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Picture Study Tip: Using A Viewfinder

Picture Study Using a Viewfinder @HarmonyFineArts
Picture study can take many forms. Using a small viewfinder will help to narrow your focus while narrating a painting.This is especially helpful when working with younger children who can have a hard time getting started with picture study.

Here are some ideas to try with your viewfinder to get you started!


Using a viewfinder can make picture study easy and not so overwhelming.

Cut a window out of cardstock and use the opening to isolate a section of a painting. Focus on that little section and then perhaps draw it for your notebook.


This painting by Gauguin that I printed out in 8″ by 10″ size has a lot of things going on to narrate about. Sliding the viewfinder over the painting, find a view that is interesting. The viewfinder helps isolate specific areas of the painting to observe and then to recreate in your notebook if you want to.


By moving the viewfinder, you get a different section of the image to enjoy and focus on. Here you can see the blue palm tree. This viewfinder is four inches square and I cut it out of a large index card.


This is the same Gauguin painting but this time you see the woman and her horse using the rectangular viewfinder. This rectangle is 4 1/4″ by 2 1/2″, but you can vary your size to fit your needs. I used cardstock to make this one.


How about this famous painting by Grant Wood? You can use the viewfinder to capture just one section to study and then narrate about either in words or in your sketchbook.

For a challenge, use a small square viewfinder and try to copy exactly what you see through the opening. This opening is one inch square and made with a regular index card.

I use a Post It Note tab (the red tab) to hold the card in place while the kids sketch what they see in the opening.


This is not as easy as it seems. This Picasso eye has a lot of shapes and colors to copy but it is a fun exercise. (The sketch on the right was done by my son when he was five.)

This is a great way to add some variety to your art appreciation. Use the viewfinder to help your child get started with picture study.

You can see more picture study ideas in this post: Art Appreciation-A Starting Point.

True Confessions: No Formal Latin in Our Homeschool

Shhhhh…don’t tell the Classical Homeschooling Police! We have not been able to complete a formal study of Latin. It is not because we didn’t several times give it an honest to goodness try, but I just did not have the energy to power through and make it work.

We tried two different programs to learn Latin. We got a little farther with the DVD program, but we still were not able to stay motivated. I know I had a bit of a bad attitude about Latin and at some point I made the decision to set it aside and learn Spanish instead. I thought in our family that Spanish would be more applicable and practical. It was a great decision.

We have not totally ignored all Latin. We have enjoyed two programs that are giving us a taste of Latin by studying the roots.

English From the Roots Up:
We started off with the book and the cards but what has endured to the end are the cards. We took these very slowly, discussing and learning each root one at a time. When I say slowly, I mean it has taken us four years to cover the box of one hundred Latin and Greek roots. We just finished our very last card this week and I can honestly say that both boys know *every* Latin and Greek root in this set.

The cards give simply the root on the front and the definition with examples of words on the back. I love things that are that simple.

We use the cards each week to drill the roots into our memory. We play simple games with the cards if we have some extra time during the week. We study five minutes a day, four days a week.

  • Quiz each other: I give the root and they give the meaning or I give the meaning and they give the root.
  • Speed: Use a stopwatch and see how fast we can get through the cards we know.
  • Made Up Words: Use the roots to make up new words, mixing together funny combinations.
  • Matching: Many of the roots are given in Greek and Latin. I give them the Latin and they tell me the Greek or vice versa.


    Vocabulary from Classical Roots:

    This series of workbooks has helped us tremendously with our vocabulary. These books are meaty in content and they assume some level of sophistication to begin with. The pages are not colorful or full of illustrations. They have helped our skills in recognizing Latin and Greek roots in new words and thus giving us a pretty good idea of what the word means.

    I highly recommend that you view the samples on the website for the various levels before purchasing your workbook. The link to the samples is on the right sidebar of the website linked above.

    Here is a link to Lesson 2 in book A: Sample

    I admit that I did not use all the suggestions for activities in the Teacher’s Guide. Both my boys work on these independently and I only help them review from time to time. They have 15 minutes per day allotted in their high school schedule to work on the lessons. They complete a lesson every week with a test on Friday.

    I feel very good about what we have accomplished. Setting aside Latin, it freed us up to take our time to learn the roots and then apply them in our other schoolwork and in the vocabulary workbooks. Both my boys like words so they actually enjoy the workbooks.

    Sidenote: We muscled our way through Science Roots during our biology study last year. I found the program a little overwhelming to try to accomplish in one year. If I could have a “do over”, I would have started the Science Roots program when they boys were in middle school so they would have been ready for all the vocabulary in their biology study.

    Organizing Literature: High School Level


    Can I just give myself a big whoop and holler? Wahoo!

    Another year of high school nearly under my belt and I am feeling great. Wahoo!

    Sometimes you just need to rejoice about the place you are in life.

    I have been writing a lot lately about high school and Tapestry of Grace and Charlotte Mason. I feel so impelled to share our experiences with everyone as we go through the process. I know from my email that there are those that are listening and participating in the discussions and I love that.

    This time I wanted to share how we have made literature study a success in our family using TOG and Charlotte Mason’s ideas. I don’t think I have it all figured out but it is going fairly well for us at this point.

    Literature is probably the hardest subject for me to share with my boys in high school. With that thought in mind, I pick the literature that we will cover carefully.

    Formal Literature:
    Slow reading of books has become the foundation for our literature study. We read several books at a time and alternate days. We get the same amount of pages read over the long run but each book is sliced into bite size pieces.

    • We use three sources for our literature study. I start off with the Tapestry of Grace book list, eliminating books we have read already or we don’t think will be a good fit for our family. 
    • I consult the Ambleside Online year we are working in and pull books from their lists as well to substitute for the books we eliminated from TOG. 
    • Then I browse our home library for books that I would like to include for the year. This year we pulled in additional Shakespeare and additional poetry. 
    • I sort the books by terms and then add them into Homeschool Tracker. It really is not a difficult process at all and it gives us a customized literature list just for our family.

    These books are read and shared together each week at our Friday meetings. The boys keep Commonplace Books for most of their literature but sometimes I pull an idea from TOG and we go a little more in depth. I make sure to cover literary terms with the boys each Friday at our meetings. We did use TOG’s story analysis document from The Loom to learn how to do a little more formal study of a few books. We also enjoyed using the Loom’s Author Index to learn more about each author before reading the books. ( I will share our general ideas for covering literary terms in an additional post…I have a pretty good system going on for the boys.)

    Free Reading:
    In addition to the books, plays, and poetry that I assign as part of our weekly homeschooling plans, I have what I refer to as free reading books.

    These are books that I decided the boys need to read as a matter of general knowledge and for enjoyment. They may be additional books by authors we read during our formal literature time or books we just cannot fit into our busy school schedule. They can read and enjoy with no narrations unless they want to share thoughts with me or other family members.


    I make a list and put it in the front of their literature binder and they keep track of when they start and finish each book on the list. They use these books as a way to fill in extra time during their day, on road trips, in the evenings, over the winter and spring breaks, or during their free afternoon time. The only “rule” is that they have to have one book started at all times.


    I have all the books lined up on a shelf in our school area and they can be read in any order. All books are unabridged and usually older copies that I have collected over the years.

    Sample list of books that are to be completed by the end of grade 9:
    Robinson Crusoe
    Kidnapped

    Treasure Island

    Captain Courageous

    House of Arden

    Oliver Twist

    Cricket on the Hearth

    The Prince and the Pauper
    Little Men
    Animal Farm

    Rob Roy

    Book of Three
    Lorna Doone
    The Time Machine
    by H.G. Wells
    Count of Monte Cristo
    Invisible Man

    I have a hard time remembering which of my children have read which books in the past so they are allowed to come to me and tell me that they already read a book and I will cross it off the list. Also, they are allowed two books to “skip” if they are really not enjoying them. They have to give the book a chance by reading at least two chapters but I am not trying to make free reading a lesson in obedience. I want it to be enjoyable.

    So far, they both have opted to skip Rob Roy because they were having trouble with the dialect. Mr. A does not especially like Dickens’ style of writing so he opted out of one of the Dickens books.

    Mr. A enjoyed reading the unabridged version of Treasure Island for the first time.

    Mr. B loved The Time Machine and The Count of Monte Cristo.

    I was intrigued by the story of The Invisible Man.

    I have already started their list for next year and it is going to be great.

    High school is a great time for so many “grown up” kinds of literature. I am grateful to be able to share at least a part of the experience with my boys.

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