Studying art history is fairly simple to accomplish during the homeschool day, provided I have done a little prior research and gathering of materials. All of the art that we study comes from the time period in history that we are already studying as a family. Currently, we are studying Ancient Greece, so once a week we study a sculpture, piece of architecture or pottery, mosaic, or building from that time.
Finding Pictures to Use
Before we begin a unit (or a week after, since I'm usually running behind), I start searching for images pertaining to the art of the period of history that we are studying and that I can legally make a print of. Just because something is online and it is easy to download, doesn't mean that it is legal to do so. Always check the copyright first. If a picture is "public domain" or "creative commons", you can download it and make a photo print of it for your own personal use. Creative commons photos have their own requirements that can vary image by image, so be sure to check. Usually, you just need to attribute the creator of the image. (More info on Public Domain and Creative Commons here).
Once I find usable images that I can make prints of, I save them to my computer and then download them to my Costco photo account and order three of each picture, one for each of my children.
How We Do Picture Study
When we do a picture study, we study a single picture at a time. My son (12) and daughter (5) each get a picture to study at the table and my youngest (3) and I head to the couch to quietly talk about our picture together.
Once we we have our pictures, I set the timer and we study our pictures. I ask my youngest about the colors and shapes of the picture. I also ask him what is happening in the picture.
When the the timer runs out we flip the pictures over and then take turns, from youngest to oldest, to retell everything we remember about the picture without peeking. My daughter knows that she has to observe more than her little brother and my oldest has to observe even more. I try to remember something above and beyond what my son retells.
After narrating our observations, I give the title of the artwork, the artist, and the medium used. If there is any vocabulary to learn, we talk about that, too. Since we are already studying the historical time period, I don't usually have to give a lot of "historical background." Occasionally, we discuss what we liked about the picture and why we think the artist made certain choices.
Finally, the kids glue their picture onto a piece of paper and label it with the title of the artwork and artist. The paper goes into their history binder.
Other Ways We Study Art
Occasionally, I will pull out our art supplies and sketchbooks and pass around picture of the week. I let the kids choose the medium of their choice and paint or draw their own version of the art that we are studying. Here is an example of this exercise after the Rio Olympics where we drew the Christ our Redeemer Statue:
The kids each chose to use oil pastels (they usually do) and I used acrylic paint...and then quickly filled in the background with pastels. I helped my youngest by drawing an outline of the statue before they began.
I like this exercise because it combines art history with the actual practice of art. It gets my drawing something they usually wouldn't choose to draw and encourages them to make creative, artistic choices.
Just recently we have been reading The Great Art Treasure Hunt, which is kind of an I spy book with great works of art. My two youngest and I have been going through this book sporadically a couple paintings a day. Even though they think reading it is a big game, they are also being introduced to art concepts at the same time.
How do you study art in your homeschool?
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