Learning to See: CM and Appreciation for Beauty

I read chapter 7 of volume 3 which discusses “An Adequate Educational Theory”. Once again, a very dull title to an important idea regarding what we should think about when we are “educating” our children. This chapter is so full of thoughtful ideas and statements that it is impossible for me to summarize it all. I highly recommend your taking 20 minutes or so to read the chapter yourself and see what you think.

Chapter 7 Volume 2 School Education

I want to comment on something in this chapter that relates to art and how we as parents need to be offering opportunities for our children to see and experience things in a new way. Here’s a quote from page 77 that I would like to share with you:

“Appreciation for beauty usually comes after recognition. Notice how, from the time he’s little, this young child tries to capture a flower’s beautiful color and graceful form with his own paintbrush. A wise mother is careful to make her child aware and appreciative of stylized art. She has him look at a wild cherry tree from a distance, or a willow tree with its soft *****willows. Then she shows him how the picture on a Japanese screen has captured the very look of the thing without being an exact representation. When he compares a single *****willow or cherry blossom with the ones in the picture, he can see that the pictures aren’t attempts at exact duplication. From an early age, he learns the difference between painting what we actually see, and painting what we know is there even if we don’t see it. He learns that it’s more satisfying to try to paint what is actually seen.”

This learning to see things as they are and not as we think they should be is an important step in art education. It means that we can take time to look deeply at an object and see it as it is and not as our mind thinks it is. The best example of this is when your children try to draw things like human faces and human hands. These are things that they have seen hundreds of times but have they truly “seen” them. This is why young children draw hands with five fingers all sticking out. They understand that a hand needs five fingers on it but that is not what we usually see when we look at someone’s hands. We see parts of hands, parts of fingers, and hardly ever the palm facing out. This is where we see the struggle of the child trying to draw what he thinks a hand should look like as opposed to what he really see. The same thing happens when children draw ears and noses and mouths. They end up drawing the symbol for what they think are these facial features instead of what they really appear to be on the human face. Interesting stuff.

drawing of mom B My son drew this when he was about 5 years old. Yes, it is supposed to be me.
apple seeds B
Notice that my son drew the apple seeds that he knows are on the inside of the apple even though we are looking at the outside of the apple. Interesting.

We need to be able to say, “I see.” This is done by teaching our children to recognize what they are seeing and pointing out how other artists have solved these problems of drawing or painting what is actually seen.

Harmony Art Mom

Right Ideas at the Right Time: CM Education

Charlotte Mason Right Ideas at the Right Time @harmonyfinearts
I have come to enjoy my weekly reading in Charlotte Mason’s writings. I print out the chapter from the book and then sit snuggled up with my pen in hand….gleaning some fresh ideas for my homeschooling and family life. This week we are reading chapter 6 in volume 3 and it is titled, “Examining Some Educational Theories”. How boring of a title is that? I sort of thought this would be a chapter that I just skimmed through and moved on but I found some gems as always.

Here is her definition of education and a little explanation:
“We think of education as the art of making relationships, or, to be more clear, we think of education as the consideration of which relationship are appropriate for human beings and how those relationships can best be established. Humans come into the world with the capacity to make lots of different relationships. We as teachers have two concerns. First, we need to facilitate this by exposing children to the right ideas at the right time, and making sure that children have good habits that will allow them to make the most of their exposure to these ideas. And second, we need to stay out of the way so that our interference doesn’t prevent the very relationships we want them to form.” Volume 3 page 65-66

The three things that I highlighted in the quote are the points that I am going to take away from this chapter. Exposing our children to the right ideas at the right time, instilling good habits, and then staying out of the way so they can make the relationships on their own are the basis of a good educational philosophy. I think that homeschooling moms sometimes want to “teach” their children what they think they should know when we really are just the director setting the stage for a wonderful scene to take place. Our children need to make connections and relationships with the material they are studying.

You may be interested in reading this post: Building Good Habits in High School

Mary Cassatt: An Artist for Mothers and Their Children


From Color Your Own Mary Cassatt from Dover Pulbications

This is the month for viewing Mary Cassatt‘s paintings in our house. As usual, I made our computer’s wallpaper one of her paintings and the boys are taking turns telling me about it.

We read Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artist: Mary Cassatt and had to chuckle at several of the pages. I know these books are not meant to be serious and the boys find them a great way to be introduced to a new painter. I followed up the reading of the book with viewing her artwork online, turning a rainy afternoon into a very enjoyable experience.

The boys decided they wanted to try to do some sort of activity to follow up their online gallery viewing and I just happened to have Color Your Own Mary Cassatt from Dover Publications. This is such a great coloring book for colored pencils or watercolors if you pull the page out and work at a table.

Here are some paintings for you to get started in your study of this really fun artist.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Link to Self Portrait

The Bath (La Toilette), 1891
Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878
The Boating Party, 1893-94
Two Children at the Seashore, 1884

I hope you can take a few minutes this month to share this special woman impressionist painter with your children. She has a fond spot in my heart made by the subjects of her paintings, mothers and children are something I hold dear.

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