One of the nice things about homeschooling is that you have time to teach your kids about great classical artists as you wander down a timeline. And even better you can stop and dwell on any artist whenever the need arises. Not just because its good for them, but how nice to grow up with a working knowledge of the grand masters and their masterpieces.
The most obvious way to teach children about classical artists is to expose them to great art, which isn’t the easiest option when you live at the southern most tip of Africa. You can’t pop into the Uffizi or the National Gallery on a Saturday morning.
So we smother them in books instead:
Resource 1: Art books tend to be pricey coffee table type books, so use your first and obvious resource: the library. In my weekly dash to the library I always make sure to grab an art appreciation book of a great artist or a period in art history. And for this you really can’t beat the DK EyeWitness Books, luckily our library is packed with them. Some art books can be quite dry and just look boring – just page through and move on – it all goes in to little minds for later use.
Resource 2: Don’t forget your friend the internet. Links to heaps of Famous Paintings, each one has a biography of the artist and activities to go with the painting. Otherwise the Artcyclopedia lets you search for paintings by keyword, artist or museum. It is a great resource and we use it quite a lot. Heaps of Art Ideas can be found at Online Art Activities for Kids and Art Appreciation – Interactive Art History.
Resource 3: Sister Wendy is just awesome and really worth the investment. I leave this book lying around. The hardest thing is too leave such a fancy schmancy book available to little fingers, however it gets used and looked at and absorbed. And I have found once they are old enough to appreciate it they are also old enough to respect it. This book is ordered by artist, alphabetically and has pages and pages of paintings to ooh and aah over. Each page has a brief and readable summary regarding the great artist and then a couple of masterpieces with a short text for them too. Really readable, so once they are reading they are absorbed not just by pages of art but by interesting reading as well.
Resource 4: My kids totally love puzzle books and here is a great one from the National Gallery in London. They have to wander through the book looking at Masterpieces trying to determine the fraud and who did it. It even comes with a little magnifying glass and has a great and interesting layout. As soon as they can read on their own my kids cannot resist this book and spend hours pouring over it again and again.
Resource 5: And while you are looking for great paintings you cannot ignore the Katie Books by James Mayhew. We started with Katie in London, because we visited London and we liked the book so much that we hunted down the rest in the series. Each book winds a story through a couple of great paintings relating to the theme. Very whimsical and lovely stories – just to read!
Resource 6: I know Classic Home Schoolers often get their kids to spend time copying the great artists. My kids have found this overwhelming but given the materials they are happy to do their own thing and I like that. I would rather they use similar materials and learn how to use them. Give them charcoal for a black and white picture. Thick paints for a Van Gogh and see what they come up with it. I would like my kids to grow up familiar with the materials and so able to use them. Here are some Michelangelo’s in training:
We used this fabulous series, Come Look With Me, to cover heaps of different art styles and at the same time getting familiar with famous and classic art. There is an artwork per double page spread and each artwork has a paragraph about the artist and a couple of easy questions about the work – just little conversation starters.
Resource 7: And all the while I was using the Come Look With Me Books in my heart I was hoping for this book. And don’t forget that Rosie Dickens is fabulous. She takes a masterpiece and provides an inspiring project. The is book is so great I will have to do a close up review of it soon.
I realized as I wrote this post that you would ask me: “So what do your kids do for Art appreciation?” Firstly, they see lots of books and secondly they do lots of “arting” and thirdly they keep art history journals. So in the next post I will show you: Se7en of the Best Art History Resources for Kids and give you a peep into their art journals.