“But education needs balance. No single subject should assume greatest importance at the expense of other subjects that a child needs to know about. Math is easy to test, and as long as education is ruled by test scores, we’ll have teaching focused on training exactness and solving problems efficiently, instead of teaching to awaken a sense of awe in contemplating a field of knowledge where perfection lives with or without us.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six, page 231
We have long known that our public school system survives on teaching to the test.. Math, vocabulary, history facts, spelling, reading comprehension, and other easy to test topics have long dominated the public school schedules because they are easy to measure on a test.
As homeschoolers we are in the unique position to change our own thinking and look at our children as people with varying needs and interests. Balancing the more academic with an introduction to things beautiful to the mind and spirit brings a sense of joy to our homeschool.
“Art is a thing of the spirit, and we need to teach it in ways that affect the spirit. We realize that the ability to appreciate art and interpret it is as universal to all people as intelligence, or imagination, or the ability to form words to communicate. But that ability needs to be educated. Teaching the technical skill of producing pictures isn’t the same as appreciating art. To appreciate, children need to have a reverent recognition of what’s been created. Children need to learn about pictures: they need to learn about them a line at a time, and as groups, by studying pictures for themselves rather than by reading about them.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six, page 214
- Pick an artist.
- Pick five or six of his paintings.
- Take one painting at a time and make it your computer’s desktop background by right clicking the image and choosing “Set as Desktop Background”.
Now for the fun part!
“The six reproductions are studied one at a time so that the students learn to not just see a picture, but to look carefully at it, absorbing every detail. After looking at the picture, it’s turned over and the children narrate, telling what they saw, perhaps, ‘a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road all by himself. No, wait, there’s a boy, too. He’s lying at the river, getting a drink. You can tell by the light that it’s morning, so the sheep must be going out to graze in the pasture,’ and so on. The children don’t miss any details–the discarded plow, the crooked birch tree, the beautifully formed clouds that look like it might rain. There’s enough to talk about to keep the children busy for half an hour, and afterwards, the picture will have formed such a memory that the children will recognize it wherever they see it, whether it’s a signed proof, an oil reproduction, or the original itself in a museum.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six page 214
If you are viewing the painting on your computer screen, you can have your child move away from the monitor and finish the narration of the painting from memory. This simple exercise helps your child to begin to see over time the unique style and techniques of each artist you study. A Monet will look like a Monet. A Raphael will look like a Raphael. All ages of children are capable of this sort of activity and all will learn to narrate paintings quite naturally if you offer the opportunity each week for art appreciation.
If you want some help getting started with picture study, please check out my free plans for six week’s worth of art appreciation. Summer 2009 Art and Music Appreciation Plans Everything you need to get started with a study of Claude Monet is included in the plans, even the paintings and links to viewing them online.
“Art appreciation is regarded with a lot of respect, but teachers tend to be intimidated about how to teach it.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six, page 213
Don’t be intimidated. Choose to balance your homeschool day with a little art appreciation.
Barb-Harmony Art Mom