2021-2022 Hymn Study Resources

While my family has focused on many different hymns in the Orthodox Church to accomplish our hymn study goals in the past, this year we are working on learning the Aposticha verses (sticheron) for some of the feasts of the church. These are verses that can go by so quickly during a Great Vespers or Vigil service, but they are so rich that I want us to slow down and consider the words and what the church is teaching us through them.

As our +Archbishop Alexander (Golitzin) (OCA Diocese of the South) recently said, the hymns of the church, and the services in which they are sung, are the way the Church teaches us how to understand the Scriptures.

Since I arrange our hymn study to fit a 3-term school year, with each term lasting 12 weeks, I’ve chosen 6 hymns (in this case Aposticha) for the school year, each of which we will work on for 6 weeks. We tend to do school from August to May and follow a traditional U.S. school schedule, so I chose feasts that would allow us to try to study each before the actual feast is celebrated. (However, if your schedule is different, it is certainly beneficial to learn them anytime.) So this year, we will study:

Term 1A: Aposticha for the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14/27)

Term 1B: Aposticha for the Entrance (Presentation) of the Theotokos in the Temple (November 21 / December 4)

Term 2A: Aposticha for the Nativity of our Lord (December 25 / January 7)

Term 2B: Aposticha for Annunciation (March 25 / April 7)

Term 3A: Aposticha for Great and Holy Friday (this year April 22)

Term 3B: Aposticha for Pentecost (this year June 13)

I have put together an open-and-go resource for these hymns, which includes the how-to of hymn study from my previous post, links to sheet music and videos, notes on the words of the hymns for parents, and plain-text pages of the words for use in your homeschool as well. You can purchase it below (find the link under the file preview images) on Etsy.

The How-To of Hymn Study

I have already said a bit here about how important hymn study is as a part of our Orthodox children’s education, but what you may not know is that, despite being so important, hymn study is not complicated or hard to do.

One of the ways that I try to “automate” the process of homeschooling so that we get into good habits without so much hard work is that I figure out a loop of activities for a subject, and then I follow that loop.

With hymn study, that loop looks like this:

Before we start: I give a copy of the music and words to each student. I have prepared myself by reading over the words beforehand and looking up any references. I look for a link of the music being sung so I can show it to my children. (If you purchase my plans, there are links to the PDFs and to videos of the music being sung already provided).

Week 1: Read the words of the hymn (maybe just the first verse if there is more than one). Discuss the meaning of the words and possibly give a short description of the feast. Listen to a recording of a choir or chanter singing it.

Week 2: Read the words again (or possibly the second verse if there are many and I am doing this with older children. In the case of an aposticha with several verses, we will continue reading one each week). Listen to the recording again and try to sing a verse as a family.

Week 3: Sing along with the recording.

Week 4: Sing along with the recording.

Week 5: Try to sing the hymn without the recording. We usually end up turning on the recording again to check ourselves.

Week 6: Sing the hymn one more time.

If you want to get some more repetition in, you can use this website to make copywork or dictation sheets for your students of some of the words of the hymns.

O Come Let Us Worship

As a Charlotte-Mason inspired homeschool mom and also an Orthodox Christian, I’ve been making up my own plans for the Hymn Study component of our “feast” for several years now. After seeing many people ask questions about this part of the curriculum or more general questions like, “How do you modify x CM curriculum to fit with Orthodoxy?” in different groups I am in, I decided to start compiling what I’ve done here as a place to point people to. I personally feel (and this is backed up by the sayings of the Fathers and also modern Orthodox scholars) that the hymns of the church are the first place to start in acquiring the Orthodox worldview. They are where we find the Tradition of the Church. They are how we see how the Church interprets the Scriptures.

My plan is to post free resources here that include general plans for hymn study for each year, so if you are a DIY-er, you can look up the music and find samples of it being sung on your own if you want that. On the other hand, if you want something that is more open-and-go, you can purchase my digital plans via PayPal here as well, which contain links to each piece of music and to a video of a choir singing it.

If you’re new to Charlotte Mason or to hymn study and would like more information about the why and how, you’ll want to keep reading through this series of blog posts tagged Hymn Study.