Posted by: angiefm | February 12, 2009

How We Teach Art

I owe myself (and you) an In Retrospect post for last week, but have been too tired to get it done.  In fact “too tired” probably sums up the entire week!  But more about that later …

In the meantime, I thought I’d get something easy written up about.  ART! 

Some Bad Starts

Let me start by saying I didn’t have a clue about teaching art or craft when we first started homeschooling just over 4 years ago.  I thought we had to go out and buy a bunch of art and craft materials and spend lots of time preparing it all for our children to put together just like Alethea’s teachers did at Pat’s Schoolhouse which she attended for 2 years. 

So I did!  Fingerpaints, foam sheets, felt pieces, glue sticks galore, art and craft books with those OH SO GORGEOUS pictures of the end product.  We bought them all!  But it was a nightmare!  I am not a big fan of glue, or paint, or anything messy.  And the preparation took so long, and it was generally all very unsatisfying because you are just trying to recreate what someone else tells you to. 

And why did our giraffe NEVER look like the one in the book?  😦

MaryAnn F. Kohl


Then I discovered MaryAnn Kohl.  If you are a veteran homeschool catalogue browser, you will be all too familiar with that name.  I love her tagline – “It’s the process, not the product”.  So we dug into her books and really had a ball!  Yes, it was still messy … 🙂  … but we didn’t have an impossible standard to live up to. 

To be very honest, I was appalled at first at the black and white-ness of the book.  An art instruction book with no colour?  Then I realised how liberating it was!  My children were really being CREATIVE and enjoying the PROCESS!

We have done projects from Preschool Art, Scribble Art, and together with other families in our weekly playgroup, we have tackled projects from Global Art and Discovering Great Artists

Artistic Pursuits


In 2008, we spent a year at Art Boot Camp.  No regrets there, except that it was COSTLY!  I likened it to burning a 100-dollar bill every Thursday afternoon because that’s how much it cost to send all 3 to the classes.

So this year we started on the Artistic Pursuits programme.  Some people have balked at the price, but a whole year’s curriculum PLUS all the supplies needed costs less than what TWO LESSONS used to cost us at Art Boot Camp!  How can you quarrel with that!

Daddy Tee Chiou (our resident artist) does this programme with the kids on Saturdays and we meet with another homeschool family to do the lessons on alternate Wednesdays as well. 


Alethea’s drawing of two kids and their dog jumping on a trampoline

And it has been really good!  The children are coming up with some very original stuff, unlike when the attend classes and things are more or less organised for them and they churn out similar looking pieces.


Timothy’s drawing of 4 children on the beach.  The sea is in the background and what is a sea without a shark in it? 

And Teacher-Daddy is totally impressed not just with the curriculum but with the materials they recommend using because they are of such high quality!  A couple of weeks ago, when they first used the paint brush, he was ooo-ing and ah-ing long after the “lesson” was over, about how wonderful the brush was and how he never did have such fine materials to work with.


Nathalie’s drawing titled: “Mummy, Daddy, Kor Kor, Che Che and Nathalie finished eating lasagne”.

Picture Studies


At the same time, following the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, we do Picture Studies. 

It really is wonderfully simple and employs what Charlotte Mason termed “masterly inactivity”.  The idea is to bring the painting and the child together and not have to “preach” or “teach” anything at all!  Simply allow the artist to speak to the child through his/her painting. 


What you will need is a biography (we have personally enjoyed the series by Mike Venezia, but any biography, even one off the web will do) to introduce the artist to your children.  Then you will need a set of art prints, usually 6 to 9 from the same artist.  If you subscribe to this list,, you will have access to some lovely ones, all formatted and ready to print, and grouped by artist.  A FABULOUS resource.

Then each week, read a bit about the artist, then study one print.  The way to study it is to have your children (and of course you may participate too), look carefully at the picture.  Yes, just look.  No talking about it.  After a couple of minutes (you can tell when to stop because they take their eyes of the picture), turn the picture away from them and ask them to describe what they saw. 

Initially they will describe things like colours, what’s in the picture, etc.  When they have run out of things to say, look at the picture a second time.  There will always be things they missed the first time, and often if you are working with more than one child, there will be disputes about what they saw, what colour it was, how many, etc.  This is a good time to have them look at the painting carefully to figure it out for themselves. 

Then look at it again for the third and usually last time.  By this stage, you will probably get (or you can ask if you don’t) comments about how the painting made them feel – hot, sleepy, calm, peaceful.  They may also tell you what they think the people in the painting were feeling – bored, tired, happy, etc. 

At the end of the session (which shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 mins), you should all be able to close your eyes and see the picture in great detail in your mind’s eye.  That’s the goal.  To fill your child’s mind with the beauty of paintings of the great artists.

Child-Sized Masterpieces


If you are keen on starting your child younger, like at even 2 or 3, I highly recommend the Child-Sized Masterpieces programme.  This is a Montessori-style programme which allows children to handle postcard sized reproductions of some of the most famous paintings.  The process is a very simple one of matching or pairing the same or similar paintings, but in no time at all, they will be naming painters and paintings!  And all so effortlessly!  To read more about it, go to

Other Books


Before we got “formal” with our art programme, we read lots of great books on the subject like the Katie series by James Mayhew, the Anholt’s Artists series, and books by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Who can go wrong with them?  🙂  Hmmm … that reminds me … I really should take some of these books out to read to Nathalie!


We’ve also enjoyed some whacky books like the Look-Alikes series which at one time seemed perpetually stuck under Tim’s arm.  These pictures are made entired out of everyday objects, but so creatively put together.  For example the rocket you see on the cover of this book  has a shuttlecock for a nose, stalks of wheat for fire, and M&Ms, paperclips, buttons, pencils, erasers, nailclippers all placed just so to make it look like a rocket.  Incredible stuff!


In addition, we have taken the easy way out with crafts.  We just buy whole packaged kits from Klutz!  With most of the materials packaged with the book, you will not have any more excuses for not just jumping right in and creating something.  We have enjoyed so many of the books from this series and haven’t had to make a single trip to the store for supplies.  What’s more, you’ll have just enough to make whatever you fancy and not a whole lot more left over after! 

And that is how we tackle ART at THE DOMUS ACADEMY!  🙂


  1. Thank you for mentioning books that I have written about art for kids. I’m so glad they were inspiring! By the way, instruction books rarely have color…we’re small publishers with much smaller budgets than the companies who can afford color. But still, I just published my last book in color… it’s called “Great American Artists for Kids”, and you will be astounded by the images of masters’ works and kids’ works. You can peek at it at my website, where free samples of pages from ALLLLLLL my books are available. Have fun visiting !! Thanks again for your glowing words. I hope people will enjoy the art activity suggestions for kids, stressing process over product. :o)
    MaryAnn Kohl

  2. I love the water colours done by your kids…but my favourite one has to be Nathalie’s…the colour combination is just gorgeous.

    Irene bought 2 Look-a-likes for my boys, we had a fun time hunting for the items, really ingenious.

    Do you carry Artistic Pursuits…that’s something I’m definitely interested in.

  3. […] […]

  4. […] How We Teach Art Let me start by saying I didn’t have a clue about teaching art or craft when we first started homeschooling just over 4 years ago. By angiefm, Teaching Our Own, Singapore. […]

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