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Monday, December 5, 2011

Art...Natural Skill? Or Can It Be Taught?

We teach a wide variety of subjects here in our homeschool.  But, there is one that I have tried various times throughout the years....but haven't been super successful.   The subject is art.

I have had secret dreams of being an artist for years. Then I pick up a pencil or a paint brush....and my hopes are dashed. I have created one pretty good water color picture of a dog....but that is about it. Maybe when I retire?

I have higher hopes for my kids.

We have had a lot of fun with craft time....but somehow, to me, that wasn't really "art" class once they hit like 4th grade or so.  I wanted them to understand lines, perspective, how to shade and how to use a kiln....and make some beautiful pottery for their mother....not that we have a kiln here....but a mom can dream, can't she?  I also wanted them to have some art history and be able to identify a VanGogh and tell the difference between a Monet, Jackson Pollack, and a Picasso.

The kids all have shown some natural talent and ability....and I don't think it is just a proud mother talking. 
(She got 2nd place in our County fair)

(Earrings she made that won 1st place at the County fair)

So, I was super excited when we got the chance to review an art curriculum called Artistic Pursuits.

Artistic Pursuits has curriculum for preschool up to high school.  We got to choose from all the different age levels.  I chose the one geared toward 4th-6th grade (Book 1) called the Elements of Art and Composition

We needed a few official supplies before starting the curriculum, so we headed off to Michael's....for just the few basic things we needed to get started.  We needed 4 Ebony pencils, a vinyl eraser, a metal pencil sharpener, and 1 sketch pad.  I could have ordered all my supplies that I needed directly from their site.  They have supply packs broken down by each book/level. 

The only problem I had at Michael's is I didn't know what an Ebony pencil was.  I assumed that it would be labeled and would look like the one depicted in the book.  It wasn't.   

I got what I needed, but it turned into a much longer shopping trip than intended.  Rainman even ran next door to Staples to see if they had any pencils magically labeled "Ebony".  They didn't.

Teaching this course was much simpler after our initial shopping trip for supplies!

This book has 16 lessons divided into sections to cover:  Visual vocabulary; American Art Appreciation and History; Techniques; and Application.  Throughout the book are examples of art by "professionals", but also student art that I found encouraging....and was also encouraging to my girls to see what other kids had been able to do with the help of the lessons.

This curriculum is one that the student can work on independently without your direct supervision....which if you have read any of my schooling posts in the know I have mixed feelings about.  I like to know what they are doing in school and be involved....but realistically, time-wise, I can't directly supervise every aspect of their day, so I do have to throw them to the sharks sometimes.

We (A-girl and L-girl and I) read through the beginning of the book together about the "Mysterious Language of Art"...the main points are to 1.  Learn to observe the world around you - and really see it.  2.  Learn what to look for.  3.  Learn to focus on one element of art at a time, while drawing, and block out the others.  Then I set the girls loose to do their lesson.

I tried having the girls do the lessons sequentially...but they thought that was too boring.  So, instead, I just told them to dive in and do which lessons interested them.  The thought behind this was that I was hoping to get them more excited about art....and, if they were lacking in one area that had been covered earlier in the book..... they could always jump back and fill in their gaps with earlier lessons. 

So, far, I think this approach is working....not a traditional approach....but we aren't a totally traditional family here anyway!

Here are a few of their projects.

If you are looking for a way to teach art at home, this is really a neat program.  In looking at the website at the books for younger students, I sort of wished I would have tried those to get to do some of those projects with my littler ones.  Like the one for "scratch art".

I remember doing scratch art in school when I was little.  It was cool.  There is a scratch art lesson in the Artistic Pursuits book we have too.  I just may have to jump ahead in the book myself and do some scratch art!

You can take a look at all the Artistic Pursuits book here. The Grade 4-6 Book One Elements of Art and Composition book can be purchased here for  $42.95.

See what other TOS crew members thought of Artistic Pursuits here.

We received a free copy of Artistic Pursuits Grade 4-6 Book One Elements of Art and Composition in exchange for an honest review of their product.