I have been really feeling like so many of my posts lately have been heavy, or talking about the hardships and stresses of homeschooling. So I decided it would be fun to share with you how our family does Charlotte Mason-style art study in our homeschool. How we do it, our favourite resources, and what CM-style art study has brought to our homeschool.
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Art Study In Our Homeschool
One of the things that I love the most about Charlotte Mason’s approach to teaching children is the idea that we should NOT spoon feed the information to our children – but instead, present them with ‘the feast’ and let them digest it and do the work of learning for themselves. This is an idea that did not come naturally to me. When I first heard this idea, I thought “But, but…how else do I teach if I don’t lecture? How do they learn if I don’t tell them what the information is?” This whole concept, while it made sense at first in theory, in actual practice – it was HARD. The idea of “getting out of the way”, however, is arguably one of the most important aspects of the CM method.
And it works.
For quite some time, I really balked at anything remotely to do with art instruction. I was the child who, in 7th grade, asked my very sweet art teacher “Can I just pay you from the money I earn babysitting, and you just pass me without making me actually DO any art?”. I was dead serious, and I think I probably broke that sweet art teacher’s heart that day. Nothing makes me more anxious than having to draw/paint/create anything artistically. So thinking about how to teach art and art appreciation to my children, well….it paralyzed me.
However, as I began reading and learning more about the Charlotte Mason approach to home educating, and read what she had to say about art appreciation and how it should be taught – it was finally something I was excited about. And it was when this notion of “let the children make the connections themselves” really started to make sense in my head and in practice.
Our Favourite Art Study Resources:
In the spring of last year, I picked up a Picture Study Portfolio by Emily Kiser, sold through Simply Charlotte Mason. Having this little pre-packaged little bundle of GORGEOUS prints and a handy booklet about the artist – has totally changed the face of how we do Picture Study in our homeschool. If you’re looking to add in CM-style art study into your plans, these are such a wonderful place to start. Our absolutely fave!
We chose to start with Van Gogh because my daughter had already seen and fallen in love with Starry Night – so I thought it would be a good place to start.
I would select one of the pieces, and we would spend a few minutes quietly looking at the print, and then I would turn it over. I’d ask the kids to tell me about it. I was OFTEN taken by surprise at their insights and ways that they’ve connected with the paintings. My oldest, for instance, when we were discussing Van Gogh’s self portrait – said the following: “I think he looks sad, and very tired. And I think he must have been very honest because who paints a picture of themselves looking so sad and tired like that?”
Another resource we have loved is the Usborne Famous Paintings Cards. I had these sitting around for a couple of years, I think, from my days as a consultant a while back. One day, for poetry teatime, I decided to just put the cards on the table. The kids were sort of rifling through them as we read some poems, and then I said “why don’t you guys just pick one you like, something you’re drawn to and share with us why you felt drawn to it?”
We spent over an HOUR doing this the first time – someone would choose a card, tell us WHY they were initially drawn to that particular card – and then they would read to us from the back of the card some little facts about that particular painting.
We’ve accumulated a good number of art study books, and occasionally I’ll just grab one and start thumbing through it. Inevitably I am joined by one or both of the kids, wondering what Mum is doing sitting quietly on the couch with a book. And before you know it – we’re looking at pictures of gorgeous artwork, and discussing the fun facts we’re learning.
Other resources we love:
Art Study Has Brought Beauty and Peace Into Our Homeschool
I have gone from being terrified of even attempting anything remotely to do with art – to feeling excited and engaged as my kids and I explore the world of art.
When I decided to write this post, I asked each of my kids “What is your favourite part of how we do art study here?” Their answers?
10 yr old son: I like learning about the artist – sometimes when I know something about the artist, it makes their art more interesting to think about.
8 yr old daughter: I love looking at these beautiful paintings and they’re so pretty and amazing that I just feel it, I feel like we’re at a famous museum surrounded by beautiful art. I love when we do art study!
I know in the thick of it all, it can seem really difficult to give art study the time and space in our busy schedules. However, it has become – to me and my children – equally as important as reading, writing, and mathematics. It brings beauty, and lightness, and a quiet moment of introspection – and that is always something that should be a part of our days.
Do you do picture/artist study in your homeschool? I’m always on the hunt for new resources to add to our growing collection – let me know what you use!
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