CM Basics – Artist Study

Whenever I meet new homeschooling moms (and mention that we use the Charlotte Mason method) what I hear most often is, “I am interested in Charlotte Mason, but I don’t know where to begin.”

I know I was pretty overwhelmed in the beginning, too.  Ambleside Online was instrumental in helping me understand what a CM education entails and how to get started in a snap.  However, some moms just want to use a few elements of a Charlotte Mason education, or the Ambleside curriculum doesn’t work for them.  I am moving away from using it in its entirety myself.  So, for the next few weeks I am hoping to write a weekly blog covering simple ways to incorporate CM basics.  This can be used by homeschool parents and those not homeschooling.  Any of these principles and ideas work well for supplementing a public school education, especially in the areas of art and music, where many public schools are cutting quality programs.

We’ll start week one with a personal favorite of mine – artist study.

We are currently learning about Raphael Sanzio.  Yes, *the* Raphael.  The first place to begin for any parent is to simply choose a famous artist.  It does not have to be a renaissance era artist.  Choose anyone you are interested in.  The best place to start is usually with the parent’s favorite.  After all, you are already familiar with the work, right?

Once you have settled on the artist, begin searching for resources.

In Charlotte Mason’s schools, the children were shown pictures of the artist’s works.  Usually 6-7 per term, which works out to about 1 picture every two weeks.  The children were asked to look at the picture and then “narrate” or tell back things they noticed about the art.  Colors, light, shadow, people, animals etc.  Whatever they noticed.

You can google to find famous works of art to print out, or if you want it all put together for you, I recommend the Ambleside art prints yahoo group.  One of the AO moms does a fantastic job of gathering pictures and setting them with nice white frames around them in an 8.5′ x 11″ size.  You just download the pdf file and print.  I usually send them to Staples and have them printed out with a slightly glossy finish for about $6 per set.

Show them the picture a few times per week, along with the name of the artist and the name of the work.  It’s very easy.

In our family, we also learn about the artists.  Part of that is my own curiosity.  🙂  We like to use the internet (Wikipedia, especially), kid websites about the artists (when possible), and books.  The library always has tons of books for children about famous artists.  Two of my favorite series are “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” by Mike Venezia and the “What Makes a Picasso a Picasso” (insert any artist) series by Richard Muhlberger.  These help my kids learn specific traits used by the artist we are learning about.  For example, they know Rembrandt liked to contrast light and dark elements in his paintings.

Finally, we occasionally attempt to create our own version of some famous works of art.  We have tried our hands at Vassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt.  There are lots of great sites that give ideas for kid-friendly versions of these artists and more, but you all know my favorite is Art Projects for Kids.

So, that is artist study in a nut shell.  What are you waiting for?  Get started today!  It’s well worth the effort.  🙂


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