Monday, August 17, 2015

Enrichment - Charlotte Mason Style Electives: The Study of Art...

There are few subjects regarded with more respect and less confidence in our schools than this of 'Art.'
- Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 213

Students in Charlotte's schools not only produced art, but they studied art in order to appreciate.  One might say, the subject of art was three dimensional, or, more simply, divided into three parts: (1) picture study, (2) drawing, and (3) handicrafts.  Let's take a look at what Charlotte said about each...

Picture Study
How do we prepare a child, again, to use the aesthetic sense with which he appears to come provided?  His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new; - Israels' Pancake Woman, his Children by the Sea; Millet's Feeding the Birds, First Steps, Angelus; Rembrandt's Night Watch, The Supper at Emmaus; Velasquez's Surrender of Breda, - in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees.  Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too, - sunsets, cloudscapes, star-light nights.  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.  (A Philosophy of Education, p. 43)
We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words.  But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves.  A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term.  After a short story of the artist's life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail.  Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen, - a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road but nobody with the dog.  Ah, there is a boy lying down by the stream drinking.  It is morning as you can see by the light so the sheep are being driven to pasture, and so on; nothing is left out, the discarded plough, the crooked birch, the clouds beautiful in form and threatening rain, there is enough for half an hour's talk and memory in this little reproduction of a great picture and the children will know it wherever they see it, whether a signed proof, a copy in oils, or the original itself in one of our galleries.  (A Philosophy of Education, p. 214)
So here we have Charlotte explaining the importance of picture study.  The idea being that we supply our children with beautiful images that they will remember throughout their life.  Further on, she explains how to go about picture study by choosing half a dozen pictures by one artist per term.  First, we read a short biography on the artist's life.  Next, the child spends some time studying one of the pictures.  After which, they turn it over.  Lastly, they narrate the image he/she saw.  Every one to two weeks, we would expose a new picture throughout the term until all six were studied.  

In this day and age, there are many resources one could draw from for picture study. 

We have used Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series in the past.  I'm looking at the possibility of A Weekend With... books as the kids get older.  Angel has referenced Janson's History of Art throughout high school.  We have also looked at picture images online.  Whatever source you choose, be sure the book is living and be sure the images are original. 

So, too, of pictorial art; at last we understand that every one can draw, and that, because to draw is delightful, every one should be taught how; that every one delights in pictures, and that education is concerned to teach him what picture to delight in.  (A Philosophy of Education, p. 329)
Students in Charlotte's schools learned how to draw.  I have not taught formal drawing in our homeschool.  However, the kids have used a variety of drawing books throughout.  They did a great deal of drawing a couple of years ago in our Psalms study.  They also draw/illustrate narrations and keep nature notebooks where they draw things they observe in nature.  Last year, Riley and Ruben took formal art classes through our local homeschool group in which, they worked with a variety of mediums.  One of these summers, I would love to work through a book like Mona Brookes' Drawing with Children

The points to be borne in mind in children’s handicrafts are: (a.) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b.) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c.) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d.) and that therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass. (Home Education, p. 315)
I have done a variety of posts on our handicrafts in the past so I'm not going to spend a lot of time here.  I believe the most important thing to remember regarding handicrafts is the child should be learning to make something useful.  Handicrafts are not the typical arts and crafts, paper plates, construction paper, glue, types of projects.  They involve skillful crafts that take time to master such as leather craft, knitting, sewing, wood carving, etc. 

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