What do you get when you combine music appreciation with sketchbooks and pencils? A fabulous end to the school week. I’ve started calling these days Fine Arts Fridays because we’ve been spending much of our Fridays doing creative activities. The children could not be happier. Additionally, I believe that music and art speak to the spirit and soul, so in a way these pursuits enable us to enter more completely into Shabbat. Everything slows down and we are free to listen and express. Art of all kinds is something that I will find my children engaging in whenever they have free time. If they have five minutes before a math test – they’ll pull out the sketch books. Selah takes her creative writing with her everywhere she goes. Jaelah is constantly drawing on every piece of paper she can get her hands on, even my Costco receipts. Our Doodle Pro magnetic pads have been used so much by everyone that I’ve had to replace them three times already. I’m blessed that so far all of the kids have been really excited about this aspect of our education, and we’re doing more this year than ever before because I see such a value in encouraging something that REALLY sparks their interest.
For our World’s Greatest Composers studies (written by Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler) we are currently studying Bach. I really like the composer studies because they add a wealth of information while also giving children a chance to express themselves artistically. We do puzzles, lapbooks, minibooks, and coloring galore for each lesson.
While listening to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the children were encouraged to do a free drawing on how the music made them feel. Not surprisingly, the colors they chose were dark and bold, the lines jagged and spooky – much like the piece. We have complete quiet during our listening times, and the kids get to color, cut, staple, and glue to their hearts’ content while we learn to recognize some of the best compositions ever written. It’s yielded an almost sacred peace to the home during our Friday afternoons, and I have come to really look forward to it as a bookend to the week. Erica just released Volume 2 of World’s Greatest Composers, so I’m glad that we’ll have something to move on to after we are finished with this book. I’m tempted to really draw it out. After all, can you really come to appreciate Bach’s music after only a couple of weeks?
For the second portion of our Fine Arts times, I am using a DVD program called Art Class. We’ve tried a variety of art programs before and I haven’t really liked any of them yet. Yes, I could teach the children the fundamentals of drawing and painting without using any sort of curriculum, for it has always been a passion of mine. There isn’t a whole lot to it, and once you understand basics of contrast and contour you’re off running. But watching these short, Christ-centered video lessons each week is really simplifying something that is hard for me to illustrate for the girls. I like how Pat Knepley lays out the basic tools, instructions, and ideas with a Scripture focus each week. It has the perfect kind of lessons at just the right pace. Everyone is really moving towards the next level in artistic expression, even Chavah, who has before now appeared to be completely uninterested in drawing or sketching. I scored some art pencil sets on a clearance sale and on a whim purchased one for her, along with a small sketchpad. Boom! That was what she needed – her own little toolkit. Every day she asks me if she can sketch now. Perhaps I am biased, but some of the original abstracts pieces she’s created just might rival Picasso.
A Fine Arts appreciation in our homeschool wouldn’t be complete without actually playing musical instruments. Jaelah and Selah are getting well-established in their piano playing. Chavah has just started and loves every minute of it. On Fridays, we prepare a “recital” for Pete to hear when he gets home from work and we are entering into Erev Shabbat. All they do is play the pieces they’ve been learning throughout the week, and having an audience to listen means a lot more to them than just practicing for Mom every day. The twins have gotten so excited about all these piano goings-on that they have “composed” several musical delights as well. Though they are eager right now to start playing, I want to wait a bit for their little hands to grow before we commence formal instructions as their tiny fingers can barely press down the weighted keys on our antique upright. If they continue to show an interest in music, I may look into violin for them in the future. As it is, I still haven’t found a bench that allows all three girls to have proper sitting posture at the piano but it hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm around here. And it’s amazing how much my own ear training has developed as I listen to these pieces played over and over and over again every day. I’m finally beginning to recognize notes that I never really paid attention to when I was playing piano.
Fine Arts Fridays have been going so well that I have no intention of changing anything for the time being. It is a motivator to finish well some of the less fun subjects during the week. And I’m not just talking about the children.