Thursday, August 7, 2008

Using the "Come Look with Me" series for homeschool art appreciation

I used to be afraid of art until I shared the book Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children with Addy when she was 5. I thought fine art was for the sophisticated — certainly not for a regular person like me.

The books in the Come Look with Me series introduce kids to great works of art in a very gentle way. The whole point of beginning to enjoy art is simply to start looking at it.

Each two-page spread covers one piece of art. On the left page is the print, nearly filling the page, with information about the artist, name of the piece, date, and where it is located (such as a gallery or private collection). The right-hand page has a few questions the parent can ask the child and discuss together, such as, "What do you think the child is looking at? What makes you think so?" and, "The artist used a lot of different lines in this painting. Find a straight line. ..." There are no wrong answers. The questions are designed to get the children looking — really looking — at the art.

Then at the bottom is a brief narrative about the artwork and the artist, explaining what is happening in the picture or how and why the artist created it. Each spread is an art appreciation lesson, without it ever feeling like a lesson. It's even easy for someone like me with no prior art background. I like that this book starts author Gladys Blizzard’s series of books with pictures of children, as it’s easy for children to get into paintings of kids their own ages.

Now that I’m not afraid to look at art and take it all in, it’s fun to explore it further. Addy and I are able to talk about artwork we see. We talk about how it was created, what the artist might have been feeling, and we compare it to other art we have seen.

I wish I had been exposed to art like this when I was 5 years old!

We started with Enjoying Art with Children and I acquired three more in the series that we will continue using. We study one piece of art per week. This is the cornerstone book, but you could start with any one.

Some things we have done at home to extend the learning from this book:
  • I bought an inexpensive table-top easel and set the book up in our living room, opened to the artwork we studied that week. Every time we walk by we can appreciate it even more and even notice new things.
  • We add the artist’s birth and death dates in the Sonlight Book of Time we keep for history and geography. (Any timeline will do.)

    This may save you scads of time: I'm offering free use of the timeline label stickers I created for Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children, Come Look with Me: Animals in Art, Come Look with Me: Enjoying Landscape Art with Children and Come Look with Me: The World of Play. Next semester we'll be using the American Girl art book in a similar way, so stickers are included here also for Imagine: The Girl in the Painting. Just print them on address labels, or you could print them on regular paper to cut and paste. Most of the images are in the public domain because of their age, but some are not, so use with care and know that these are for your home use only. Read the details on the file footer.
  • Once my daughter wanted to try to recreate one of the paintings, so we sketched it ourselves.
  • One of my favorite moments as a homeschooling mother was when our family had the chance to go to the Art Institute of Chicago and see one of the paintings. We were able to enjoy it and talk about it intelligently. My daughter was not bored at the art gallery as I would have been at her age. She was fascinated, all thanks to Come Look with Me!

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