Monday, August 20, 2007

Picture Study

As promised, I'm going to share a bit about how and why we do Picture Study. I'll start with the why. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." In our world today, so much of what is noble and excellent has been replaced by trashy, worthless images that flash by on the TV or movie screen or on a billboard as you fly down the highway. Did you realise that when you watch TV or a movie, the scene changes an average of every 3 seconds? Even if there was something lovely or praiseworthy on the screen, you would not have nearly enough time to appreciate it. Picture study puts us in touch with some of the world's most beautiful paintings ad gives us time to appreciate and notice all the wonderful details that the artist has included. It trains our powers of attention, observation and recollection. This is just a brief overview of why we do picture study. If you are interested in learning more, you can read Charlotte Mason's thoughts on Picture Study at the Ambleside Online website.

Now that I've briefly explained the "why", I'll tell you how we put it into practice using this year's studies as an example. We're covering the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation in history this year, so I've chosen to study artists from this time period as well. I purchased a wonderful coffee table book called The Great Masters by Giorgio Vasari. It contains large color prints of the paintings and sculptures of Giotto, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and Titian. Beginning with Giotto, I've selected five paintings that will be our focus for the term. I made color photocopies of each and put them in some wood document frames that I bought at the dollar store. They hang behind the couch in our classroom so that we are constantly exposed to them. Once a week we choose one of the paintings for further study. We study it silently for a few minutes, flip the picture over and take turns narrating, usually with the youngest going first. Narration is simply telling in your own words what you saw. We will often discuss what each of us liked or disliked about the painting. If there is a bit of background information that may be helpful, I will mention it after the narration has been given. I give my narration last, pointing out anything that I noticed that they may have overlooked. However, my children have sharp eyes and they often point out things that I never noticed! This is not intended to be an art lecture; it is intended for the children to develop a relationship with the world's great works of art as they form their own ideas and examine their feelings about each painting.

We are rounding out our study with two wonderful resources. The first is Knights of the Art by Amy Steedman (see link to the left). It is a very well-written account of the lives of some of the great Gothic and Renaissance artists. We read from this once or twice a week to gain some insight into the lives of the artists we are studying. The second resource is Discovering Great Artists by Maryanne Kohl. It suggests hands-on activities to go along with the study of each artist. For instance, we will be making our own egg paints using ground up chalk and egg yolks, much like Giotto would have made his paints. Often we will copy a painting or paint one of our own "in the style of" the artist we are studying. As they study and practice the art of the great masters, their own artistic endeavors begin to grow and mature.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into our adventures in art. If you think you'd like to try this in your home and would like additional information, resources and support, come join us at the Artist Study CM Yahoo group. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to School

It's official: school is back in session and I am so glad! The boys are also content to be back to our normal routine. In fact, the week before we started back, they kept asking, "Mom, isn't it time to start school yet?" What a blessing it is to have children who love to learn!

We started back on July 30th with no big fuss or "to-do". It was more of a comfortable settling in, kind of like coming home again after an extended absence.

I'm really looking forward to this year. Our history studies will focus on the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation which is my absolute favorite period in history. And with three boys, what could be better than the age of chivalry with its knights in shining armor? Personally, I'm looking forward to the Reformation and learning more about our Christian history and heritage.

Our Science spine is 106 Days of Creation by Sonya Shaffer. We'll be studying science in the order of Creation. For instance, Day 1 saw the creation of light so we are currently studying things like shadows, reflections, refraction, etc. We just completed a fun experiment where we traced our shadow with chalk on the driveway at 10:00 a.m. and again at 1:00 p.m. We compared their shapes, discussed why and how shadows are cast and why they changed over time. Alek then drew a picture of the experiment and wrote a brief description for his notebook. Of course we are also continuing our regular nature study. Yesterday we caught and examined a grasshopper and last week we were able to closely observe and (relatively confidently) identify a Banded Hairstreak. I'm hoping that the boys will continue to develop their powers of attention and observation this year. They still tend to miss so many of the wonders that God sends their way because they flit from one thing to the next without really attending to our observing what is in front of them. That is definitely one of Charlotte Mason's favorite habits that we will be focusing on this year. Check back for my next post where I'll tell you about another tool that we use to sharpen the powers of attention and observation: Picture Study.