I am a Charlotte Mason homeschooler. This means I believe art is important in education- that we should make it part of our lives. Here is a link for an interesting article about ways to have our children study art.
Karen Andreola's Article "Picture Study" "Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way". Part of this article is freely adapted from an original Parents' Review article written about sixty years ago by E.C. Plumptre.
Thoughts on Art Essays by Cindy Rushton, who says this much better than I could have and gave permission for her words to appear here.
Here are some comments and ideas I use, have used, or sometime have been suggested by friends. At the end you will find an extensive collection of links for museums, on-line art lessons, arts and crafts projects, and catalogs.
This page last updated 9 - 18 - 2002.
The way this was done was to give each child a reproduction to keep. Every few weeks in a term the child would get a new work by the same artist, 6 paintings in 60 days. These were kept in a folder or envelope.
KA lists a few activities to encourage the children. She includes narrating the story of the painting orally or in writing, or trying to sketch it from memory. I will suggest a few more here, and would like to hear some ideas from you.
Put up a large reproduction where it can be seen in normal life. Discuss it when you put it up, then leave it. At the end of a month try some narration. See if the children can tell you the subject, the story, describe the details. Our library will lend paintings for one month at a time. Calendar art is good for this activity, too.
Karen Andreola does not like small reproductions, such as post cards. I do even though they lose detail, and it is more difficult to see techniques. Great detail and technique are not the goal of picture study! A small reproduction has the advantage of being easily handled by a child. You are not going to worry if it is damaged. The child can carry it around, keep it in a notebook or the book they are reading, look at it quietly in odd moments. It becomes personally "theirs". I have many postcards and art card sets from museums.
With all reproductions: look at it hard for a certain time, lay it face down and describe it. Look at it again and see what you missed. Mom or sibs may ask questions-"were there any birds?", "what time of day?", etc..
Older children who have learned some art methods may attempt to reproduce the work in the same media. In a different media. In black and white, if it is in color, or in color if it is in black and white. Younger children may make sketches or simple drawings on the same theme, but should not be allowed to become discouraged by work beyond their skill.
Compare similar pictures by other artists. There are standard themes- compare several different artists versions of things like "girl with a kitten", "the crucifixion", or "mother". Then take some blank paper and try your own version.
If you have a timeline on the wall (I do), take colored ribbon and run a parallel line for the artist's life. Point out a few things that happened in his life and area, or find some if this is a new period. Who are his contemporaries? Place each miniature on the ribbon at the right point in his life, if possible. This will allow you to see changes in an artist's style. With several lines from artists who knew each other's work, you may be able to find similar themes and topics and compare how each used them.
You can play games with small reproductions: concentration, matching pairs by the same artists, or pairs of the themes you have discussed. You can play "Authors" or "Go Fish" with artists, or sets on themes. You can play 20 questions- giving one child one of the reproductions and having the others try to identify it.
Search the net for the painting. Many can be found on-line in various museums. Not every painting is available, but many are. If you cannot find a particular one, try for the artist, or similar paintings on the topic. CAUTION- I would not allow children to do this unsupervised. You do the search first, printing out or marking the sites you will allow them to see. Many legitimate sites will have images most of us consider inappropriate. Much famous artwork came from decadent societies. This is a good topic to discuss with older children, as KA says. How does an artist's work express his paradigm? What do the nude Greek and Roman statues tell you about those cultures? But, this is not suitable for small children.
It is also a good idea to match music to the visual arts. Play the same artist over and over until you are familiar with their technique and themes. Try to find one from the same period as the artist you are studying, possibly even one the artist knew. Read short biographies of the musicians, discussing the particular piece of music. I have an excellent one- "The Gift of Music: Great Composers and their Influence" by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson. I like this one because it tells me which ones were Christians, or what they believed, as well as telling about their lives. It is too difficult for small children, but can be a resource for you or for teens.
Try drawing while listening to the music. If the music is fast or slow, does this affect how you would draw a kitten? Discuss whether the artist you are studying might have been affected by the music they knew.
As KA says, there is no reason for a very young child to know all of the details of the life of the artist. It is good for them to know a little, and to know the story behind the work. It is also not necessary to expose them to all types of art- only the best, and that which is consistent with Biblical values. Cindy Rushton has an excellent article on this which is linked HERE.
Older children should begin to study the lives of the artists intensively. Quoting KA again: "Older children do need to understand how an artist's behavior or misbehavior reflects his worldview, and how that in turn shines through in his paintings. However, it is best to hold off on exposing the sins of an artist you are studying until your child is able to understand that great talent does not always accompany great godliness, and vice versa."
This is important, and should go along with the high school age books, such as Francis Schaeffers "How Should We Then Live?". Teens need to be challenged to consider the world around them, to know how others see it, and to begin to firm up their personal convictions. In fact, this process should begin even earlier, with discussions and Bible studies such as the excellent series in "Christian Manhood", by Gary Maldaner, which is for boys before age 12. If your church is providing this sort of background, or you are working through this sort of thing in family devotions, you do not need a book. Or, you may find one of these to be an excellent guide for the discussions, just as our Charlotte Mason group finds it helpful to work through CM materials together.
Now, what do you think? Lynn B Hocraffer
Here are a few books that can be useful in art study.
Here are some favorite children's titles, sometimes with the artist indicated. These were all discussed on our Charlotte Mason list.
Use caution! Many museums do not consider nudes to be undesireable. I suggest finding what you need for your studies and bookmarking it, or printing it out to give the kids. Don't let the kids surf museums unsupervised!
Crafts links and pre-school art pages can be found in my Parents Section.
Let me know what you think: E-Mail Us!