The Finer Things

06 Nov

One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason is her idea that children should have plenty of exposure to the arts. She didn’t feel children were too young to enjoy and appreciate fine art, poetry, and classical music. And she’s right. If these things are introduced at a young age, and a child hasn’t been exposed to too much popular culture (television, pop music, twaddle of any sort) or peer pressure (because classical music just isn’t cool) most children will enjoy them.


I want Stiggy to enjoy the arts. I don’t feel enough emphasis is placed on the arts in classical education. It’s seen as ‘something nice if you have time for it.’ (After the Latin declensions and math drill, a bit of art would be just the ticket, methinks.)

I was planning to wait until next year to introduce composer and picture study, but I’ve decided to give it a go.

Instead of following Miss Mason’s advice on having 3 terms per year, we’re continuing with our 4. This way, we can study 4 composers, 4 artsists, and 4 of Shakespeare’s plays per year. We school year round, taking breaks as we need, so our terms are 12 weeks long with the odd week or 2 off here and there. Spreading that out to 16 weeks may bring about boredom, I think.

Here are this term’s selections:


Edvard Grieg is the featured composer on Classics for Kids, which was a lucky stroke. Until now, I’d never heard of Grieg and I thought I’d never heard his music, but indeed I have. We all have.

Naxos does a great series of classical music called The Very Best of… We bought The Very Best of Grieg, which is a 2-CD set and good value for money. Originally I was just going to rely on YouTube and the library for our music, but the library is horribly lacking and I want to be able to put the music on easily when we want, without firing up the computer. I also want to be able to take requests (‘Mummy Dearest, I’m quite in the mood for some Chopin, it would be a lovely accompaniment to my lego building’) [Ha!]

We’re also making a simple composer timeline using adding machine tape and composer timeline pictures (these can be downloaded from my file share box, right). There isn’t one for Grieg, so I made one (also available to download, right. I’ll probably add more as we go, so check back).

Stiggy’s enjoying the music (he dances around to some of the livelier pieces and has actually asked me to put it on) and now knows who Grieg is and what he looks like. Mission accomplished. We’ll enjoy Grieg for a few more weeks.

Another resource we’ll slowly go through is The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Anita Ganeri, who’s written many great children’s book.. Amazingly, I found this at the library. This book includes musical history, has 2-page spreads for the main instruments of the orchestra, explains the different types of music (symphonies, opera, coral music), has bios for some major composers, info on music from around the world, and details on playing an instrument and joining and running an orchestra.


Artist/Picture Study

This term’s artist is Monet. We’re reading Linnea in Monet’s Garden, which is a delightful living book on Monet, full of great illustrations and samples of Monet’s work. I’ve never seen a book like this one. Stiggy is loving it and nearly broke down in tears when I stopped after a few pages and said we’d resume it next week (he then gave me a stellar narration.)

Our picture study is one of Monet’s Water Lilly pieces. Next week we’ll do a picture narration (he has a little practice with this from First Language Lessons) and then he’ll do his own water lilly painting.

We’re also keeping an artist notebook. We’re using some of the pages from here. I printed a small picture of Monet to glue to one page and each time we read a bit of Linnea, Stiggy tells me some more about Monet and I write it down for him. We can also keep track of the pieces we’re studying and I’ll use the forms for his picture narration.

Here’s another great dowload.


I came across this great site which shows you how to use Drawing With Children with nature journaling. Harmony Art Mom (who also hosts the incredible Outdoor Hour Challenges) has taken the lessons and adapted them for nature journaling. Excellent. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Nature journaling is something I’ve wanted so much to do, but we just haven’t gotten around to it. Now we can combine the two.

Drawing with Children recommends using markers in their lessons. I wanted the PrismaColor markers, but it would cost $30 for the shipping from DickBlick, so that’s not happening. Copic markers are supposed to be the best, but they’re a bit out of our price range at the moment (maybe when Stiggy’s a bit older). We settled on some Staedtler markers, which I got discounted with a voucher from WHSmith for about £6.

But I think we’ll probably use the PrismaColor pencils that I bought last year while visiting my family. I think they’re nicer for nature journaling. I also bought the PrismaColor Art Stix, which I think match the pencils and are great for filling in and colouring large areas and since they don’t have the wood casing, don’t need to be sharpened, so there’s no wastage. (Michael’s and Hobby Lobby in the US do a weekly 40% off one item coupon, so once a week I’d go into each store and buy one goody using that coupon).


Last week we did the starting level exercises, and this week we started with the warm-ups. (I’m going to do the lessons and keep a nature journal as well). I’ve placed at level 3 (I have no talent for drawing as yet, but can copy ‘flat’ drawing well) and Stiggy places at level 2, but I’ll probably start him at level 1 and see how it goes; I don’t want him to feel stressed or pressured. I was impressed with his ability when he did the exercise. I thought he’d get frustrated and stop after the second set, but he did them all, and did them pretty well.


This is something that Stiggy already loves. We’ve read nursery rhymes since he was a wee boy and couldn’t yet walk, and it’s naturally progressed to poetry. We read a bit of poetry most days, and this week’s featured poem was Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. We also read a bit of Roald Dahl’s Songs and Verse, and Stiggy requested his favourite nursery rhymes.


Yup, Shakespeare and Dickens. For background on Shakespeare, I got this beautiful book from the library. Right now we’re reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet Prince of Denmark. We’re using Marcia William’s adaptation Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays. We’ve done two readings of it and Stiggy did a picture narration of the fencing scene. After this, we’ll read Hamlet from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare or Tales from Shakespeare. I’ve also bought a copy of Shakespeare Stories, which I love, but it’s a bit advanced for him right now.I’ll ask for an oral narration after reading one of these versions and he can illustrate it. Not sure what else we’ll do with it at the moment.

In December, we’re hoping to tackle A Christmas Carol. This is a beautifully illustrated edition that I think Stiggy will enjoy. For background on Mr. Dickens, we may read a little of A Day with Charles Dickens and another Micheal Rosen beauty picked up at the library.


Next term, we’ll begin reading some adaptations of Dicken’s work.

We’ve got lots going on in other subjects as well…more about that later.

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Posted by on November 6, 2009 in Art, Charlotte Mason


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