Art in Your Homeschool
Is art education the unsolved mystery in your homeschool? It is for many moms—but it doesn’t have to be if you teach art the Charlotte Mason way!
Albert Einstein said,
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression.”
Charlotte Mason believed art should be a staple in every child’s education, and she explains a simple way to make it easy and effective when she writes:
“There must be knowledge … not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced that is, children should learn pictures line by line, group by group, by reading not books (about art) but the pictures themselves.”
It’s vital we regularly expose our children to beauty, especially in this world where their senses are constantly bombarded with unlovely and sometimes evil images.
Making art a part of our children’s education hones their appreciation for the beauty and order God created in this world. It awakens centers in the brain that are often left neglected in today’s education.
Ms. Mason felt there are two parts to art education: Appreciation and Expression. Let’s explore these two concepts.
Charlotte Mason believed children should be exposed to the great creative works and also the great Masters of those works.
That’s a completely doable task.
After choosing your artist and gathering several of his important works, follow this simple method of understanding and appreciating the Master and his art:
- Begin by imparting interesting biographical information about the Master. Have your children narrate back or give a presentation on what they learned about the artist.
- Put the artist’s work in front of your children. Use a large art book or a poster of the piece you are studying. These can be obtained fairly easily on Amazon.com.
- Have your children carefully observe the artwork. Prompt them to look for color, shapes, textures, themes, people and objects. Have them identify what the artist included in the work and how these elements show the artist’s uniqueness. (Every artist has his own style with objects and colors that seem to always show up in his work.)
- Discuss with your children what they observed. Ask them to commit to memory as much as they can about the piece.
- Let them study it for about four minutes then take it away. Ask them to recall as much as they can about what they saw. As your children recollect the mental picture of the work, it will begin to imprint on their brain. They’ll get a clear image in their mind that will move from their short term into their long term memory.
Using this method, your children will be able to easily not only remember the specific piece but identify other works the artist created. (And you will too!)
You can also create games surrounding the work. Ask your children how many legs were in the picture (be sure to count animal legs). Ask them how many things were painted with a certain color. You can also test them with questions such as: What color was the boy’s shirt? What color was the horse? Have your children ask you questions. This makes the game a fun family affair.
Make art appreciation a fun, interactive adventure to create a love for art.
Charlotte Mason believed every child has artistic expression within.
After exposing your children to the Master and his work, have them recreate the art piece.
- First, have your children do a line drawing of all the elements in the piece: the landscape, people, buildings, and objects. This increases the retention of the masterpiece they studied.
- Next, have them copy the masterpiece using pastels, watercolors, or the medium of choice. Many of the great artists learned to paint this way. They would frequent the art museum to study and copy the works of others. Sometimes they would apprentice a great Master, making paint and running errands while copying their method and paintings. When your children recreate great works of art, they are doing what the Masters did!
- Consider using an art technique resource like Discovering Great Artists or National Gallery of Art Activity Book. These books take the student from appreciation to expression with instructions on ways to mimic an artist’s technique or implement other art expressions based on the work.
Teaching art without support can be overwhelming and cause art education to go by the wayside.
Here are a few of the materials I loved for teaching art:
- Drawing lessons- You can buy a book or an online tutorial subscription. I recommend You ARE an Artist! by Chalkpastel and Mark Kistler for high quality art instruction. You ARE an Artist! has pastel lessons that coordinate with Apologia’s Young Explorer Science Series. Charlotte Mason highly recommends using chalk pastels. No matter what books or programs you choose, drawing lessons will help to develop your children’s confidence in art expression.
- High quality art supplies- One powerful thing I remember Charlotte Mason recommending when I was researching art education was to buy the best quality art supplies possible because your children deserve the best. I’m glad I took her advice! I promise your children will love art so much more if you provide them high quality supplies to create with. The colors are easier to work with and look vibrant on the page. Your children will love looking at what they are creating and your investment will add richness and longevity to all their works.
Here are some suggestions for getting started on building your art supply collection. If cost is a concern, begin with one set of colored pencils and one set of watercolor pencils. (Be sure to watch tutorials for using each of these art mediums.)
Artist Quality Soft Core Wax Colored Pencils
Winsor and Newton Professional Quality Watercolor Paints 12 Colors
Winsor and Newton Professional Quality Watercolor Paints 24 Set
Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils
Winsor and Newton Artist Drawing Paper
Winsor and Newton Acrylic Paints
Winsor and Newton Pastel Set
Princeton Paint Brush Set
Winsor and Netwon Cotman is lower quality and will not yield the same results as professional. But if price is a barrier, these will do to begin your watercolor journey.
Winsor and Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint 12 Colors or the Floral Set
ART IN NATURE
Charlotte Mason suggested every child keep his own hard bound nature journal. A child’s nature journal should be of the highest quality as it will become a treasured keepsake for generations. Ask the children to begin by lightly sketching out their drawing in the journal so they can erase and redraw to make it like they want. Then they can fill in the colors with pencils or watercolors. The best nature journals can be found here.
ART IN ACADEMICS
Charlotte Mason recommends using creative expression in academics, especially history and science (of course this is why I added artistic activities in my science curriculum).
Creating art helps children transfer what they’ve learned from their short term to their long term memory.
When they spend time thinking about, mulling over and considering how to use the new knowledge to create something, they’ll enjoy the lesson much more and will experience a deeper love of learning.
Encourage your children to creatively express their learning in every subject.
Allow them ample time to express their school work and learning through art. You’ll look back and realize it was one of the greatest ways to take their knowledge and love of learning to the highest level.
Your children will be changed on a deep level through regular exposure to art.
You don’t have to do art every day. Just have a goal to consistently keep art a part of your children’s education. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to do that!
For more on teaching the Charlotte Mason way go here.
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