Early on in our homeschool journey, I dove deep into learning about educational philosophies. While I don’t subscribe to only one method in our home, I most closely resonate with the Charlotte Mason philosophy. One of the things I found in my research was that Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of exposing children, even young children, to fine art. This was so foreign to me, coming from a traditional educational background. Charlotte Mason encouraged educators and parents to allow children to observe and enjoy art on their own terms and not be told what to think about it. It is for that reason, that when we do picture study in our homeschool, it is treated as an invitation. It is gentle and enjoyable, and it gives the children the opportunity to think and wonder. At first it was intimidating to me, but after some time and practice, it has become like a rich dessert in the feast of learning.
“Every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination . . . At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold” - Charlotte Mason
Picture study is such a simple element to add to your homeschool days and the benefits are astounding. Read on to learn why and how we incorporate picture study in our homeschooling.
Why use picture study in your homeschool?
It invites them into beauty.
Studying pieces of art and artists brings enjoyment and fine tunes a child’s taste and appreciation for beauty and wonder.
It strengthens the habit of attention.
Taking the time to slow down and study the details in a piece of art helps a child form the habit of attention. Attention is one of the three habits that Charlotte Mason addresses a lot in her writings. It affects a child’s ability to learn and succeed in many areas of life.
It strengthens observation and narration skills.
Studying details and then narrating what they remember improves children’s observation and memory skills. Talking about what they see and remember is an excellent way to practice language skills. Doing this with a young child is a great way to strengthen the skills needed to narrate in formal lessons.
How do you incorporate picture study in your homeschool?
Here are some gentle ideas to incorporate picture study in your homeschool. The main thing to remember is that your job is to offer the art and welcome your children into enjoying it. It is more about the child engaging with the art and forming thoughts on their own, than you offering knowledge of the artist or about the art piece.
I like to print our pictures out and place them on an easel on our homeschool table or hang them on our chalkboard. This gives the children the opportunity to form a connection to the art piece in their own time and in their own way.
Play an observation game.
I like to call this “Hide & Describe” in our home education. Have the child study the art for 3-5 minutes encouraging them to pay attention to the details. Tell them to take a picture of it in their mind. Turn the picture over and ask them to describe it. See how many details they can remember.
Prompt conversation through discussion questions.
Ask your child a few observation questions about the artwork. Try to keep the questions open-ended and remind your child that there are no wrong answers. Here are some questions as an example:
- Does this picture remind you of anything you have read or seen before?
- What is your favorite part and why?
- How does this picture make you feel?
- What emotions do the colors make you feel?
Do an artist study.
Look up the artist in a book or online and read a biography of their life. Locate their birthdate on a timeline and where they are from on a map. Look up other pieces of art from the same artist and compare.
Replicate the art.
Invite your child to replicate a portion or all of the picture using pencil, watercolors, or colored pencils. They could write the title and the artist on their artwork.
In all of the curriculum I have written, you will find beautiful art pieces with specific ways planned each day to engage and respond to the art and artists. In A Connected Christmas, you will find artwork displaying a snowy winter scene in New Haven, Connecticut painted in the 1850’s. An Expectant Easter includes classic religious artwork by the great masters Leonardo da Vinci and El Greco, among others.
My latest release, Treehouse Nature Study: Autumn, features a nature-themed art piece each week like Dish of Apples by Claude Monet and Starry Night by Vincent VanGogh.
Picture study will always be incorporated in both the curriculum I write and our own family’s homeschooling. I hope this post has inspired and encouraged you to incorporate it in yours too! Drop any questions you may have in the comments below.