How to Do Picture Study with Children | Charlotte Mason Style

How to Do Picture Study with Children feature image

Picture Study is definitely a simple and enjoyable enrichment study to add to your child’s education. I love how artwork can bring up all kinds of emotions, and enjoying that with our children is certainly something special! If you have been wanting to do picture study with your children, but feel unsure or intimidated, have no fear – this post is for you! I will break down the basics of picture study for you, so it is easy to implement. It is such an easy and enjoyable topic to do with your child that broadens the scope of their education. While we are a homeschooling family, even if you are not, you can still do art study with your children! Through careful study of pictures from the great artistic masters, your children will enjoy the many true and beautiful expressions these artists have shared with us. Be sure to look out for the FREE digital download at the end of this post that contains the schedule for an entire artist picture study!!! (12 Weeks) 

When doing picture study with children, choose an artist to focus on, share about the artist’s life, study and discuss artwork together. 

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon a child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.” Charlotte Mason (Home Education, The Home Education Series Volume 1)

How to Do Picture Study with Children:

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1: Choose an artist.

There are so many artists to choose from! You could begin with your personal favorite artist, or choose one that you believe will capture your children’s attention! You will go through 3 artists per school year – that is 1 artist every 12 weeks or per term. In this post, I will choose Monet as an example. Here are some of our favorite artists to begin with:

  • Monet
  • Vermeer
  • Audubon
  • Cassatt
  • Homer
  • Van Gough
  • Constable
  • Da Vinci
  • Michaelangelo

“We recognize that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves” Charlotte Mason (Towards a Philosophy of Education, The Home Education Series Volume 6)

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2: Choose an art selection:

You will need to find a good sized print of 6-8 pieces of the chosen artist’s work. You can use a book with a compilation of the artist’s work, a pre-made picture study, or quality prints. Any of these are acceptable, just make sure there are 6-8 quality prints of the artist’s work. You should choose pictures that are age appropriate for your children. I like to choose works that encourage appreciation and enjoyment for things that are: just, true, and beautiful. I usually use one of the Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios – which you can find here. They make picture study so easy to accomplish, because the packet contains everything needed, as well as some guidance for the instructor. If they do not have the artist we wish to study, I will then look for a basic art book. For Monet, I would choose Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Monet, or the extra prints for Monet, or a Monet Basic Art book.

“As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it” Charlotte Mason (Towards A Philosophy of Education, The Home Education Series Volume 6)

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3: Find a living biography of the artist.

You will also want to share some information about the artist with your children. Preferably, this will be a living biography of sorts that will bring the artist to life and personalize him for them. For example, I found several lovely children’s books about Monet, which share a story that will bring him down to children’s level and capture their imagination. (If you choose to get one of the Picture Study Portfolios, there is a short story about the artist included in the book.) For example, here are some of our favorite living books about Monet:

  • Katie and the Waterlilly Pond by James Mayhew can be found here
  • The Met Claude Monet: He Saw the World in Brilliant Light by Amy Guglielmo can be found here
  • Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bajorak can be found here
  • The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt can be found here
  • A Blue Butterfly: A Story About Claude Money by Bijou Le Tord can be round here
  • Monet Pains a Day by Julie Danneburg can be found here 
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4: Have a weekly art study.

This will usually take about 15-20 minutes. Here are some picture study ideas for your weekly gatherings:

Occasionally, you will read about the artist with your children. 

On these weeks, this will take the place of a picture study. You may ask your children for an oral or written narration of the reading if you desire, but you do not have to. I generally ask my children to share something they found interesting about the artist. This is a great time to add the artist to your book of centuries (or a timeline) so that they can visualize when this person lived.

Most weeks, you will complete a picture study.

You can complete a picture study in 4 simple steps! This should take 15-20 minutes at the most to accomplish. Do not overthink or overwork this activity. Keep this simple and enjoyable! The end goal of picture study is for children to appreciate good art and learn to recognize the style/works of a particular artistic master.

1: Select a picture.

Remember, you will only select a picture from the artist of choice. (A total of 8 pictures per term.) Sometimes I allow my boys to take turns selecting the artwork; it is neat to see what art each child is drawn to. Now that the picture has been selected, it is time for everyone to gather together for the fun.

2: Study the picture.

  • Before showing the new picture, ask your children to tell you what they remember from last time. Either about the picture, or the artist, depending on what you did with them.
  • If you desire, you may tell your children what the size of the actual artwork is before showing them the print.
  • Next, show them the picture and allow them to SILENTLY study it for 3-5 minutes. Encourage them to look closely, observe the details in the picture, and to try and see the entire work in their mind with their eyes closed.
  • Last, have the children narrate the picture. They should tell as much as they remember about the picture. If you have more than 1 child, allow each one to share some, then move to the next. Come back to around if someone has more to add.

3: Discuss the picture. 

Now that you have studied the picture together, you can have a discussion about the work. Now you can share the title of the picture with your children. Remember not to quiz or lecture your children on their comprehension of the art. This is a time to ask them to think about the picture and share those thoughts. If there is a story behind the picture, you may wish to briefly share it. Here are some questions you may want to discuss together:

  • What is happening in this picture?
  • Do you like this picture?
  • Can you tell what time of day, or what season, it is in the picture?
  • How does this picture make you feel?
  • What do you think is the medium of this artwork?
  • What is your favorite detail about the picture?

4: Display the picture. 

The last part of the picture study is to display the picture for the next week. Choose a location in your home where everyone can see the pictures daily. This will keep the pictures fresh in everyone’s minds and help build a connection with the artist’s style of art. I have seen many creative ways to do this – from pinning on a corkboard to hanging on a line – you decide what works best for your home.

And that is all there is to doing a weekly picture study! I hope you enjoy doing this with your children as much as I do with mine!

Please share your family’s favorite artists in the comments below, so that we can all get fresh ideas of whose artwork we wish to study next.

Would you like a FREE 12 week art study schedule?!

Free Charlotte Mason Style Picture Study Schedule

Click below to download mine!

If you found this post helpful, you may also enjoy my other enrichment study how-to posts:

  • How to do Poetry Study with Children
  • How to do Music Study with Children

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