Another What Works! post …
Looking back over the 14-odd years of homeschooling from preschool to high school graduation I want to share what was successful in our home …
Fine Arts is rich, rewarding & relaxing!
We set aside most our Fridays for Fine Arts - art, music, and poetry, and sometimes some Shakespeare. The simplest way to do this was to plan the “extras” in our Theme of the Day. It is my kids favourite day of the week!
My older children still ask for art lessons once a week. Despite the textbook-based high school curriculum I used for my eldest daughter, these fine art Fridays were the saving grace of our homeschooling journey. In many ways they are the “soul” days of homeschooling.
My kids considered Fridays as free days because we set aside normal seat work and written assignments. Despite its seeming “frivolous” nature, where fine arts is often considered an “optional extra”, this aspect of education is the most inspiring and rewarding. At times our Fridays were the only happy days of our week. Homeschooling can be tough! Making time to relax and enjoy fine arts is a relief!
Art started with art appreciation lessons, Charlotte Mason-style. I sometimes added simple art activities to some of these lessons. We discovered famous artists and their masterpieces, observed different art styles over the centuries recording these on my Art Era Timeline, and we tried a variety of art mediums. The 3D Seurat model is one of my younger girls’ favourite and unusual art activities! Sometimes someone wept and left the room due to a “flop” lesson, but mostly we admired and encouraged each other as we gazed at our ‘gallery’ … we were enriched! Importantly, we each have amazing internal, mental art galleries of famous art that we will carry all our lives!
Sketch Tuesday remains a regular constant art activity, which we continue even when we have stopped our formal schooling for school breaks. It is such a simple, quick session, often with no discussions, research or planning, but Sketch Tuesday has had an enormous impact on our art! The simple act of regularly looking and sketching develops ones confidence and approach to other more formal art activities.
Classical Music was not always requested. In fact, my older children have an incredible eclectic collection of their own music which plays as we work and do chores, but we streamed or listened to classical music as we did our art. I abandoned planned formal music appreciation lessons as my children grew older, but it somehow has developed naturally into an appreciation and my kids often recognize classical music played in movie soundtracks..
Poetry has been a hit-and-miss affair, where I sometimes do formal poetry lessons with my younger children on our “Tea, Poetry and Shakespeare” afternoons. We studied some poets through the year and we all found our poetry readings relaxing and inspiring. My kids never really learnt any poems by heart, but some poems were inspiration for art or illustrations. Our most exciting poem-inspired activity my girls did when they were younger was The Lady of Shallot with a Lego diorama.
I recently discovered that my junior high daughter is writing her own poems to express her photo collage creations she makes on Polyvore. Her poems are amazing! When I read them I am utterly stunned with the images and feelings that her words evoke. So, deep down, despite doing poetry informally, poetry struck a special chord in her life.
Our Fine Arts sessions have enriched our relationships. Somehow, when we paint or sketch together, or when we lie under the tree talking about a poem, or when we listen to and describe images and feelings that classical music evokes, we share time and experiences that are deep and personal. These are intimate times that make homeschooling special.
My advice to moms who want to “do it right” is to keep it simple and fairly informal. In my early years of zeal and idealism I came on too hard and my kids almost dreaded the lessons. I almost lost them to my teacherly-don’t-miss-the-moment approach. They did my Famous Artist and Famous Composer biography notebook pages, filled in timelines and narrated their observations. We used my wall charts, but the best lessons were those where we each connected individually and personally to the art.
Now, I am convinced that regular yet informal exposure is better than formal, structured lessons.
Schedule time in your week and just do it!
Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons. It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed. Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections. Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.
Charlotte Mason’s approach to Fine Arts has been an amazing, rich and rewarding = fabulous Fine Art Fridays!
May you find the approach that works for your family!