This post is part of our series on our favorite homeschool resources.
After having been a member of the Aspen Grover Educational Community co-op for the past five years, my family is going it alone this year. This has been quite a transition.
While there have been many blessings of the co-op, at the heart of it was that we were families who 1) had chosen the Charlotte Mason method of education and 2) were willing to help each other in the education of our children.
I have held close to my heart what Nancy Kelly has shared about her Truth, Beauty, Goodness Community.
The point of our group is learning in community and allowing the mother to spread the feast to her children without having to plan every single subject and lesson, which can lead to burnout.
What was I going to do now that I no longer had this help? Were my children going to get a subpar education? Was I going to burn out?
I praise God, the answer to both of these questions is no. The reason for this: the amazing resources Charlotte Mason educators have poured their time into and made available to the community.
The first resource I want to share with you is the Picture Study Aids (PSA) and Prints available at A Humble Place.
I have had the privilege of personally using two so far, Monet and Courbet.
Let me describe our first 20-minute Courbet lesson. Prior to this lesson, I had done nothing more than read the two page biography provided in the PSA.
I told the children our new artist was Gustave Courbet, and I showed them his portrait in the PSA. I shared why I chose him (there was a very pragmatic reason). Then we located his birth place on a map (France) and talked about when he lived (1800’s). All this biographical information was conveniently located in the PSA under his portrait. We made connections with what we knew was going on in the world in the 1800’s. I chose not to read his biography this week or talk about Realism (his style of painting). Then, I passed out the pictures with each child receiving his own picture. I had one to study, too.* This took about five minutes.
Our first picture was The Stonebreakers, and I gave the children a full three minutes to study the picture. I didn’t say much. With about 30 seconds left, I reminded them to close their eyes to see if they could visualize the picture in their mind’s eye and to restudy any parts of the picture they couldn’t clearly see.
We turned our pictures over, and I asked the children to tell me what they saw. I received many responses, some said with confidence and some stated as more of a question. I gave lots of time. I repeatedly asked, “What else did you see?” I specifically called on children who had shared nothing. Silence was okay as children thought and processed. “Is there anything else you can see in the picture in your mind that no one else has shared?” This took about six minutes.
I had the children turn their pictures back over and look at them as I read from a letter Courbet had written about the picture (in the PSA). Then I asked, “Is there anything else you noticed in the picture after hearing Courbet’s own description of the painting?” We then paced off the size of the painting on our family room carpet. The dimensions are given in the PSA. (I did have to do a quick conversion on my phone’s calculator as I don’t have a feel for centimeters, but knowing there are 30.5 centimeters per foot I figured out the painting is roughly 5.5 ft x 8.5 ft). This was about half the size of our family room rug. I now asked the children if they had questions and addressed those things the children had narrated with a question, which I was able to do because of the PSA. This took about four minutes.
Finally, as I choked back tears, I ended by telling the children this was a painting they would never be able to see as it was destroyed in the Allied fire bombings of Dresden, Germany, during WWII. The children put their paintings in their school binders, and I hung mine on a clipboard in our dining room.
I am grateful for the impact these Picture Study Aids and Prints have had on our homeschooling and my confidence as a guide, and we will once again have them for sale at the CMER. This year, we will be featuring Waterhouse, Bruegel, and Courbet (though we now have six fewer to sell), as well as bringing back a handful of PSAs and prints from last year.
For those who are unable to attend the CMER, you are able to find the PSAs and Prints on A Humble Place. Some are available for purchase and others are available for free.
*As an aside, I believe each person should have his own painting. The PSAs and Prints have made this affordable for my family.