Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First Grade in Our Home: Art

We're in Week 28 of our school year here, and I'm finally getting around to sharing the last of our first-grade plans!  This is actually a great one to do in hindsight, though, because I'm able to link lots of resources you might be interested in for your early-elementary artists.

I have two first-graders and although both of them really enjoy art (especially the messy stuff!), my daughter is the particularly eager artist in our household--it is definitely her favorite subject.  We belong to a charter school for homeschooling families that provides us with funds for educational use, and under other circumstances, I would definitely enroll her in local art classes, but that just doesn't fit our family schedule this year.  So I have used a large chunk of our charter school funds for the next best thing: a very well-stocked cabinet of quality art supplies.  I have also made a commitment to give them at-least-weekly opportunities to experiment or work on projects using "the good stuff."  And although at this age I'm much more interested in the natural daily practice that comes with their just sitting at the table to draw and color, I also planned for some more formal drawing lessons at her request.

So our art plans for this year are twofold:

On my weekly checklist is a slot for "art project" to make sure I'm consistent on this one.  I actually love doing art projects with the kids--I'd take an art project over a math lesson any day!  But I usually need two hands to set up and assist during an art lesson, as well as a chunk of time when wandering toddlers aren't grasping at our materials or generally making a big fuss.  Those two things do not coincide with any reliability around here. ;)  And so the checklist keeps me accountable for a weekly opportunity to experiment and enjoy.  I'm not talking here about drawing or coloring--those happen daily, and even the littles happily join in.  I'm talking about the messier, more labor-intensive kinds of projects that require set-up and clean-up.  So once a week, I pray that naps magically coincide, and we spend that time doing an art project.  This is exactly why I don't have a daily schedule but rather a weekly one.  I have to take my chances when they come! ;)

My goals for these art projects are
1. For the kids to ENJOY THEMSELVES.  (I force myself to loosen up during our art projects.  It does not come naturally to me. ;)  But I really want the process to take precedence over the product, so I try to choose very open-ended projects that aren't supposed to look a certain way when they're finished.  And I try to pretend I am teaching someone else's children rather than my own. ;))
2. To experiment with various media.
3. Occasionally, to make a gift.

Some of our favorite art projects from this year:

Some of our "art project" days were less a prescribed project and more just experimentation with a new medium or practice with a favorite medium, such as:
:: watercolor pencils
:: pan watercolors: wet-on-wet watercolor and dry-brush
:: chalk pastels on light paper and black paper
:: oil pastels
:: paper cutting and collage
:: fingerpaints
:: polymer clay
:: playdoh
:: modeling beeswax
:: rubbing plates

Drawing Lessons
The other weekly element of our art plans this year is basic drawing lessons, using Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children as our spine.  If you have seen this book, you know that it isn't exactly broken down into lessons--it's very much a teacher's guide.  So I worked through the book before the start of this year and divided it into age-appropriate lessons, relying heavily on these two other examples.  My plan was to have a weekly drawing session, moving through the book at our own pace, and a daily drill, using those at Donna Young's site.  

The truth is, we got through about half the book before having a new baby in the house made me rework our plans a little...and this was the one thing I decided to delay.  We continue with the daily drills, which are great fun, and my daughter has been requesting her favorite Draw Write Now volumes from the library, but the weekly lessons are on hold for now.  That said, we got through quite a bit of the book, and I think we stopped at a good place--just before moving on to volume drawing, which is a major skill jump.

So that's art!

(Looking for more of our first-grade plans?  Here's the overview, as well as my break-downs of some of our subjects: music study, artist study, ShakespeareItalian, and religion.)


  1. Celeste, I would love to see your breakdown of the Drawing with Children book. We have it, but have not yet used it very much, mainly just doing some of the copying of shapes via the pages Donna Young created. I see you didn't hit it as much as you would have liked, but you seem to have done a lot. I am so amazed at how much you've done with your first graders this year!

    1. Hi Amanda -- If you send me your email (you can use the "Email Us" link under our intro in the sidebar), I'd be happy to send you my breakdown! We got through the still-life chapter (which I think is called Lesson 3), so I only have notes through there (and very rough divisions into lessons for the rest), but I'm happy to share. I really like the layout of these lessons: http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/dwclp.htm They are very similar to what we did. But ultimately, my kids wanted to work through it a bit more quickly in some places and more slowly in others, so that's reflected in our layout.

  2. I LOVE your blog and have been pouring over it all morning. My DD is about to start AO1 and she is very curious as to what your children are doing with those oven mitts on their hands! Thanks

    1. Thanks, Antonella! They were doing melted crayon art, as described here:
      (Not for Christmas, though!) It's a fun activity but since the cookie sheet is hot, oven mitts are best. :)

      I'm getting ready for daughter #3 to start AO Year 1 and am really looking forward to it--it's a great year!

  3. I just picked up Drawing with Children book from our local library. I looked at Donna Young's website and I can't seem to find the free worksheets referred to. Could you point me in the right direction?

    1. Hi Kara! Unfortunately, those items aren't offered for free on Donna Young's site anymore -- only by subscription. I think she switched from free to paid a couple years ago. Sorry about that! I should really update my post to reflect that change, so thank you for the reminder.

    2. Bummer! Thank you for the quick reply. Luckily, I'm pretty handy with Google Docs so I should be able to fake it :)