Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Second Grade in Our Home :: Fine Arts

I'm doing a recap of some of this year's subjects now that we're finished with our school year.  Today: the fine arts!

Picture Study

As usual, we deviated from the Ambleside Online selections here, simply because I love art history and like choosing our own.  We studied three artists, six pieces per artist, spending two weeks on each, or two 15-minute sessions.

Week 1: For the first session, I show them the piece and tell them its name, size, media, and date.  I then include any relevant details they might want to know, such as its purpose or commission, where it's hanging now, or the historical/literary reference.  They then spend several minutes looking quietly at it, trying to make a mental image of it.  Once they are ready, I cover the print and they narrate all they remember about it.  Once they're finished, I turn it back over and we discuss: this is my chance to add additional details or draw a comparison with a prior work we have studied.

 Week 2: I get out sketch paper and conte crayons and let them do a sketch of the piece.  How and what they choose to draw is up to them, but the goal is not imitation--it's more a further act of narration, encouraging further observation.  Sometimes they choose to block the composition, roughly charting out the positions and shapes of the scene.  Sometimes they choose to focus on one small detail of the print to sketch.  I also use this time to show them comparisons with other pieces and/or studies done by the artist in preparation for this work.

At the beginning of each term, I also add a biography of the artist to their reading shelf and they narrate the pertinent details from it when they have finished.

Term 1 - Manet
The Races at Longchamps, 1864
Le Bar aux Folies-Bergere, 1881-2
The Fifer, 1866
The Railway, 1872
On the Beach, 1873
In the Conservatory, 1879

Term 2 - Jan Vermeer
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, 1654-5
The Milkmaid, 1657-8
The Little Street, 1657-8
Young Woman with a Water Jug, 1660-62
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665
The Art of Painting, 1666

Term 3 - Albrecht Durer
Self-Portrait in a Fur Coat, 1500
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1497-8
Young Hare, 1502
The Knight, Death, and the Devil, 1513
Praying Hands, 1508
Feast of the Rosary, 1506

Composer Study

Once again, we study one composer per term, about six selections per composer.  As in picture study, I deviate from the Ambleside schedule here too--I rely heavily on the pieces that they select, but I do them on my own rotation.  That's partly because while my children are young, I want to use composers that have elementary-level books written about them, and partly because I want to take advantage of local performances.  For example, we had the opportunity to hear several of Haydn's pieces performed this winter, so he was on my list for this year.

For the first four weeks of each term, the children read and narrated a chapter from the Opal Wheeler biography of each composer.  These made such a deeper impact on my children than the Venezia biographies that we used last year!  I'm planning to purchase three more for next year's composers once I've selected them.

They also read and narrated a short section each week of the year from The First Book of the Orchestra, which is a vintage text that does a nice job of explaining the families and instruments in the orchestra and how they work together.

Term 1: Haydn
Celenza's The Farewell Symphony
Symphony No. 45, The Farewell Symphony (three weeks)
Symphony No. 94, The Surprise Symphony (three weeks)
Symphony No. 60, Il Distratto (two weeks)
String Quartet Op 76 no. 4 in B flat major, 1st movement, Sunrise Quartet (two weeks)
The Creation: "The Heavens are Telling the Glory" (two weeks)

Term 2: Mozart
Opal Wheeler's Mozart, The Wonder Boy
Piano Concerto 20 (two weeks)
Symphony 40 (four weeks)
Quintet in A Major for Clarinet (two weeks)
Quintet in A Major for Clarinet
Piano Sonata in A Major (two weeks)
Concerto for bassoon and orchestra in B-flat major, K. 191 (two weeks)

Term 3: Beethoven
Opal Wheeler's Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells
Moonlight Sonata (two weeks)
Symphony 9 (two weeks)
Symphony 5 (two weeks)
Piano Concerto 5 Op 73 (two weeks)
Razumovsky Quartets Op 59 (four weeks)

Art and Drawing

I aim for one drawing lesson and one art project each week, but we fell short of that this year.  In actuality, we had a full first term, working our way through twelve more weeks of lessons based on Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children (we began using this book last year) and our weekly art projects as planned.  In our second and third terms (which started with first-trimester woes!), I let weekly drawing warm-ups from Donna Young's site and fun with various doodling books stand in for more formal lessons, and we did an art project every other week.  Thankfully, my daughters in particular spend tons of time daily with their own art projects, so they were certainly getting lots of practice, just not instruction or direction.  

A few of the art projects we did manage to do this year:

ATC saint card swap
watercolor placecards
I'm already planning how to fit art into our days for next year.  I'll have an infant again, which always makes things a bit challenging, but I'm hopeful!


My daughter has been faithfully working her sewing all year.  She would love to spend even more time sewing, but all I can commit to now is a weekly session with her--and she does still need my help.  But she has made some nice little projects this year, and I think she'll be working more independently in no time.

As for my son...does anyone else find boys' handicrafts really difficult to teach?  Woodworking doesn't come naturally to me, though I know he'd enjoy it.  I have a leather stamping kit set aside for his birthday this year that I'm hoping will be something we can do together, and maybe paper sloyd or whittling soap for next year?  I think I need indoor activities. :)


Both children began piano lessons in February.  They have already made great progress and are learning with enthusiasm.  It has been a wonderful addition to our week!


  1. You are absolutely amazing, Celeste. And an incredible inspiration. Your children are very fortunate to have such a loving, committed, knowledgeable and fun mama. And soon one more will get be benefiting from your love and tutelage. Many blessings to you and your entire family as you await the latest arrival.

    1. You are way too kind, Dawn--though I will say that based on what I know of you, your sons are equally fortunate! Thank you so much for the prayers. :)

  2. I've noticed that when I've had the children do drawn narrations of art we remember them so much better than if we only study and verbally narrate them. I've gotten away from that this year, but I'm planning on doing that again next year.

    As for boy crafts, I've found that sewing can have a lot of appeal for them too. It is all a matter of finding the right projects. This year my 8 year old has sewn two holsters, a cadet cap, and a pouch and has enjoyed it greatly. And I'm glad to have him know his way around the sewing machine too.

    1. Amber, you are right about the sewing! I need to find some boyish projects he can work on. My daughter got a couple of those "My First Sewing Kits" for her birthday/Christmas last year, and that's what she has been working on--but those are full of really girlish kinds of projects, and I haven't been motivated to put something together from scratch for my son. But I'll bet it would be easier to do that and just have both of them working on sewing than it would be to teach two handicrafts at once! So I think maybe we should go that route...

    2. I wonder if a felt food kit would be appealing? I found one a couple of years ago (when my son was too young to help with it) and my daughter did well making the food for her younger siblings to play with. We've also found some great directions and tutorials online that perhaps you could print and share with your children. My daughter particularly likes being able to make fun things for her younger brothers to play with in the play kitchen, and my son has shown some interest too. (I just haven't gotten it together to get a project going for him in that area - maybe I should do that this summer!) Not that you don't have a lot else to think about right now... :-)

    3. That's a great idea, Amber--and I'm sure it would get a lot of use in this house. And funnily enough, though I *don't* have enough energy to be pulling together felt and thread and whatnot right now, I *do* have plenty of time for online researching and pulling up tutorials! :) So that will go on my to-do list...I think both of my kids would really enjoy that project, perhaps working toward a Christmas gift for the little ones.

    4. Ooh, Christmas presents, that's a great idea! My daughter and I crocheted a set of six muffins for my 2 yo son for last Christmas, and they were a big hit.

      Here's a tutorial that my daughter did a couple of years ago and it turned out wonderfully (and has held up well too!)

    5. Adorable! And bacon and eggs are a favorite meal around here. :)

  3. I believe that the arts are an important part of education and what a wonderful job you are doing with it! Lots of neat craft projects!

    My oldest daughter loves playing the piano! We will have to be buying a new keyboard soon because the one we have has quit working. *sigh* The piano book your child is using in the picture looks very similar to one we have used in the past.

    1. Thank you, Mrs. K! We're using the (very common) Bastien series right now on the advice of our teacher and are liking it a lot. :)

  4. What a lovely learning atmosphere you and your kids are enjoying! I discovered your blog recently and have really loved reading your thoughts and ideas!
    We have mostly girls, only one boy, so my sample size is small, but here are some of the handicrafts our very boyish 12-year-old son has enjoyed in the last several years, in addition to woodworking with Daddy: a little bit of embroidery and sewing (stitching people's initials onto bookmarks as gifts, other small gift projects), a little bit of whittling (mostly when we are camping), a lot of origami and kirigami, some robotics (using Lego), and some loom knitting (he and a bunch of friends challenged themselves to make 100 baby hats for a local NICU). Also, not such a beautiful craft, but a very fun one: one of our nephews taught himself to make balloon animals very well and now as a teenager has turned this into a job (he makes them at kids' birthday parties).
    If you're willing to expand the definition of handicrafts to include some life skills that are at least in part a craft, our son also really enjoys baking, gardening, planning and executing a nice meal including a nice table setting (involving way more silverware than I ever out out!) and even a little bit of canning (I do a lot of canning, but last summer he did a batch of blueberry jam almost entirely on his own after watching/helping me many times).
    Although some of these are things we teach him or give as projects, many just happen organically, either as things we do that he joins us in doing, or things he's interested in that he learns on his own. I bet some of that is happening or will happen with your boys too!

    1. Great ideas, Andrea! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like your son has really taken off with some enjoying crafts!

  5. This is our first year doing AO/CM, and I've struggled to connect w/ our composer study. I LOVE your idea of how you chose for your little kids, based on the books available. We are going to make a change in our list for the rest of the year! Do you have a CD you used that included all your selected pieces for each composer(I'm looking at Motzart right now)? I've looked up a couple now, and not all the selections are on a single CD. Or did you buy individual songs?

    1. Hi Jenny! No, I just pull them individually--and instead of buying I usually just find a good version on YouTube to play, then add a link to it in Evernote on my page for the current year's music study plans. It works well for us because we don't have a separate CD player, so I'd be playing mp3s via the computer/phone anyway. Hope that helps!

    2. Thanks for the tips!!
      I've been reading on how you're implementing with Littles. So helpful to see how you make adaptations!

  6. Hi Celeste!
    I was wondering about your week 2 phase of picture study. When the kiddies sketch or draw the painting, do you have them do it while looking at it? Or do you ever have them try to do it from memory?

    1. We do a variety of things: drawing by memory, making as a compositional sketch, focusing on a particular detail, using various media. The one thing we don't do is make serious attempts to recreate the work, which is something CM warns against so as not to lessen the child's reverence for the piece. But anything else is fair game! :)