I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Homeschool Art the Charlotte Mason Way

JMW Turner Art Copy

In her Philosophy of Education, British education reformer Charlotte Mason wrote, “Every child should leave school with at least a couple hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination.” (vol. 6, p.43) Miss Mason set aside time not only for her students to express themselves artistically but also for them to study the lives, styles, and works of the great masters.

It was her belief that art colors a child's world, helps to fulfill his God-given need for beauty and creativity, connects him to people and cultures down through the ages, and supports the development of his critical thinking skills and worldview. 

Several years ago, in an effort to give more careful consideration to how I approached art in my homeschool, I decided to not only carve out intentional time each week for creative expression but also to be more calculated in my attempts to teach art history.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Homeschool Art the Charlotte Mason Way #homeschool #charlottemason #cmhomeschooler

Since then, we've read great books. We've used real materials. We've copied great works. We've written our thoughts about the masters in a notebook dedicated entirely to art and art history.

In other words, we've learned the Charlotte Mason way. 

Below is a peek into our homeschool art time. (Please note: We never try to cram all of these steps into one lesson, but instead stretch them out over the course of 2-3 lessons. Since we only do art once a week, we usually take a couple of weeks to complete the study of one artist.)

Egyptian art

We study the artist.

We start by reading a short excerpt of the artist's life from Discovering Great Artists. This usually includes the time period in which he lived, his preferred art mediums, and the names of his most famous works. If I find his biographical information included in Lives of the Artists or any of the Getting To Know the Word's Great Artists series, or if I own a picture book biography of him, I take a few minutes to read these aloud. Otherwise, I queue up a 10-15 minute YouTube video about his life and work. 

Helpful YouTube Playlists about the Masters

Sandro Boticelli

We study his work.

Next, we take a closer look at the artist's most famous works. I pull out any artist-specific coffee table books I might own or one of my favorite art anthologies which include: 

(I own an embarrassingly large collection of art books. I pick them up at library used book sales and second-hand stores whenever I see them. It's an addiction. I might need an accountability partner to help me break the habit. But, I digress...) 

We flip through these books and discuss whatever stands out to us about the paintings and sculptures. (Please note: The Sister Wendy's anthologies are adult art books and contain nudes. I do not shelve these with our normal art books and am selective about the paintings I point out during our lessons. That said, they are the premier art anthologies for the lay art historian and contain broad samplings of art and artists.)

shaving cream art

We narrate what we've learned.

After learning the basics about the artist's life, we then discuss what we've learned. My kids begin to orally list any of the facts that stuck out to them. Using a whiteboard, I write down any important names, dates, and difficult-to-spell words that they mention. Between all of us, we are able to piece together enough biographical information to begin a written narration. Since we have a lifetime membership to Notebooking Pages, I print out an artist-specific writing page for them to use or encourage them to use a blank piece of notebook paper. 

Once they've written a brief paragraph of biographical information, they glue this narration to one side of a two-page spread in their art notebook. (These 11x14 sketch notebooks are perfect for Charlotte Mason-style notebooking because they are large enough to hold a piece of homemade artwork without requiring the artist to do any trimming.) 

The following is an example of the written narration of one of my children:
"Giotto was an Italian artist who became popular for his Gothic art. From 1305 through 1306, he painted a series of Biblical frescoes at Arena Chapel. The Deposition of Christ, one of his most famous works, features Jesus who has just been taken down from the cross, his mother Mary who is holding Him, Mary Magdelene at His feet, the Apostle John looking on, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the angels, and a crowd of others."

If I am able to print out an example of the particular work of art we discussed, I do so and instruct my kids to glue it into their notebooks above or below their written narrations. 

Giotto Deposition of Christ

We create a piece of art.

When we first started curating our art notebooks over a decade ago, we mostly attempted recreations of famous works. We were copyists. Van Gogh's Starry Night, da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Poppy 1927--they all found a place in our notebooks. In the last few years, however, we've mostly tried to use the artists' techniques and mediums to create our own unique pieces of art. In other words, we copy their style, not their art.

Flanders Fields Completed

For instance, after learning about Sandro Botticelli's tondos (paintings in the round), we decided to create oil pastel tondos of the poppies mentioned in the poem "In Flanders Fields" that we had recently read during our WWI unit in history. 

Our work is usually two-dimensional, created on basic art paper and glued onto the corresponding 2-page spread in our notebooks. Occasionally, we attempt sculptures and 3-dimensional pieces. These, of course, can't be glued into our notebooks but are kept on a shelf next to them. 


We learn to appreciate art.

Confession: I lived in the Southwest for the first 22 years of my life and never really appreciated cowboy art. It was everywhere I turned. I didn't understand it and therefore didn't like it.

But one day while studying Frederic Remmington with my children during art time, I began to see southwestern art in a different way. I learned that Remmington was a turn-of-the-century illustrator whose life's mission was to preserve the last of the western frontier in paintings so that future generations could enjoy it. I also learned that he was and still is the most well-known western artist in history. In fact, one of his bronze sculptures, The Bronco Buster, has apparently graced the Oval Office during every presidency since the Carter administration.

visiting an art museum

To be honest, even after spending an entire afternoon learning about Remmington, western art is still not my favorite style. But thanks to a Charlotte Mason approach to studying art, I've come to appreciate it so much more because I now know more about the men and women who created it.

And that's the beauty of the Charlotte Mason way. Exposure breeds understanding. Understanding breeds Interest. Interest, when nurtured, breeds appreciation. My kids have learned to love art because they've learned how to love it.  


  1. Thanks, Jaime! Art has been a struggle around here. So, I ordered your Rec books and we'll plan to make the time to have art weekly.

    1. Art is definitely a subject that is easy to avoid, especially if you have little ones who make big messes. But while I sometimes hate doing it, I'm always grateful for having done it with my kids.

  2. Do you count this time toward a fine art credit for your older kids? Thanks!

    1. Great question! I listed it as a half-credit (.5) on my high schoolers' transcripts.

    2. Awesome! We are just entering the credit world :) so I’m absorbing as many tips as I can. Thank you!

  3. Thanks again for this. Art has been a struggle for us but after reading this I am encouraged to start again after over a year of shelving it

  4. Thank you so much for this inspirational post. I love that you incorporate art history and narration into art. Right now we are learning how to draw for art and it can be pretty dull. I'm excited to make the lessons a little more hands-on and multi-faceted, as well as more CM.