Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Artistic Pursuits

My girls love all things art and craft related, so I knew they'd be thrilled when they found out we were going to review Artistic Pursuits. And I was right. 

We received Grades K-3 Book One to review. Because this is an art curriculum, it is necessary to purchase art supplies to use with the curriculum. The company was really on top of things, they sent me a letter ahead of the book with a list of the necessary supplies, and those needed for the first few lessons highlighted, so that I could get the supplies and be ready to start when we got the book. You can order the supplies along with your book, here, or click through to the supply pack for your book to see a list of supplies needed and get them yourself locally. If you scroll to the bottom of the art supply page you'll also find links to purchase the supplies at a discount from Blick Art. Because we were travelling when we received the letter, I didn't have time to order the supplies online, so I just went to our local craft store to get the supplies for the first few lessons. I found that if I get the rest of the supplies over time, using the store's discount coupons for the larger items, it will work out to be about the same price as ordering the pack from Blick. Additionally that allows me to pick and choose which things we need per child (a pencil, paint brush, etc) and which things they can share (the watercolor crayons).

The website says that these books require no teacher preparation, but I've found that's not quite accurate. Perhaps in a well-stocked art classroom that would be true, but some of the lessons say things like "your teacher has a variety of pictures for you to look at" that ummmm . . . I don't have magically available :) In that case, there was the option of looking at the pictures or going outside and finding things in nature and conveniently the weather was nice that day so I just sent them outside, but it showed me that I *do* need to read over the lessons ahead of time. Overall, however, there is very LITTLE teacher prep required, as long as you have the listed art supplies on hand. 

The curriculum combines teaching about art, art appreciation, and hands-on projects so that it is a complete art curriculum. Each book includes 32 lessons so it will cover a whole year of art (one lesson per week). 

Each lesson talks about some aspect of art, examines a famous piece of artwork (a color picture of the art is included in the book so you don't have to have art prints on hand), and then has an assignment for the children to do using the techniques or whatever that were discussed in that day's lesson. Today's lesson talks about how artists use photographs to give them ideas and allow them to paint things that wouldn't sit still to be painted or whatever. Then the assignment is to find a photograph they like, and use it as the basis for a picture they draw with watercolor crayons, then paint over.

The book we are reviewing is designed for a grades K-3, I'd say that's accurate. Little Bit wants to "do art" with her sisters, but I usually just give her water colors or something. I don't think much younger than 5 would understand the techniques and concepts presented, though they might enjoy drawing/painting/etc along with older siblings. Older children who haven't had a ton of art would probably enjoy doing this along with younger siblings. I'm enjoying learning along with my children. Artistic Pursuits also has a Preschool book for ages 3-5, and books for older children (Grades 4-6, Junior High, and High School) so unless you're wanting to do art all together, it's easy to get a book that's the right "fit" for your child's age.

Maybe it's just my children, but hands-on art seems to be a winner with all learning styles. This provides the structure that more structured teaching styles would appreciate, but the lessons are short enough, and the children are eager enough to "do art" that it's fit nicely into our eclectic-leaning-toward-unschooling approach as well. A visual learner could read the text themselves, my auditory learners are happy to let me read it to them, and of course getting to try each lesson's techniques out for themselves appeals to the kinesthetic in everyone.

I'm sure creative, artistic mamas (or papas) could do something similar without a book, but for those of us who are art-challenged, this series is a great option. And $42 for a full year's art curriculum, that can be used with as many children as you have, it's a great value!

The girls have been enjoying this book immensely, and I plan to continue using it the rest of the year (though during the review period we've often done 2-3 lessons per week, and now we'll probably cut back to one every week or two, just to free up time for other things we're working on). Sassy loves everything about it. MiniMe loves the idea of it all, but her perfectionist tendencies are getting in the way. I finally told her that she wasn't going to  be allowed to continue if she kept thinking she had to produce PERFECT, photograph-like paintings and drawings.

I love that the lessons are short and require very little prep-work. I like that a variety of mediums and techniques are presented. I like that I'll be able to use this same product in a few years with Little Bit. One of the main products that have been used so far are watercolor crayons and I have to say, I'm not a fan of them. My children just aren't understanding how they are supposed to work, even when I've showed them. They hear "draw a picture" and so they draw a picture, with the detail typical in a drawing, then they are supposed to go over that picture with a wet paint brush to get the water-color effect and it smears all their detail. They're slowly getting it, but I think at this age, it would have been better to either just let them draw with crayons, markers or colored pencils, and not have "paintings" or let them actually paint. I wanted to use the product "as suggested" first to get a feel for things, but I think going forward when water color crayons are suggested I'll give my children the choice to use them, or another medium (either one we've learned about, or regular water colors, or the typical children's art supplies that we usually use).

Be sure to check out the Crew Blog to see what my fellow crew mates thought of the Artistic Pursuit books (we all chose which book to review, so you'll also get information about the other books.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

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