Picture study, or artist study, is one aspect of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. We don’t strictly follow the Charlotte Mason way of conducting picture study. It’s easy to over think and over complicate and there are many ways of doing picture study. The important thing is to keep picture study engaging.

Picture Study the Charlotte Mason Way:

Charlotte Mason recommended one artist per term which is typically 12 weeks long. Charlotte Mason style picture study goes something like this:

  1. When first introducing a new artist, read a short bio.
  2. Give the child a picture to study for a few minutes.
  3. Ask the child to recall as many details as possible. This is known as “narrations”.
  4. Ask a variety of questions to engage the child in a critique of the picture.
  5. Have the child replicate the picture.

We differ from the Charlotte Mason method in that we skip the steps 1 and 2. Depending on what medium is used and whether or not B likes the painting he might attempt to replicate it. We enjoy using chalk pastels and are more inclined to replicate artists that use chalk pastels.

Avoid overthinking and overcomplicating:

If you’re not trying to be strictly Charlotte Mason, I recommend starting with What Do You See? We both really enjoyed What Do You See? I learned what questions to ask. B liked the pictures. There are three volumes with a variety of artists in each volume.

We like to keep things simple. Here’s how we do it:

  1. I find one or two pictures online to study (we connect our laptop to our TV for viewing).
  2. The first time we view a picture my an artist we read the artist’s bio.
  3. We spend about 10-15 minutes looking at the picture.
  4. I ask 6-8 questions to engage B in critiquing the painting.

B has really taken to picture study so we have been doing two lately. I answer the questions too, pointing out that art is subjective and people see different things. B’s answers are not incorrect, nor are mine but that we have different opinions and that’s fine.

Variety is the spice of life:

One thing that B didn’t like about What Do You See? was that the first question tended to be, what do you see? He’d answer before I’d have a chance to ask and then say, “Next question.” When I started creating my own picture studies I found 82 Questions to Ask About Art. I recommend subscribing to her newsletter to get her worksheet bundle. It’s great! There are eight different worksheets in the bundle that will help to keep picture study fun and engaging.

Another resource is Art Question Cards Help With Picture Study. The cards can be printed and put in a mason jar or box and selected at random.  The cards are loosely divided by age appropriateness. I have one kid who is not typical for his age group so my idea of what might be appropriate for various age groups may be a bit off. For example, I already ask B questions recommended for upper elementary students even though he’s technically at the end of grade 3. So review and sort as appropriate for your kids.

Whether you follow the Charlotte Mason way of picture study or pick out the parts that you like, remember to keep it simple. The point is to expose your children to art and learn about the artists.

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