Thursday, July 31, 2008

Picture Study The Charlotte Mason Way

One of the things I always wished I knew more about/paid more attention to was art and artists. As I got older and realized that cultured people knew things about art-- styles, forms, artists, periods, etc.-- I regretted not making it a priority to be more acquainted with such things when I was in school. I assessed that people who were educated and well-rounded should know a little something about all the arts. I even flirted with the idea of becoming an art history major briefly.

For these reasons, I determined when we started homeschooling that we were going to dive into the arts. I had high hopes, as the song goes, but I just found that all things artsy got pushed to the back burner in favor of doing things like multiplication tables and learning how to read. And yet, that whole "well-rounded education thing" kept tugging at me.

This is part of the reason why we are participating in Monday's Artists this year (see the interview I posted on Monday to learn more about this program)-- to guarantee my children's exposure to the arts to whatever degree they want to absorb it. I predict that some of them will love it more than others. One of mine is very excited about art class, the other wants to learn more about music. The point is, they are learning what's out there to choose from.

Today I read an explanation about what Charlotte Mason termed "picture study"-- an easy, no-stress way to expose our kids to great art and the artists behind the works. (I have been reading up and refreshing myself in all things Charlotte Mason as we are preparing for a new school year.) One of the ladies wrote this great explanation that I wanted to share with you here. She makes it sound easy enough that any of us could do it! I love that!

When I first started doing picture studies with my girls, I felt a little overwhelmed because I thought I had to research each picture and tell them all the particulars about it, really "educate" them on the meaning behind the picture, etc.

Then I saw a woman teach a picture study,and I realized that it was quite simple. You tell them ahead of time to look at the picture for about a minute or two. Tell them to remember everything they can about the picture (the people, where they were sitting or standing, describe any animals, the landscape, placement of objects, the colors and where they were located, etc.) because you're going to turn the picture over so they can't see it any longer. Let your children take turns telling what they saw. For younger children, be sure to warn them in advance that you want them to "tell back" what they saw. This process sharpen their attention skills, and they will walk away having an image of the picture in their minds. You could also ask your children to draw/paint the picture because this gives them the opportunity to focus on the details as well.

You can choose an artist to study for a month or six weeks, focusing on a different picture each week. Large coffee-table type art books are readily available at most libraries, as are picture book biographies about the more well-known artists. By investing in an easel stand, you can display the "picture of the week" in your home for everyone to enjoy. At the end of that month or six weeks, everyone will be well acquainted with the works of that artist. Then you can switch to another one!

My girls have gotten excited afterwards when seeing a picture they've studied framed in a store, printed in a book, or viewed in an art gallery. Charlotte Mason's goal of picture study was to help the child increase his attention while at the same time forming a relationship with the picture and the artist. You could read a picture book about the artist and their life or simply learn about the artist's childhood-- something your young children may be interested in at this point of their lives.

Another woman wrote:

I think two good artists for beginning picture study with young children are Mary Cassatt and Grandma Moses. I did those two with my 4, 7, 10, and 12 yr old nieces and nephews who were living with me last year (plus it was the first time I had done this with my 15 yr old son). I found books in the juvenile department of the library about the artists - picture book style for the younger children. I found the Mary Cassatt prints online. I put them on a disk and took them to Staples to be printed as 8X10's for around $1 each.

(I will add to this one that, if you do Grandma Moses, be sure to see if your library has any Will Moses (her great grandson) picture books to read during this time.)

I will also add that it is good to study nature artists like John James Audubon, Beatrix Potter, etc. as you can incorporate a real love of nature and God's brilliant creations at the same time. God pays such attention to the details of His creation, and these artists really showcased those details.

These ladies make picture study sound so doable and relatively effortless that I was challenged to add this element to our school year. I know that not all of you who read this blog are homeschoolers, but this is something easy we can all do in our homes to enrich our lives by interacting with great works and great minds in our everyday lives, having natural conversations along the way and fostering in our children an awarness and appreciation for the finer things in life.

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things."
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Carol said...

Mary Beth,
Have you ever heard of the game Masterpiece? It is a board game that kind of teaches famous pieces of art. That is not exactly the purpose of the game, but when you play, it's a happy by-product.

I bought it as an adult it was so fun. I didn't buy it to learn art. I just bought it for fun. But it would be a great family game that would help your kids learn to recognize some of the masterpieces. I think it is by Milton Bradley. Check it out!

Valarie said...

That's so awesome that you're exposing your kids to the amazing world of art. My dad was a Mason (in WV) and QUITE proud of it. In fact, my momma even gets a little check from them each month now that he's gone. ;-) Anyway, good job mom!!
Sure would like to see ya sometime!!

Kelley said...

I think this is a great idea. I am going to head to the library and try to give my family some culture. Thanks for the idea and info!!

By the way you were right about the Jodi Piccoult book (I'm sorry I read it!). And I was wondering if you have read the Shack? I have heard differing opinions on it and would LOVE to know yours!!

Take care and enjoy the weekend,

LAUREN at Faith Fuel said...

Have your children seen the Beatrix Potter movie about her life? It was really well done. My daughter felt like dabbling in some sketches after seeing the movie.

Megan said...

oh, my daughters LOVE this! i'm surprised sometimes, at how very detailed they can be in their observations- details i didn't even notice, noticing emotions etc.


Jimmie said...

Maybe it's just because of our own natural love of art, but we found that artist study was the easiest CM thing to incorporate into our HS. :-) This year my goal is to add in the Drawing with Children lessons.

Anonymous said...

We enjoyed Mary Cassatt!
We haven't learned of Grandma Moses yet! We'll have to check her out!

Cindy said...

Picture study is something we're giving more attention to this year as well. I really need to get more organized about it, though. Add that to the list! LOL

Have a great year!