I was a miserable art student throughout childhood. I was miserable in art class and my art was miserable. Really, there was little that I found true, good, or beautiful about my art.
I was blessed. My parents love travel and, while this introvert loves being a homebody, I did grow up with a passion for true art, in large measure, because of our family travel. As a very young child, I wandered the halls of the Louvre, toured many of the museums in the Smithsonian, spent vast amounts of time in castles, took ballet lessons after meeting a Russian ballet troupe, attended the opera in Prague, and was no stranger to art museums in cities all over the world. My taste for the fine arts was cultivated early and often.
When my husband and I agreed that I would be the primary teacher of our young children, I knew that my kids needed exposure to the Masters early and often. I wasted no time in researching fine art curricula and resources.
Simply Charlotte Mason has a phenomenal set of resources that are very affordable. The Picture Study Portfolio series is a set of carefully curated prints from the Masters accompanied by a robust guide, a dynamic set of questions to use when appreciating each print, and a family friendly book list that brings each artist to life.
I could absolutely make these myself and you probably could too. The substantial value for me, however, was in the excellent picture study questions, and the excellent resource appendix. I trust Simply Charlotte Mason to have carefully vetted resources for their child appropriateness and living books quality.
My family started with Giotto. We purchased the digital download version because I have a powerful color laser printer and a good laminator. I laminated my prints front and back to save on the cost of the heavy duty laminating pouches that I used. I wanted these to be sturdy so that I could do as she suggests, and display these around the house during our six-week cycle.
Each artist portfolio includes 8 full color prints, an engaging biography of the artist, an excellent resource/additional reading list, a 5-step guide for leading picture study, and leading questions for each print.
The 5-step guide is a very helpful, step-by-step, orientation on how to lead a picture study. It helps the parent to know how often to do it, how much to say, how little to say, where to display the prints, etc. It really is a powerful resource.
I particularly appreciate the leading questions for each print. The questions are insightful and crafted to prompt genuine reflection and conversation. I consider these to be the most valuable tool in the resource.
At time of writing this, Simply Charlotte Mason has 15 artist portfolios available for purchase. We only own 2, but I plan to acquire 2-3 per year for the next several years. I started these when my oldest was 6. He is almost 9 now and we are doing them for a second time. When he was very young, it was enough just to expose him to the prints, read the biography, and appreciate the supplemental picture books. Now that he is older, he will certainly get more out of them.