Monday, April 17, 2006

Art: Another Reason to Homeschool

This was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Art is frequently sacrificed (other than coloring pages) in lieu of basic skills training in public elementary schools, but in a homeschool children have the freedom to explore art, art history, and artists. I take this freedom seriously. Maybe I just have an obsession with art supplies and need an excuse to purchase more, but doing art with my children just makes me feel satisfied. Boys at scouts and children who visit our home are mesmerized my the options, quality, and variety of art stuff available at our house. They are able to let their imaginations soar by painting, drawing, sculpting, creating mosaics, inventing catapults, airplanes, and boats with balsa wood . . . They all ask, "Where did you get this stuff?" I get to say, "We homeschool, and all this is part of our school." Then, with an envious look the child says, "I wish I could go to school here." Satisfaction -- satisfaction that my children, who are curious about public school, feel that they have a good situation and satisfaction that my children are learning so much without even realizing it.

I didn't have my schooling plans solidified when we began homeschooling. We do a quasi classical/Charlotte Mason/unschooling contortion thing for school now, but this method has evolved over five years . I would have loved to incorporate historical art study with history, but I re-acted my first year instead of planning. I have purchased and used, and purchased and put on a shelf many art resources. I will share some of these so perhaps you will not have to purchase blindly, as I did.
  • We started with Child Sized Masterpieces. These are just sets of postcards, which unfortunately you have to cut apart. The children then play matching and sorting games with the cards. The guide How to Use Child-size Masterpieces by Aline D. Wolf gives suggestions about arranging the cards, care of the cards, and activities. Honestly, I didn't use the book much but I did scan it. I also didn't store the cards with as much care and reverence as they suggest. I used a book ring and hole punched the cards. We do enjoy the cards, even after four years because the artists and art for each set of cards was thoughtfully chosen and you can sort and arrange the cards in many different ways -- by painter, art schools, chronologically, naming the artist. I mostly just leave them on a table and someone picks them up and looks.
  • Art Basics for Children by Rich and Sharon Jefferies is an A to Z guide for art concepts and technique written for elementary age children. A is for apple and the lesson is drawing an apple and shading. Z is for zebra and you learn to draw an animal using ovals. The book is not a commercial publication and is copied/printed in black and white and bound with binding combs. Layout and design is not beautiful, but the information is good and can be used as a resource or an art curriculum.
  • Meet the Masters is my all time favorite. More expensive than many programs, but well worth the money, especially if you are not a seasoned artist. This program consists of a html program on a CD and binder for the teacher. The CD provides a slide show with good resolution art images, some sound bytes, and an ending quiz or slide show for each artist. The binder includes the script for the slides shown on the CD, activity/technique pages, and the instructions for the master work production. My children have produced beautiful works of art(a Van Gogh, a Remington, a Mondrian, and a O'Keefe) and have a wonderful appreciation and knowledge of the artists we have studied. I produced some wonderful pieces, too! Now we must wait for the next artist group, before we can continue with the program.
  • The Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett is an enormous (736 pages) reference volume and is just good to have. It is referenced chronologically which makes it quite useful for the classical homeschooler. The hard cover, paper quality, narrative, and zooms make it a wonderful study and a nice coffee table book. It is well worth the money.
  • Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists Series by Mike Venezia are wonderful paperback books loaded with images, large print narrative, and a few comics. They are just right for the elementary art student, but have enough information for older students. We don't have all of these, but wish we did.
  • Lives of the Artists by Kathleen Krull is a humorous book with short stories about various artists. These are anecdotal in nature. If you can only get one book, this is not it. Though the information is interesting, you don't get a full picture of the artist, the art, or the movement.
  • Looking at Pictures by Joy Richardson is a wonderful introduction to art museums and the role they play in preservation, types of painting, painting techniques, and stories in painting. This is a short book, only 79 pages, but is loaded with information and beautiful images. I like this book and with a practice component or artist study could be the spine of a year of art.
  • Art Fraud Detective by Anna Nilsen is a fun sleuth game in a book, where the child (7 and over) seeks forgeries by comparing the catalog images to the art in the museum. I found all the forgeries.
  • For times when you just need or want to let the children color, The Start Exploring Masterpieces coloring book by Mary Martin and Steven Zorn provides stories about the paintings and somewhat detailed coloring pages. Crayons are not perfect for this coloring book, use markers or colored pencils instead.
  • Online Resources - Try Princeton online Art Lessons. If you don't find what you need Doc has compiled her usual mega-list of resources here. Thanks Doc!
Next year, I will have the chronological classical plan up and running, thanks to Art Smart! by Susan Rodriguez. This chronological plan, complete with slides, begins with the stone age. These activities require a bit more planning and sometimes more real art materials. They are appropriate for the 9 to 13ish group. Making a cave art gallery out of a refrigerator box might lose its appeal with the older children and some of the activities are beyond the fine motor skills of the under 9. There are only 20 activities for ancient art so there is still time for artist study or enrichment of some sort.

I am so happy I get to share these art experiences with my children. Art enriches our daily lives and we have so much fun. Even on those days when structured school seems overwhelming, we can look at pictures, read about artists, and create our own works of art and have that satisfied, a job well done, feeling.

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