Monday, June 10, 2013

Picture Study: art appreciation for your homeschool

I was first introduced to Charlotte Mason at 22 years old, when I applied to teach 3rd grade at Regents School of Austin.  Teaching applicants for the grammar school were required to read two books, one on classical education and one on Charlotte Mason.  The curriculum in Regents' grammar school was a combination of the two methods, and a CM/classical mix remains my personal model for my homeschool.  The Charlotte Mason book I had to read was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  It remains one of the most lovely and inspiring books on education I've ever read.  I taught at Regents for 4 years and all of my favorite parts about the grammar school were the Charlotte Mason-y things that we did.  One of those was picture study.

I mentioned to a friend that we had just done our first picture study in our homeschool, and she said I should blog about it.  I was hesitant, since after all, I'm a rookie homeschooler.  My oldest child turns 6 this week.  We're just getting started! I didn't feel like I had enough experience to really give a how-to on the subject of picture study.  She insisted that my writing about what we did would encourage other homeschoolers who had never done art appreciation to try it as well.  If it wasn't too scary for me, it might not be too scary for others.  Fair enough.

Picture study is a really easy way to do art appreciation in your homeschool.   This little YouTube video from Simply Charlotte Mason is precisely the method I used.

The method is simply:

  • Tell your children the name of the artist and the painting.
  • Display the picture and have them study it quietly for a few moments, encouraging them to close their eyes occasionally and see if they can "see" the picture in their mind's eye.
  • Turn the picture over and ask, "What did you see?" Let them take turns telling you as much detail as they can remember.  Participate and share observations of your own!   Ask leading questions if needed to jog their memories ("Yes! I saw flowers, too.  What color were they?")
  • Turn the picture back over where everyone can see it and see if there's anything else they notice that they didn't remember the first time.  
  • Hang the picture in a visible place for a week or two until you do another study. 
It's EASY.  It's FAST.  We did ours at the breakfast table this morning between bites of cereal and toast.  And my children completely loved it.  They dragged Daddy over to where I had hung the picture as soon as he got home and told him every single detail they could remember.  They were so proud.  

I am planning to do three artists a year--one in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer.  I plan to study approximately six works from each artist, doing a new one every other week or so.  For our first artist, we are doing George Rodrigue, who is local to us, has sculpture in our city park's sculpture garden and a gallery in the French Quarter.  There are adorable children's books about Blue Dog, his most famous subject.  I bought a Blue Dog calendar to cut up for our study of his art.

This fall, we plan to study Monet, and in the spring, Beatrix Potter.  I will probably try this pack of Monet pictures from Dover Publishing for Monet, and maybe just use our Beatrix Potter story book compilation for her, or try another calendar.  We'll see.

There are artist lists on Simply Charlotte Mason's website.  I also reference the curriculum lists from Regents (the school I taught at) for ideas on which artists, composers, etc to study which years.  Their two artists for kindergarten are Mary Cassat and Norman Rockwell, both of which would be so fun to study with young children!  Maybe we'll do them next year!  Their lists are available to the public, by clicking on a grade level under "What to Expect" on the right hand side of the page here.  They try to associate artists with the time periods they study in history, so we studied Greek pottery, Greek and Roman sculpture, etc in third grade along with our study of Ancient Civilizations.  Fourth grade has the Middle Ages, and on up from there.

I don't think you need to associate your art appreciation with your other curriculum, though.  Not necessarily.  It's perfectly fine to choose any artist that you're interested in, source some pictures of their work (or use Google Images to do a picture study on your computer), and go for it!  Ten minutes, twice a month is my goal, and I think that's completely doable!

Anyone inspired to join me?

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