Thinking Creatively about Teaching Art

Article excerpt

Several months ago I came across a home-schooler's dream at a yard sale. A retired public school teacher was selling a lifetime's worth of books and resources. An art teacher for years, her collection included everything from arts and crafts to Monet and Picasso.

A small two-volume set, "Great Artists," by Jennie Ellis Keysor, caught my eye. Published in 1899, the books highlighted the lives of eight great artists. I purchased the set along with a number of other titles, took them home and promptly forgot about them.

When I began planning our new school year in June, I had to decide what we would do for art. Although I have several art appreciation books in our home-school library, I have never done more than arts and crafts or art lessons with my children. I thought it was about time we did something new, and I remembered my yard-sale finds. With the Keysor books as the foundation for our study, I decided we would take a look at the lives and works of some of the world's greatest artists.

My biggest concern with studying art in history was what to do about nudity. I picked up several books in the children's section of the library that contained nudes. Unfortunately, most of the great artists have some nudity in their collections. My advice is to review the books and Internet sites you plan to use before your child has access to them. I paper-clip shut the pages that contain nudity, and navigate the Internet with my children.

As I searched for additional resources, I was amazed at how much is available. One of the best places to begin is the children's section of the public library. Look for an art history book that is easy to understand but informative.

I chose one artist for each month of the school year. After reading about the artist's life and studying several paintings, we will use "Discovering Great Artists," by MaryAnn Kohl and Kim Solga, and try our hands at creating an art project in the style of the masters.

Your child doesn't need to know everything about art history or even a particular artist. You can determine which artists, major periods or styles you want to explore. If you choose Jean Francois Millet, for example, what are some of his most famous works? What was the period when he was painting called? You could also look for local exhibits that may include Millet's works. The National Gallery of Art has a Web site where you can access the works of many the world's great artists.

If you are uncomfortable with pulling an entire art program together on your own, a number of ready-to-use art appreciation and history curriculums are on the market. …