Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Way to Teach Art

When I've talked to friends about teaching art to their children and as I've contemplated myself, I've noticed that we all have two main desires.  First, we want our children to experience the creativity of making their artistic pieces.  Second, we want them to understand and appreciate the different types of art--both contemporary and of the past.  Often we find that a curriculum focuses on one or the other.

A few months ago, I came across a curriculum that does both.  It is Artistic Pursuits.  It is written by Brenda Ellis.  For some reason, her website is giving me problems today, but it is normally  You can find her books on Amazon or CBD.  This series has one book for preschool (only available through her website), three for grades K-3, two for grades 4-6, two for junior high, and two for high schoool.  

I have been working through some of the lessons in the first K-3 book with my children.  There are 32 lessons in the book.  32 works well with completing a book in a year.  I don't think I would use this book with a kindergartener unless your has good hand/eye coordination.  I would start it in first grade.  Every lesson introduces children to a concept, a piece of art, and has an activity.  I liked the questions for the paintings and sculptures included in the books.  A few of the paintings were difficult to see clearly enough for my children to easily answer the questions.  But, when I googled the name of the painting, I was able to find a clearer and larger picture of the painting easily enough.  This first book is broken down into what artists do, what they see, and where we find art.  It's a great introduction to art. Some parents might find that they want a few more instructions for the activities, but the instructions there are good ones and are enough to do the activites.  I'd just recommend that you think through the assignment first and do an example on your own that you can show your children before you start the activity.  This is a step I often skip when teaching arts or crafts--and one I often regret that I've skipped!  This curriculum doesn't come with any dvds or live examples.  But, the lessons are easy enough to understand and teach from.  

In terms of the quality and quantity of directions you can find in a textbook, Artistic Pursuits gives a lot more directions than Adventures in Art or Singapore's art curriculums that I've used before.  It also includes better questions and background about the art pieces included.  That was noticeably lacking in Adventures in Art.  A great plus for this series is that the books could easily be used with multiple ages.  You could use the K-3 book for children grades K-4 or 5.  The art your children produce will simply look different depending on their age, fine motor skills, and abilities.  It is a solid, easy to use curriculum.

So, that introduces another question I have had to ponder about teaching art.  What medium is the best way to teach art?  Video, book, in person...  This year my girls went to a co-op class. For the two of them, a year of art cost about $320 (class plus materials), I believe.  The girls enjoyed going to art with their friends, but the difficult part for me was getting somewhere on another day of the week.  Between art, ballet, and piano--all on different days--I struggled.  That was why I started to look at other alternatives.  The year before I'd used a textbook, Adventures in Art by Laura Chapman.  I liked the books a lot and the directions were basic.  It was very affordable ($30 for 6 books to use for grades 1-6 used from Amazon).  Before that, I'd used Singapore's Nursery Art, which was also very inexpensive, but that you can't find anywhere anymore.  I have struggled to complete our art lessons the past few years, so I chose to do the class this year.  

A little more specific quick cost comparison...
The cost of using Artistic Pursuits would be about $40 for one book plus materials.  You could purchase them through the year (and use your Michael's and Joann's coupons to save some money) and spread out the cost or buy a kit Ms. Ellis has put together on her site. Artistic Pursuits covers several different types of art--painting, drawing, sculpture, and even mosaic so the materials needed are a little more expensive overall.
Art Class from See the Light Shine is $100 for 9 DVDs which you could stretch out over 2 years.   The supplies needed are much less expensive, but Art Class solely focuses on drawing.

Art is one of those subjects that it's easy to push off when you just don't have time.  You could easily use this curriculum for half a year and then do the other half of the book the next year.  The lessons are well planned and laid out.  I have a hard time when I simply have a book like How to teach Art to Children published by Evan-Moor.  When it comes to art, the simpler the better for me.

After considering all the different factors of choosing a good art curriculum--ease of use, material covered, age appropriateness, cost, homeschool friendliness, I think that Artistic Pursuits fits the bill.  The biggest plus for me about this curriculum is the age appropriate integration of art history and practical art lessons.  Many curriculums I've seen either teach one or the other.  Brenda Ellis has written a great curriculum in Artistic Pursuits!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for review.

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