Friday, November 23, 2012

Arts and Crafts Curriculum

I was thinking this morning about arts and crafts curriculum. While I feel blessed for having family and public school teachers who thought enough to teach me about the creative process of arts and crafts (ceramics, crochet, decorating cakes,  sewing, scrapbooking, painting, quilting, etc.), I know that's not so in all families and all schools.

When we began homeschooling our son, I wanted to include arts and crafts to give him a well-rounded education. At first I had to start with inexpensive crafts because I didn't know what curriculum was available to us. I'd go to the hobby/craft stores near us in the children's section and tear off a instruction sheet of every available kid's craft there, purchase the necessary items (what I didn't have already in my craft stash at home) to make up into zippy bag kits and put them into a basket along with the instruction sheet for him to choose from during his weekly arts and crafts instruction time. After completing the craft, he would then staple the instruction sheet to his daily log of schoolwork so that I would have a record of what he did that day.
Eventually we used a combination of resources -- encyclopedias, my college Art history reference book (History of Art. By H. W. Janson. Prentice-Hall, Inc; 1977.), art postcards and the internet.
We joined a homeschooling support group and their members often arranged field trips to various places around the metropolitan city. I remember visiting the Nelson-Atkins art gallery on one such field trip. Nothing like seeing the real deal! My son was really into the suite of armor on display and some of the Egyptian art (he & his father was into the Young Indiana Jones series at the time). We took photos of the kids standing next to the sculpture outside the museum for our homeschool scrapbook/yearbook and I visited the gift shop. Was I ever thrilled the following week when our son found an Egyptian rubber stamp set at our local thrift store for $5.99 that we had seen at the gift shop for $26.99 only the week before. It was added to our craft corner.
One disagreement I've had with our children's Sunday School department is the use of cartoon illustrated posters. They say our posters are old-fashioned, but I say kids get enough cartoon illustrations in the film and TV industry. They need to be exposed to the art of the masters and their stories, like Rembrant and Albrecht Durer. If you want modern, go with today's artists like Warner Sallman. The above quick photo of The Good Shepherd print is one I have hanging in my living room and is a favorite of mine. It was given to me by my paternal grandmother. Her Sunday School class purchased it for her as  thank you gift.. Expose them to George Caleb Bingham Thomas Kinkade, Samuel J.Butcher  Arthur John Elsley, Sandy Lynam Clough among others. What better place to expose children to fine art than church? After all, it was the church who drove the appreciation of fine art for centuries by sponsoring the creation of it.
 I found a book near the end of our homeschooling days that I wish I had had at the beginning as it would have facilitated the study of art so much better. It's called "Great Art and Children's Worship." By Jean Louise Smith. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1948. If you can get your hands on a copy, grab it. I found my copy at a garage sale for a quarter. Each chapter is a lesson on a particular featured painting or sculpture, along with a bit of history on the artist and a short devotion. There are discussion questions to go along with the lesson as well. Ms. Smith has a resource list in the back of the book of suitable artwork to go with each lesson and a section on the symbolism of Christian art.

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