Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Our CM Kindergarten: Art and Music

One thing that I particularly love about a Charlotte Mason education is the inclusion of the arts in the regular course of study.  These are not extras for Miss Mason; she considers them foundational to a well-rounded, liberally taught child.  I agree, and I think that kindergarten is a great opportunity to begin these subjects, since developing a home atmosphere that includes beautiful art and music does not require any formal lessons at all.

Art Appreciation
Baby Loves and Vincent's Colors - These books, issued by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, have been favorites of my two oldest since they were very small and have been read to their siblings many times as well.  I used them as a starting point to look at more of the artists' work: Mary Cassatt's during the fall and Vincent Van Gogh in spring.  This required no special printing or lesson plans--every other week, we would look at a painting together by that author from one of my art books.  No narrations, of course; instead we just spent five minutes talking about the painting, and they would tell me whatever details they noticed. The goal here is enjoyment of the artwork and practice with close observation and description.

Music Appreciation
In addition to our hymn- and folk song-singing during Morning Basket time, we listened to some classical compositions as well.  The three we focused on were "The Carnival of the Animals," "Peter and the Wolf," and "The Nutcracker," and I played them a couple times a week during the big kids' quiet time while they paged through various picture books versions. We also mimed the stories along to the music or pretended to be the animals--lots of fun!  The children read Story of the Orchestra and began to learn about the types of orchestral instruments, and we were able to see a few local live performances as well.  It was a great introduction for all of us to the world of music study.

Art and Handicrafts
Art is a favorite subject in our home, as it is for many young children.  Our kindergarten art program (if you can even call it that!) included

:: Daily art time.  Drawing after morning basket time at the breakfast table, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes for an hour--no particular requirements.  Our favorite materials: Crayola Twistables crayons, Crayola Pipsqueaks markers, lots of paper of various sizes and colors, illustration markers (much better than ball-point pens), small notebooks, block erasers, Crayola Twistables colored pencils, and mechanical pencils (the latter two are essentials for any mom who hates having to sharpen all the time!).

:: Weekly art project.  This is something we're continuing this year, more as a reminder to me than a requirement for them.  My children would do big, messy art projects every day if I offered, but I don't have that kind of energy. ;)  So I try to plan at least one art project a week to hold me accountable.  During this weekly session, we experimented with new media and techniques or worked on special projects.  This was experimentation time for me as well--I have training in art history but absolutely no training at all in drawing or painting, so just as in nature study, I have been learning and observing alongside the children and having great fun doing so!

Some of the "weekly art projects" we worked on last year: Christmas cards, oil pastel flowers, book writing and illustrating, Thanksgiving placecards with oil pastel leaves, wet-on-wet watercolor, artist trading cards (for Kimberlee's wonderful bi-annual swaps), fabric puppets, fingerpainting, contact paper suncatchers, sunprints, paper collage, lots of painting (tempera, pan watercolors, liquid watercolors), and more.

(Yes, that one at the bottom is by my preschooler--she loves "doing school" along with her older siblings!)

:: Introduction to handicrafts. Purposeful handicrafts play a big role in a Charlotte Mason education, though it can be hard to find genuinely useful crafts that little children can do without frustration (and it was important to Charlotte Mason that the activities meet both of these requirements).  I only wanted to introduce skills that I thought would match their ability level because I wanted the work to be enjoyable--challenging but not at all tiresome.  A couple examples that I found to be perfect for their age were stamping and embroidering buttons.  We used alphabet stamps, for example, to turn some of their watercolor sheets into personalized bookmarks for friends and family--a great little gift.  And the children love to sew buttons onto felt in various patterns.  They actually prefer for me to undo their stitches so they can start over again, but their finished felt work looks wonderful framed as well.  We also crafted salt dough ornaments and decoupaged objects, but these were more one-time projects than learned skills.

I have lots more to share and lots more to learn as we move into the early elementary years.  But these are subjects where it's really hard to go wrong--the ultimate goal is enjoyment and familiarity, not perfection.(And boy am I glad that's the case! ;))


  1. What art books do you keep around for the children to use as a reference?

    1. Hi Sarah! Do you mean books for art history or for art instruction? For the former, we have many art books from my college days (I was an art history minor), and I have since picked up lots of "coffee table" books on various artists from library book sales and used bookshops to use for the prints we're studying or will be studying later on. But I'm not comfortable with the kids just reading through those--there's lots of details about the authors' lives (and even many of their works) that I don't consider appropriate for elementary students. So I usually get the Mike Venezia book from the library for the artists we're studying each year, as well as a few other picture books on the artist if they have some. I also make a 4x6 print of each painting we study that the kids get to keep in their binders, so they can look through those anytime they want. And the books I mentioned above, as well as all the art books for children put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are wonderful for littles. We have a lot of them and they have always been favorites!

      As for art instruction, my drawers really liked the Draw Write Now series--just the drawing sections (they ignored the copywork). There are similar how-to-draw vintage texts available for free online that are charming. I pull those up on the tablet when they're interested. But I didn't start anything formal until first grade, when we started using Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children. We have been working through that book slowly for the past couple years. I also love the Clare Walker Leslie books for teaching realistic drawing. And for art projects, I usually just scour the internet. ;) My kids are very creative and don't often look for instruction, honestly--they have big ideas of how they want to do things on their own, with very little input from me! LOL

      Hope that helps--let me know if you were wanting information on something different and I'll share further. :)

    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write out your comment! It was very helpful :). I have been reading more and more trying to get an idea about what our schooling is going to look like, but it's still hard to wrap my mind around it because CM is so different than the way I was homeschooled! Thanks for helping me out!