Teaching Art

Dear Reader,

For the upcoming Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, I have been reading the section of her sixth book entitled “The Knowledge of Man: Art.” Charlotte begins by saying that art is treated with respect in the schools, a statement which makes me sad and wistful for it seems that this is no longer the case in our day. Nowadays everything seems to get pushed aside for the STEM subjects (science, math, technology). Even history which is the core of our homeschool is underrated, much more something like art which is seen to have little practical (read: marketable) value.

So why bother with art? I have addressed this question before, but I love what Charlotte has to say here, that art is “of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt” (p. 214). Perhaps the reason our schools have gotten so far from appreciating things like art is that we have lost all sense of the spirit or of the need to feed a child’s spirit. We are focused on the bottom line, on worldly success and on competing with other countries. Building up the individual child as a person is not our concern.

Charlotte’s concern here is not on the production of art (though her students certainly did that as well), but on teaching children to see and understand and be able to talk about existing artworks. This is not done through lectures and information on different styles and techniques, but simply by looking at art and having the child say what they see. As with nature study, observational skills are key here so that the child is led “not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail” (p. 214). As always, the goal is for the child to have a relationship with artist, to feel that they know them and their work. They also learn through picture study to see their own world differently. Charlotte, apparently quoting Browning, says that “we learn to see things when we see them painted” (p. 215).

Charlotte concludes this section by talking briefly about lessons in drawing and how children, while initially making only crude attempts, begin to copy what they know, and music appreciation which really just means giving the students lots of exposure to good music.

Nebby

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