Even before my kids were near school age, I knew we were going to be a homeschooling family. Neither I nor my husband were homeschooled, but that was the path that made (and still makes!) the most sense to us and felt the most right after we became parents. So, when my son was about two years old, I started to look into what our homeschooling options might be.
After doing some research into different philosophies, including Montessori and Waldorf, and looking into various boxed curricula that were available, I decided on one company that I felt matched our family’s values. I dutifully ordered their preschool books which I devoured upon delivery and immediately tried to implement those ideas in our home. Thankfully, even though the curriculum did not claim to be influenced by Charlotte Mason, it was still very much for allowing children that “full six years of passive receptive life,” so we didn’t stray far from the path we would ultimately take.
I first heard about Charlotte Mason back in 2013 when my son was three and I began offering virtual assistant services to bloggers. Several of the women with whom I worked were starting to explore Ms. Mason’s philosophies and writing about them on their websites. This coupled with an ebook that essentially summarized her principles piqued my interest and I decided to get For the Children’s Sake from the library.
It was the best decision I have ever made for my children’s education.
Everything she wrote about Ms. Mason’s ideas and principles resonated deeply with me. I loved the idea of educating children through living, well-written books and allowing them to develop relationships with ideas. I loved the emphasis on the natural world and spending time outside. I loved the practice of short, varied lessons that covered a wide range of topics. But the pièce de résistance for me, as unimportant as it may sound to others, was picture study. Picture study sold me on Charlotte Mason.
If it’s not abundantly clear, I love art. I love paintings and illuminated manuscripts and sculpture and photography and everything that world encompasses. I love the stories behind the artwork. I love to read about the lives of the artists who created it. And it was for these reasons that I majored in art history in college. When I read that Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of exposing children, even young children, to fine art and allowing them take it in on their own terms, in their own time, and not being guided through a work of art to be told what to think, I was 100% hooked on this nineteenth-century educator.
I understand, however, that picture study can be intimidating, especially to those who don’t belong to the right-brain realm. I’ve heard in various places that home educators don’t include picture study because they don’t have time for it, they feel that they don’t know enough about art, or they’re really just not sure how to do it. And I completely get that last one, because it can be a very abstract idea that isn’t easy to implement when you’re used to teaching your children in a certain flow.
It was for this reason that I started offering the Picture Study Aids following the AmblesideOnline Artist Study rotation for free back in 2017 and have since started to offer high-quality picture study prints as well as Picture Study Aids for pieces not on the AO rotation. My hope with all of these resources was to make picture study easier to implement and more enjoyable to do. After speaking at the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat this year about picture study, I also wanted to dive a little more into the whys and hows behind picture study itself.
As such, this post serves as an introduction to a series I’ll be offering on Charlotte Mason picture study that I hope will assist with these struggles. I’d like to emphasize the importance of including it, alleviate fears that you have to know a lot about art (you don’t!), and lay out a way to do it that is simple, easy to implement, and comes straight from Charlotte Mason’s ideas. If you have any specific questions for me or concerns you’d like addressed, please feel free to leave a comment on this post!