Category Archives: Art Appreciation

Easing into a Charlotte Mason Education

51uk2Mqo09L__SX303_BO1,204,203,200_Many years ago, I attended a Charlotte Mason support group led by Catherine Levison, author of A Charlotte Mason Education. I already believed that Charlotte Mason’s ideas held great benefit, but there were very few resources available at the time. This was a long time ago. Almost 30 years.  Levison’s book was really the first how-to resource at the time, so it was a tremendous honor to be able to be part of her early support group while she was still formulating the content of the book.

At every meeting, I would go home with one specific technique or idea I was going to add into our home school. One month, it was taking a weekly nature walk. Another month, we added in weekly art appreciation. Over the course of a year, I had switched our family to a Charlotte Mason home school. It was easy and painless using this step-by-step approach.

If you’re interested in Charlotte Mason’s methods and ideas but feel overwhelmed with all the choices and voices out there on the topic, can I suggest you first try dipping your toe in the water rather than switching over in one huge step?

For now, keep on doing whatever you’re doing. Textbooks, unschooling, whatever. Set aside a little bit of time in the afternoon, maybe half an hour, and try these things:

(5-10 minutes) Pick a book off the shelf and read for ten minutes (or five if your children are younger). The book can be something fun and simple like a Frog and Toad book for younger children, or Aesop’s Fables for older kids. Need ideas? Check out my Twaddle-Free Book List organized by grade level. I wouldn’t be surprised if you already have some of these books on your shelf, and if not, start this whole reading process with an afternoon trip to the local library.

(5 minutes) After your short reading, ask a couple of easy open-ended questions to get the conversation started. Don’t worry (yet) about having it be official Narration. You just want to get your students used to the idea of talking about their reading afterward. What do you remember about Toad from the story? Why do you think Lucy went into the wardrobe? How and why questions are especially good preparation for narrating.

(5 minutes) Grab a print of a piece of art. You can download a favorite and print it out from the internet. Fine art calendars work especially well for art appreciation. To begin with (eventually this process will be done differently), sit together and look at the art. What do you see? Have them point out just the content of the painting, not technical aspects. Just find the main points. People, animals, buildings, furniture. Then have them look at the background and see what’s there. After you’ve spent a couple of minutes looking at it, put it away, and then see how much you each remember without looking.

(10-20 minutes) Go outside (in a yard, a park, even a city sidewalk) and look for some natural object of interest. A pinecone, a flower, a pigeon, a stick, a rock. Observe the object carefully, much like you did with the artwork. If the object is something you can bring back home (like a rock or stick, not a pigeon) 😉 grab a pencil and paper and attempt to draw it by paying attention to the details of what you see. Each person can have their own object to draw or everyone can share the same one.

If you have naptime or quiet time after lunch, play some quiet classical music in the background. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was a favorite of my children.

Find a collection of family poetry and read a poem out loud at the lunch table every day.

If you’re looking to start implementing these things beyond just a one day trial, I’d recommended adding in the reading and discussion time every day, and also the music and lunchtime poem.  The art appreciation would be only once a week, and the nature walk/drawing would be once or twice a week.

If you find you’ve successfully integrated these easy steps into your home school, find a list of Charlotte Mason’s techniques and start adding one more idea every month or two.  Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell is a good place to start.  They say it takes about six to eight weeks to develop a new habit, so if you start using a new idea every month and a half, you could easily have eight to ten new techniques added to your homeschooling with very little stress or tears.


Fine Art Board Books for Toddlers

I really wish these Mini-Masters board books had been available when my kids were little.  I would’ve owned every book in the series (and they probably would’ve had nothing but these books for their early board books!).  Plus, it would’ve given the kiddos an opportunity to spend as much time exploring the reproductions as they might want (rather than having Mommy standing careful continual guard over the expensive family art books).

Personally, I’m not sure I would actually read the accompanying text to my kids (it seems a little childish), but I would sit with the kids and talk about (“narrate”) what is in the reproductions, themselves.


Every reproduction of Mary Cassatt’s work in this book contains either a child, or a child with a parent.  Young children will be particularly drawn to the images in this board book.


Children can enter Edgar Degas’s magical world of toe shoes, tutus, and elegant ballerinas.


The artist’s Tahitian paintings transport mini art lovers to a lush, colorful island where they can join in the celebration of island life.


The little ones will love spending A Magical Day with Matisse in a world full of music, color, bobbing sailboats, and tickled toes.


Claude Monet’s light-filled paintings take children on an enchanted picnic in the countryside.



“Picasso for kids?  Yes, it can be done!  This book includes several of his earlier works as well as some later works appropriate for young ones.”


Set against the backdrop of well-known works by the artist, Auguste Renoir, rhyming text tells a story of activities that can be shared by two people from the artwork.


In Dreaming with Rousseau, the artist’s vibrant paintings invite readers on a journey to dreamlike jungles packed with playful monkeys, a racing tiger, and other surprises.


“The colors are beautiful and each work has a ton of detail to hold a child’s attention for a long while.”

Van Gogh

The sleepy trees, golden haystacks, and juicy fruits of In the Garden with Van Gogh will delight little ones.


Fine Art Resource: Cezanne Block Puzzle

When my kiddos were small, they had a block puzzle made up of Peanuts character pictures. It was one of their  all-time favorite toys/puzzles. I wish we’d had something like this Cézanne block puzzle, however. Fine art and puzzle play, all in one. 🙂

A block puzzle featuring six reproductions of paintings by Paul Cézanne. Pomegranate block puzzles are composed of twelve 2 in. square blocks which may be flipped and turned to form six different artworks.

Twelve 2 in. laminated cardboard blocks in a decorative box.

Puzzle size: 6 x 8 in.
Box size 6 ⅜ x 8 ⅜ x 2 ¼ in.

The works of art in this puzzle are:

  • Bottle and Fruits (Bouteille et fruits), c. 1890
  • The Large Pear (La Grosse poire), 1895—1898
  • Ginger Jar (Pot de gingembre), c. 1895
  • A Table Corner (Un coin de table), c. 1895
  • Still Life (Nature morte), 1892—1894
  • Still Life (Nature morte), 1892—1894

Other block puzzles of interest:

Timeline of Art History

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online Timeline of Art History.  What a wonderful resource!

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Autumn Art Appreciation Ideas

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Here are some possible paintings for Autumn art appreciation and picture study.  Just click on the small photos of the artwork to open a larger version for easier viewing.

Autumn Leaves, John Millais 1855Millais-AutumnLeaves

 [Excerpt] “… Millais decided to embark on a painting that was beautiful in its own right without any attempt to tell a story. His models were four young girls, all under 13 years of age, chosen for their youth and beauty. They were to be shown standing around a pile of gently smoldering autumn leaves which they had just collected from their garden. The painting, which became known as Autumn Leaves, was designed to evoke a mood and a feeling of the transience of life and beauty – all is doomed to eventual decay, even the greatest innocence and beauty is overwhelmed by the passage of time. The painting is considered to be Millais’s masterpiece. He wanted the picture to awaken the deepest religious reflections Continue reading