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“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” said Vincent van Gogh.
This is so true of homeschooling- you continue to chip away at a subject until you master it. You don’t have to bog down your children with hours of instruction and work just to make a breakthrough. More work doesn’t always mean a better understanding. Breakthroughs happen when you’re allowed room to think freely. Space between the lesson to think, to evaluate, and to let it all simmer.
[tweet]All it takes is one step at a time, and your child can learn anything.[/tweet]
Baby steps are the way to go when you teach your children about fine art. The history of art is rich with stories, philosophy, concepts, and technique. All of these aspects should be handled with care and in small doses- it allows your child to really think about why art has been valued over the years and how it has transformed.
Art has served many purposes. It has been used as a tool to manipulate, to convince, to inspire, to enlighten, to entertain, and to provoke.
One of my twins began asking about art a couple years ago- she didn’t want to just “do projects”. She wanted to learn about great artists and the history behind it all! I couldn’t blame her for wanting more- after all, most children’s art books these days are watered down bits of fluff.
You can’t fully appreciate art until you’ve traveled across time!
It took me a while to find her a solid program to use, but I was able to piece together something that really fit our needs as a family.
3 Ways I Taught My Children About Fine Art
1. Start with a good reference book to lay the foundation. Every teacher needs a good manual to reference while she teaches, and sometimes we need to read straight from the book! A fabulous book that I highly recommend is The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern.
I started using this towards the end of 5th grade, but honestly I had to break it down into bite sized pieces for my kids.
I would recommend this for the mature 5th grader and beyond (great for middle and high school!), just be prepared to explain big concepts to the younger student! I enjoyed this because we weren’t looking at art through rose colored glasses. The material was presented straight forward and is very to the point.
It also gave details on a variety of artists, and has many colored photographs throughout the book. If I wanted to look up a certain painting that was mentioned but not pictured, I just grabbed my phone and did a quick google search.
2. Pair the lesson with quality art activities. What’s the point of talking about art if you can’t do it? After each discussion, I would have an activity planned for my kids. Most of the time, my toddler wanted to jump in too, so that got all three entertained for a solid block of time lol!
Now, even though there are a lot of great ideas on pinterest, most of the activities I give my children were not inspired by such. I use another great tool, Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning (TM)). This book was filled with quality art projects in the style of various artists.
It matched perfectly with the Mona Lisa book, and its table of contents was a lifesaver. You get an entire list of each artist throughout the book, including what style and period they are categorized as. This made it much easier to plan, as it allowed our lessons to flow smoothly from discussion to hands on learning.
My kids have enjoyed every single activity from this book, so it’s definitely a keeper!
3. Step out of the house and find art around you. At the end of our 5th grade art block, my children, husband, and I visited a local museum. We were able to see artifacts from Egypt and even sculptures from Greece.
This year, we will do the same, but pick a different museum. Our focus will be on paintings from the renaissance through impressionism.
The awesome part about stepping out of the house and becoming a viewer is that is gives your children a taste of what it’s like to really SEE art. Not just in a book, but face-to-face, where you can really observe the beauty. You can see the brush strokes, the details, and feel the emotion in a different way.
I’ll never forget when I had the opportunity a few years ago to see Starry Night- it was amazing to stand there and really be able to cast my eyes upon the same canvas that van Gogh had poured his heart into.
Give your children that opportunity to view art as a grand finale. You never know, your little one may start educating YOU on something!
Understanding the Sensitive Subjects
All of this being said, there are still some things you should understand before you talk about fine art with your children. Number one, there will be nudity. Nude art has been somewhat of a staple in art history, so if you are uncomfortable with the human body, I suggest you find a clever way around it.
For my family, when we came across nude paintings in my art curriculum book, I gave my children a respectful warning. If I felt that it was harmless, I gave them the option of evaluating the painting with me. However, if I felt that the painting was in any way inappropriate (some nudes are respectful, others…well, I didn’t find them beneficial), I would skip that painting altogether.
Censorship comes with your family’s morals and comfort level- a few times in the book I felt that the artists personal life was not something my children would understand or even really need to hear about, so I would skip it.
Another sensitive subject for some is religion, but fine art goes hand in hand with spirituality. In fact, art was used only for religious purposes for a good stretch of time, since it was the only way churches could get a message across to a mass of illiterate people.
I didn’t have a problem discussing religion with my children, in fact we all enjoyed it. It opened up conversations at a deeper level which I appreciated. Before you open the book and start reading aloud though, I encourage you to do some reading beforehand if you think you may have an issue.
All in all, I always enjoy diving a little deeper into the world of fine art. I look forward to another round in the near future!
I hope this has helped inspire you to set up your own fine art block!
Do you have any suggestions that I missed? Please share in the comments below!
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