features it shares with guitars and violins. We learn about closely related instruments—the lute being the historical instrument from which the others developed, the oud that is played in the Middle East today, and the balalaika that is played in Russia. Two links take students to mandolin performances, and there is one link each for the oud and the balalaika. This information will be read and shared with students from the teacher guide. (Teens can read directly from the teacher guide and work independently.) Both the teacher and student books have a full-page illustration of a mandolin with labels of its parts such as tuning pegs, sound hole, bridge, and strings. Student workbooks have both the labeled image and an unlabeled image with blank lines. Four vocabulary words are introduced: fret, tremolo, vibrato, and melody. Students hear these words used but are not asked to define them until the third lesson.

The second lesson highlights Chris Thile, a homeschooled Grammy-award-winning artist. The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling allowed him to develop his musical talent at an early age. Five links take students to music created or played by Thile, ranging from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor to bluegrass and funk. The student workbook begins by asking students to write or narrate what they know about Thile in the box provided on the page. Suggested questions to answer in their narration are included. Three more questions, such as “How would you describe Chris Thile when he plays his music?”, are followed by blank lines (p.7).

The third lesson, “Mandolin music around the world,” shows how mandolin music sounds in Italy and Greece and includes links to two performances from each country. The student workbook page for this lesson asks students to draw their favorite type of mandolin and explain why they chose it. (Both the teacher guide and the flashcards include images of a mandolin, an f-style mandolin, a balalaika, and an oud.) Finally, students are given space to define the four vocabulary words through writing, dictation, or narration.

One copywork page per unit is included at the back of the student workbook along with a glossary. The teacher guide has the glossary and the list of more than 100 recommended children’s books, such as three for the unit on the mandolin: Feraj and the Magic Lute: An Arabian Folktale by Ann Malaspina, The Lute Player: A Tale from Russia by Suzanne I. Barchers, and The Lute’s Tune by Gina Freschet. The list includes a lengthy section of “General Music” recommendations that might be read at any time. The teacher guide also has a QR link to a Spotify playlist featuring the music of the 12 highlighted composers. This provides families with several ways to expand each unit as they wish.


I love the way Woven Melodies combines the beauty of music and art in this truly multicultural study of instruments and composers.

Pricing Information

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: high
  • Learning Environment: all situations
  • Grade Level: grades 4-12
  • Educational Methods: real books, music, multisensory, highly structured, game, drawing activities, creative activities, auditory
  • Technology: PDF, online, video
  • Educational Approaches: traditional, Montessori, eclectic, classical, Charlotte Mason
  • Religious Perspective: secular

Publisher's Info

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