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The Metropolitan Museum of Art is on my Homeschool Field Trip Bucket List. Yours too? I want to share the wonder and awe I felt as I looked at the larger than life paintings for the first time. But how? I am no where near the Met. I know little to nothing about art, except that I do like to look at it. Is this enough? How do I start a picture study with my children? What are we looking for? How can I expect them to respond?

Emily Kiser to the rescue! In this episode of Your Morning Basket, Emily answers these questions and more. She gently tells us how we can add picture study to our basket in baby steps; exposure, enjoyment, and analysis.

Pam: This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness and beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone, my name is Pam Barnhill, and I would like to welcome you to episode 22 of the Your Morning Basket podcast.Now, studying the works of great artists is one of the enduring ways that we can bring beauty into our homeschools during Morning Time and also into the lives of our students. It’s also one of those things that many moms find just a little bit intimidating. Well, never fear, we have a great guest today who is going to walk us through the Charlotte Mason practice of picture study and how we can bring picture study and also picture talks, which was something new I learned about today, into our Morning Time and study those things with our children. Our guest is Emily Kiser, and she is a mom, a student of Charlotte Mason, and also a studio art major. She also is the author behind the Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios, which is kind of a great all-in-one package for doing picture study in your homeschool. So I was delighted to have Emily join me today. It was an enlightening and wonderful conversation. I learned a lot, and I think you’re going to learn a lot as well.

Emily Kiser is a mother of two with a love for vintage books, beautiful art, and Charlotte Mason style homeschooling. Emily and her mother are the cofounders of the Living Books Library, a private lending library with more than 17,000 books (a great many of them lovely out-of-print works for children). She is also one of hosts of A Delectable Education, a podcast dedicated to discussing the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason education. Emily writes the picture study portfolios for Simply Charlotte Mason, and she joins us today to share about incorporating the practice of picture study into Morning Time. Emily, welcome to the program.
Emily: Thanks for having me, Pam.
Pam: Well, start off by telling me a little bit about yourself and your family.
Emily: I have been married to my husband for just over three years, and we’re organic produce farmers in the rural mountains of Southwest Virginia, and we have two young boys who keep us very busy. And prior to that I lived at home with my parents, and I’m quite a bit older than my youngest siblings who were adopted. So I got to help homeschool them and have been involved with the library with homeschooling families for the last 10 years or so.
Pam: And were you homeschooled yourself?
Emily: Just the first three years of my education, and then I went to public school actually. I’m the oldest of six and various in and out of public school instances for them and then my youngest three siblings have been exclusively home schooled.
Pam: So you’ve actually had a great mix of both and you’ve kind of seen things from both sides?
Emily: Oh, yes.
Pam: How did your own interest in art and picture study begin?
Emily: I was thinking about this and I think it was because my parents were so inept in this area. My mother is blind and my dad was just culturally illiterate growing up, for the most part, especially in the visual arts, and so they recognized that as a deficiency. And we lived kind of in this isolated, little community far away from any cultural center, and so they just made it a priority every time we went to the library we would check out prints mounted on boards, they would buy us art books at garage sales, and every time we went on vacation or visited a larger city we always went to the art museum. And so I think it was just that natural exposure from a young age that made me interested in art. And then in college I majored in studio art, but I went to a liberal arts college, so I had to take four years of art history, and I just loved that learning, kind of tying all the threads together of artists that I had grown up looking at their works.
Pam: That’s interesting that it was something your parents knew that they were really kind of deficient at and couldn’t really give that to you other than to expose you and that was where your love grew out of it. It was not like they had to lecture you for hours at a time or tell you, “oh this is…” they didn’t have that knowledge themselves but they were still able to impart that gift to you simply by exposing you to that great artwork.
Emily: Exactly. And I got interested in picture study because when I moved home after college my mom had always wanted to read Charlotte Mason’s works but they weren’t available in Braille or on audio. And so I volunteered to read them to her, kind of trying to figure out this whole homeschooling thing, and so we just started reading and I was just so pleasantly surprised at what a value she placed on art and picture study in her curriculum, so that kind of got me on a tangent of that, and I’ve taught homeschool art classes ever since I’ve graduated from college, and I’ve always done picture study to some degree and that’s been honed over the years.
Pam: Oh, wow! That’s fascinating. What do you think picture study brings to a Morning Time setting where a family is all gathered there together sitting and learning with each other?
Emily: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is silence and I think quiet in the morning is always a good thing.
Pam: I agree.
Emily: And I say that kind of tongue in cheek. There are so many good things but really you have your children sit quietly and look for several minutes and it’s just a nice calming, different kind of lesson than you usually have and a different tone can be set to the day. But I think studying great art together adds such a dimension to family culture. It’s an inherently beauty filled lesson, and I think there’s certain ideas that can only be represented visually through art. We only have language that can talk in simile and metaphor about some of the things that are portrayed in pictures, like color and form and nuance of expression; things like that that we need art to communicate to us. And so it’s just a different type of lesson than we normally have when we read books or talk or listen to music. It’s just a different set of ideas that we can engage with.
Pam: A lot of times we’re reading out loud to students but even though a student reading a book for themselves is a visual thing, the practice of looking at a piece of artwork is different visually than reading a story to yourself.
Emily: Right, because they’re still dealing with verbal language, right? We’re still thinking those symbols on a page we might make a picture in our mind but it’s different than just taking in something that’s purely visual and, I guess, abstract in a way that we just have these shapes and colors to take in, instead of symbol language.
Pam: Right, so it is very much a different part of brain probably that’s processing.
Emily: It’s helpful, I think, because it helps break up those lessons and gives your mind a rest from maybe the normal activities that we do in a homeschool morning.
Pam: So as you know a Charlotte Mason would say, “use different parts of the brain for different short lessons.”
Emily: Yeah.
Pam: If you’re reading a passage in the Morning Time, then putting in a picture study in between two readings is going to satisfy that requirement to use a different part of the brain and let it rest.
Emily: Right, she said a change is as good as a break, and so as we change from one activity to the other we’re still able to give our full attention, which can be an exhausting process for a young child to use their full attention, right? …
Pam: Yes.
Emily: … for a long span of time but to have a mental shift in activity gives them that break where they don’t feel fatigued and then they’re ready to come back to the next lesson fresh too.
Pam: Okay. Well, that is awesome. But let’s talk some more about some of the direct benefits, I guess that would be an indirect benefit; so let’s focus on some of the direct benefits of doing art study. So what are some of your favorite works of art to look at with children?
Emily: You know, there’s so many I can’t narrow it down. I think my favorites have been those pieces that have caused a spark of recognition in any child. I live in a rural area and so I often like to start with Millet, who painted peasants working in the fields, because there’s a similarity people who live around where I do are familiar with haying and farming and bringing in the harvest, but it’s different because we have machinery to do those things, and they are using their hands and hand tools. So, having some similar connection but also it’s interesting to them because it’s a different application of what they’re used to. It gives them questions and they can engage in it in a different way.
Pam: So striking a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar?
Emily: Exactly. Yes. It’s kind of like a little hook to get them in but then there’s enough to make them curious and wonder about the rest of it.
Pam: So if a family lived say, close to the ocean, instead of seeking out works of farming or something like that, they might actually consider starting with paintings of ships on the water or something?
Emily: Sure. Like Turner would be great. I also love artists who have stories communicated in their pictures. Like, I think of Rembrandt as quintessentially a story teller in his pieces, even his portraits or single figures seem to be communicating a story and a lot of times those are Bible passages or historical events. But those are great to engage little children, young children, or people new to picture study and because they want to explore and figure out what’s going on.
Pam: Right. I was just thinking about that Bible story depicted in art would be great because so many children are familiar with the story that they kind of make a connection with that piece of artwork from the very beginning.
Emily: Exactly.
Pam: Well, when we listen to a piece of music, we’re listening for certain things, like tempo and dynamics and instrumentation. So what are some of the things we might be looking for when we look at a piece of art?
Emily: Well, this is kind of complicated because I think the first steps have to be exposure to good art and then comes enjoyment from looking at art and then experience. And after all of those things are taking place, then we can start to bring analysis in. Like, when we go out in nature and we find a buttercup with our child, very young child, we don’t start taking apart and pointing out the petals and the stem and the sepals and the stamens and all of those things and giving them those terminology words first. They’re having a connection and enjoying. So after that happens, then, yes, we do. I recently was able to attend a conference where John Muir Laws was speaking, and he’s a naturalist and an artist as well, and he was encouraging us to keep our nature journals and always be asking three things: I notice, I wonder, and it reminds me of. And I really liked that as it connects to picture study because I think we can use those same criteria, look for those same three things every time we approach a picture. So that’s really simple and can be done with any picture no matter what it is of. But building those connections and relationships with the piece before we start putting on those formal terminologies, and as they grow and become more accustomed to doing picture study and are more familiar with various artists, we can start giving them those terminologies, like light and dark areas is probably a pretty elementary one. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the lightest parts of pictures first and noticing that and noticing how the artist is able to balance, that’s another thing we can look at. Their composition, like, if there’s something that’s very striking in one part of the picture, what is on the rest of the picture that makes it balance visually. Those are compositional techniques. Like, we often see artists using diagonal lines or triangles. If we were to draw imaginary lines between the major objects in a picture, we might find a triangle, sometimes a circle or a square. Those things, I think we can teach to youngish children. Foreground and background, the foreground being the part of the picture that appears to be closest to us. And then the background, the things that are in the distance behind the foreground figures. One good question that’s really helpful to ask children just to start them thinking about all those kinds of things is: Can you tell what time day it is in this picture?
Pam: Oh, that’s interesting.
Emily: And then, how do you know? Sometimes it’s really ambiguous but they’ll really engage with that and look deeply and think, ‘I wonder, maybe it’s because they have this kind of outfit on, it’s more nighttime.’ Even if you can’t tell from the light of the picture, but a lot of times the light and the quality of the light is different, right? In the morning or the afternoon or midday or evening. And those are all clues that our children can pick up on even if we never really went outside and said, “Oh, look at how the morning light makes all these figures look this color.”
Pam: Right.
Emily: Or the evening, how everything gets kind of rosy and warm toned as the sun begins to set. They can pick up on those things and notice it without us even teaching them.
Pam: I know just enough about Charlotte Mason to know that she was really for a synthetic as opposed to an analytical education for young children. She wanted them to look at things as a whole and experience things as a whole and embody them as a whole before they began picking them apart. So, would there have been a different time in a child’s education in a Charlotte Mason school aside from picture study where they might have picked apart and analyzed art? Was picture study just for that synthetic study of art?
Emily: It’s more like it gradually builds on itself. So for the youngest students in the lower half of elementary school they would pretty much just be doing a picture study where they’re describing what they see. We might do a picture talk occasionally and that’s more to get the child to notice things, like, you’re leading them with open ended questions to look more deeply at something maybe they hadn’t noticed before. You’re guiding their discovery, you don’t have an end goal or you’re not trying to get a certain answer out of them, but you’re trying to help them learn to look more deliberately at the piece of art. And then as the next stage, like upper elementary, they might start to maybe not even have names for those compositional terms that I was describing, but they could draw the main objects on a scrap piece of paper after they had looked at it, still from memory. So just kind of a little drawn narration of what the picture was, and then moving into the teen years, they actually started studying an art history book. And I think that’s where they started getting a lot of those terminology, fitting an artist into his historical context into the art movement that he was a part of and how those fitted together and came out of one another. That all would be happening junior high and high school and then they could reproduce details of the picture again from memory. But I don’t know that she was ever having them really analyze and critique an art piece. It was more based on enjoyment and appreciation and reverence for the skill of the artist than trying to break that down and figure out why that piece was made the way it was, if that makes sense.
Pam: Yeah, it does. And so just like Sonya Schaffer taught me they that there were different kinds of narration and that a student’s skill and types of narration changed as they got older, what you’re telling me is that they’re really different kinds of picture study. And the same picture study you do with a six year old is the not necessarily going to be the same kind that you do with a 14 year old?
Emily: Or it could be the same; you could have children of multiple ages looking at the same picture, but what they produce is going to look different. Based on their maturity level and engagement with the piece based on how long they’ve been doing it.
Pam: Let’s break this down and give people, walk them through what a picture study might look like. And so let’s start by talking about the artist itself, because Charlotte Mason didn’t advocate jumping willy nilly from artist to artist every week; did she?
Emily: Right. She thought we should study at least six pictures by the same artist. And I will tell you, I have done picture study with all kinds of children and most recently was able to participate in an after-school program in the inner-city school in the city closest to me is a very poor school, and I went in and did picture study with the kindergarten and first graders and just using a few pictures week after week, they really do get a sense of the style of the artist without you having to lecture them on that. That they visually pick up on when you have several pieces in a row by the same artist, they learn to recognize that. Much as we would recognize similarities in a family and can see, “Oh, you look like your mom” or something like that. That each piece really does represent one artist to them. So if we jumped around and went, first, we’re going to do a picture but Monet and then we’re going to do a picture by da Vinci, and then we’re going to do a picture by Monet or Michelangelo, we’re not going to have that breadth of their work where they really pick up on that visual identity of the artist.
Pam: Right. And really become familiar with that artist. So we’re going to start by studying the work of a single artist for at least six pictures and those six pictures would be spread ideally over six weeks?
Emily: Well, it doesn’t have to be quite so formulaic as that. Charlotte Mason did one artist per term and her terms were about 12 weeks long. They had three of them in a year. And so they didn’t do a new picture every single week in her schools. You could. My portfolios that I’ve put together, sold through Simply Charlotte Mason, have eight pictures; so you can choose the six you want to study or you could do all eight if you wanted. But a really good idea when you begin picture study, when you’ve selected your artist that you’re going to study for the next unit or whatever you want to call it, is to read a brief biography of the artist because that forms a relationship for your children with the man or woman behind the pictures. And Charlotte Mason’s often called relational education; so I think building that relationship with the person is important.
Pam: Right.
Emily: And then for the next lesson, after you’ve read the biography, you might pick one picture and have the children look at it and you tell them to look at it quietly, without talking, and then you might want to give them a little bit about, how big is this picture in reality?
Pam: Because so many pictures that we see on a computer screen are an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper can be as large as a wall in our house.
Emily: Exactly. And so if you can tell them dimensions and maybe relate that to something maybe they might be familiar, like, this is as big as the window in our dining room or as big as this whole wall in front of our hour house. Just to give them an idea of the scale of the picture as they set out to look at it and then they look at it quietly until they can make a picture of it in their mind’s eye. So I always have children close their eyes and if you can see the picture and all its detail then you know you’ve looked close enough, but if you can’t, open your eyes again and keep looking until you can fill in all those details.
Pam: Oh. I love that because I never know quite how to explain to my kids how well they should have looked.
Emily: Yes. Yes. And I usually do not tell the name of the piece before we do that. And there’s been several very cool “Aha” moments when I’ve done this with a group. I remember one, we looked at Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and this young man gave this wonderful, beautiful narration full of spiritual analogy and said, “And it even kind of reminds me of The Prodigal Son.” But he didn’t know that, he had never seen the picture before and then when I told them the name, it was just like this reinforcement; he was able to have that opportunity to make that connection without me suggesting it and then it was just affirming that he really was reading the picture rightly. And that’s happened with many children that I’ve had but that example was so cool and I always remember it. So when they’re done, when they have the picture firmly in their mind’s eye, I have them turn the page over or depending on how cooperative they are sometimes I collect them and then they narrate and just tell me what they saw and that, like we were just talking about, can change. That pretty much happens throughout; you would narrate first and then if you’re going to do some of those drawn narrations, that would happen after that time. And you don’t want to interrupt and suggest things, and I usually let one child say something and if there’s multiple children, like in Morning Time in a family, then another child could add and then another and another. And sometimes they’ll disagree with one another, and we’ll say, “Well, we’ll have to check that out after we’re all done.” So that is a really cool thing that happens too.
Pam: So you would let the disagreements just lie fallow until everybody was finished and then you would turn the picture back over to check those things out?
Emily: Yes. And sometimes it gets quite heated. You know, “I disagree with this person.”
Pam: I can’t imagine it getting heated.
Emily: But I think that’s so telling, how much they care about it and how deeply they’re engaging. It’s not just a competition, they are testing themselves. Did I see this rightly? I really have formed a connection with this picture, and I care that it’s described in truth.
Pam: Right. So you said something that made me pause for a second there. You indicated through your description there that every child would have their own copy of the picture.
Emily: Oh, yes.
Pam: And so this is really important even in a family of, say, three children that I need to have three copies of this picture?
Emily: Have you tried to do picture study with three children looking at one picture before?
Pam: Yes.
Emily: How did that go?
Pam: I don’t know if it was me or the one picture or what.
Emily: I would do this with my two brothers, and they had a hard time and they both could clearly see the picture. So I think that every child should have their own ideally. I mean, I would rather a family do picture study and only have one picture one copy of the picture than not do picture study. But, ideally, every child would have their own copy, yes.
Pam: Okay. Okay. That’s just.
Emily: It really does go a long way in that peaceful, tranquil, silent “looking at” time.
Pam: Nice morning quiet we’re going for in the Morning Time?
Emily: Yes. And, you know, sometimes they get really close to see all of the detail in it so that can be annoying if your brother is putting his face right in front of where you’re trying to look.
Pam: Okay. So you’ve indicated; so we’re sitting in the circle at Morning Time, and we’re going around, and we’re doing oral narrations. Would there ever be a time when a child, obviously 10 or older, in a Charlotte Mason household, would do a written narration of a picture?
Emily: Sure.
Pam: Or would it only be oral or drawn?
Emily: I think you could do written narration from pictures. We like to switch up what a child writes for their narration. They’re not always doing the same lesson. So they could absolutely do a written narration from their picture study and at the end of the term all children would have to do an exam on the artist and so if they were doing written exams, they would have a written narration at the end of term on describe one piece by the artist.
Pam: So that’s what an exam would be like, you would have them describe one piece?
Emily: Yeah.
Pam: And they just choose their favorite or you would choose for them?
Emily: I think it was up to them to choose which piece they wanted to. Or maybe there would be two suggested and they would describe one of either of those. But they would get some choice in that.
Pam: And so what are you looking for? How, as a mom, do I know I’ve been successful at picture study? What’s my child going to tell me? And then, how should I react to what they’re telling me?
Emily: Well, I think the sky’s limit on what they could tell you. I think it’s really helpful to keep in mind the developmental stages that children go through and that young children really are going to tell you mostly of what they see. A little bit older kids might start to try and figure out the story or what’s going on in the picture. Older students might do more of what they thought of or could it be connecting to other stories they’ve read or things that it reminds them of. So I think that grows with the development of your child; so you’re probably not going to get super in-depth amazing. I had a six year old in this class I was teaching this past semester, who, we were looking at Winslow Homer, a watercolor by him, and he said, and it was two Caribbean men hoisting a sea turtle out of the water, and this little six year old said, “I notice that the shadows where they are are different than shadows where we are,” and I was like, “Oh, what do you mean?” And he said, “Well, when I cast a shadow on the ground it’s black, but I notice that their shadows are kind of brown.” And I was like, well, that’s an awesome narration from a six year old. So sometimes they surprise you. But I think just what you should expect is that you can tell that they really looked at it and engaged in it. And if your child, over and over every single picture tells you the same generic thing, he’s probably not looking very carefully.
Pam: So what do I do about that, Emily? I have this child. This eight or nine year old child, I have one downstairs who is giving me the same thing every single time; so how can I turn this into something that is engaging him more than what it is?
Emily: Well, there is probably something more going on. Charlotte Mason would say you have to get the will on their side. So probably in the moment is not the time. But has he ever seen a picture in a museum like face to face? Or has he read a biography or a story about the artist that really made him really have a connection? It just takes one little spark, like even a child seeing, “Oh, I saw a Monet printed on an umbrella at the store today.” Some little hook usually does the trick but as far as in your lessons, I might set aside a time when he’s in a good mood, maybe having something good to eat, and just talk about how every artist in the world had important things to say. And I wonder what message the artist that we’re studying has to tell us. And just give him a little thought like that to chew on. And it’s a sad thing for them if they don’t learn the pictures deeply. They can get through life, they can survive, but they’re missing out, they’re not going to have that gallery hung, they’re not going to have as many relationships in as many directions if they’re not engaging in picture study. So maybe it depends. You have to be kind of tread lightly and it might be that your child you can have a conversation with about that.
Pam: I love your advice to not try to address it right there at the point of the lesson but try to engage them with that umbrella in the store or taking them to the museum or sharing with them that extra interesting story about the artist.
Emily: I would look at local, even in my very small town, we have a very small art museum, and we had a pretty substantial exhibit, I think a van Gogh came through a couple years ago, I mean, just pieces that you would not normally see in the little mountains of Southwest Virginia and if you check out opportunities like that and know something is coming, you might want to set aside: before that Rembrandt exhibit, we’re going to study Rembrandt. Or maybe we’ll do it the term after, and we’ll go to the museum and look at the works and then we’ll study them more in depth. I think it could go either way, and it might just depend on your children; how engage they are already in art study but seeing a piece in person is nothing like looking at the printed copy, so I think that might be inspiring to a lot of kids.
Pam: Oh, yes. I think so too. So, one last question about the actual practice of doing a picture study. You indicated a few minutes ago that you would, when a child was doing a picture study narration, you would kind of prompt them with a question, but I’m almost certain that you’re going to tell me that I’m not supposed to quiz my child. So how do I know what kind of questions I could ask and what questions I shouldn’t ask?
Emily: So the first thing I would just let them narrate and then after that you do have more leeway but first they need to express. Because narration is really how we change short-term memories into long-term memories. So narration is the process. I mean, yes, brain research is actually affirming this but if we know something we can teach about it, and you do realize how much you do not know when you try and explain it to someone else. So if a child is able to narrate, then they’re putting that picture, they’re cementing it more in their long-term memory. So that’s the first step. But afterwards you can have a short talk about it. I usually tell a name and that sometimes just opens a whole discussion of what people were thinking. Or maybe that meant this, you know, and having new ideas. Knowing the name of picture and then think I said earlier about picture talks, these might be a separate lesson, maybe on those off weeks in your semester when you’re not doing you a new picture, you can do a picture talk and really you’re using open-ended questions to engage them. You might share, like if it was a Rembrandt picture, and you read the Bible passage that the picture was depicting, then you might ask them, “Well, who do you think the figures were in the picture?” We might read The Parable of the Prodigal Son and look at Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal. And they might have to identify who is the prodigal? Who’s the father? And who are these other figures in the background of the picture. And even if they’re wrong, I mean, there isn’t really right or wrong. Rembrandt didn’t write an essay that he hung with his picture. The picture speaks for itself; so our children are just learning that, “Oh, these figures are representative, and I wonder why he pained it this way. And why this one and if this is right then maybe this other expression of this other figure means he’s the elder brother who is very proud and is disgusted that his father is welcoming back his brother. So really open ended. What did you notice? What did it make you think of? What do you think they were doing in the picture? Does it remind you of anything? Anything you’ve read? Anything you’ve seen? How does it make you feel? And you can always do the time of day thing (what time of day do you think it is?).
Pam: Right.
So a picture study is where the child is looking at the picture and then narrating it back to you verbally? But a picture talk is where you’re showing a picture and you’re starting off by asking them these open-ended questions?
Emily: And you might give some of those details that they wouldn’t necessarily know. Maybe there’s historical significance to some of the objects in the picture. Or why did Rembrandt depict people dressed as they were when he was alive but they’re really people who lived in Bible times? Some of those things you might give a little of that and then ask them what they think about it or why the artist made that choice. And I would do a picture talk on a picture that they’ve already seen before. She doesn’t spell that out so much and there might be times you do it with a new one, but I like them to have the opportunity to connect with the picture before they take away too many of the ideas I might want to talk about.
Pam: So would it be that if I had one of your picture study portfolios and they’re eight pictures in there?
Emily: Yes.
Pam: I might do a picture study the first week with the picture and then three or four weeks later bring it back as a picture talk?
Emily: Sure. Or you could do a picture talk in the same lesson if you have time and you want to make the lesson longer. After they’ve been able to narrate, you could do that too. And have maybe there really was some big thing that you don’t think they picked up on and, “Oh, this is the significance. This is the Turner’s painting of the Burning of the Houses of Parliament. And they had this fire and, you know, you tell them a little bit about the historical event that he painted I might do that right after because, otherwise, it’s kind of this abstract picture of all these hazy colors and some smoke and you don’t really know what it’s of.
Pam: Right. And as you’re doing these picture studies with the kids, if some of these narrations, especially by younger children, are not so much reluctant children but younger children, are kind of sparse in the beginning, is it okay to model for them like you would a regular narration?
Emily: I would. And I think that, again, is going to depend on your child because some kids that makes them intimidated, right? If they think their mom can narrate and do it really well, some children are just shut down by that but sure. And I would encourage all moms to participate in picture study and narrate right along with their children and study the pictures at the same time.
Pam: Okay. That’s great. Let’s talk about a little bit about the picture study portfolios because you really do include in there everything I need to do this picture study and picture talks with my kids. So kind of tell me what’s in the packs.
Emily: Sure. It all comes in a folder and they’re color coordinated by time periods. So if you’re trying to connect your artist to the historical time period that you’re studying, the dates are on the outside of the portfolio. And then inside there is a booklet that has instructions on why picture study is important and how do picture study in case you forget any of the details I’ve tried to share today. There’s a biography of the artist, and I deliberately chose biographies that were accessible to be read aloud to younger students but were so well written that older students would not feel like they were being talked down to. I include book lists usually of additional books if you were really interested and wanted to learn more about an artist and books because I love books. And then there’s eight printed pictures of full sheets; so 8½ x 11 that don’t have the titles on the front or the back so that you can tell them afterwards and they’re coded and are really nice. And then in the rest of the booklet, it has a little thumbnail of each of those prints so you will be able to match up, “OK, so this is really the title of this picture,” and then below that I have the dimensions and where it’s located and then the picture talk notes so; if there is some important background information that you, the mom, don’t necessarily know or might want to learn more about yourself or to share with your children or if they ask, that you might be more well informed and ideas to kind of direct those picture talks.
Pam: So really everything I need to do either a picture study or a picture talk is in that folder?
Emily: That was my goal.
Pam: Except for extra copies of the pictures!
Emily: But you can, you don’t have to get a full portfolio, you can order just individual sets of prints from them as well.
Pam: So you can add those on?
Emily: Yes.
Pam: at a slightly reduced rate?
Emily: Yes.
Pam: To have everybody have their own copy. So, let’s say we’re studying van Gogh, he’s our artist of the term, between our picture studies, what would you display? One of those pictures? Would you display all of those pictures? Would you display only the ones that you’ve studied? Or would you not display any of them?
Emily: Absolutely display them. I don’t think there’s a right answer here. I know from reading various things from Charlotte Mason that she often had her children look through multiple pictures as they were reading the biography. So they were able to quietly sit and look at the pictures of the artist as the biography was read aloud; so really you could display all of them and then just turn one to another and that might be an option. I tend to, even if I showed them the whole array of pictures at the beginning, I tend to just put up the one that we’ve studied and then keep adding on so they may have a first glimpse and then when they might have chosen one, that they really liked and that’s kind of exciting when they get to that, Oh, this is the week we get to look at my favorite picture.
Pam: So it’s not like a pop quiz, like, I have to hide it until it’s time.
Emily: No, no, enjoyment; enjoyment is the key. We’re wanting them to appreciate art and I don’t think it should be a quiz.
Pam: Do you know how many artists you’ve done, now?
Emily: Well, I have done technically 18. Fifteen are published, three more will be coming out by the end of 2016.
Pam: So a great array of artists from different time periods, and we can find those at in the store over there and where can we find you online?
Emily: I am at, that’s our library site and, also,, that’s our podcast. And both of those have Facebook pages; so I think that’s probably the best way.
Pam: Great. Well, Emily, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing all of this wonderful knowledge. We really appreciate it.
Emily: Oh, you’re so welcome. Thank you, Pam.
Pam: Now, for our Basket Bonus for this week, Emily has graciously put together for us a list of those developmental milestones that she was talking about. So what we have for you guys to download is a list of those developmentally appropriate responses that your child might have during picture study. Now, there’s always going to be variants in these kinds of things but you can print out the list and stick it in your Morning Time binder and say, hey, this is the kind of thing I might expect my six year old to be telling me during picture study, while my 14 year old might be capable of this other thing over here. So I think this handy list is going to be something that helps keep our expectations in check as we begin to work through picture study with our children. It’s going to be a handy tool that I know it going to find a home in my own Morning Time binder as well. So you can get links to that and all of the resources that Emily and I chatted about today at the show notes for this episode. You can find that at There you can also find instructions on how to leave a rating or review for the Your Morning Basket Podcast on iTunes if you are so inclined. The ratings and reviews you leave on iTunes help us get word out about the podcast to new listeners. And to those of you who have taken the time to do that, we thank you so very much for doing so. We’ll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great Morning Basket interview and until then keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

Key Ideas about Picture Study in Morning Time

  • Picture study brings beauty to Morning Time.
  • Some ideas, such as shape, color, and the nuances of facial expression, can only be expressedvisually. Picture study allows our children to access and form relationships with those visual ideas.
  • When first introducing children to great art, exposure and enjoyment are far more important thananalysis and technical understanding

Find What you Want to Hear

  • 3:20 Emily’s early art experiences
  • 5:39 why do picture study in Morning Time?
  • 6:35 using different parts of the brain
  • 8:36 some of Emily’s favorite artists
  • 9:50 paintings that tell stories
  • 10:48 start with experience and enjoyment
  • 11:43 I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of
  • 12:09 terminology more experienced students can begin to use
  • 14:13 how picture study progresses in Charlotte Mason education
  • 17:35 doing at least 6 pictures per artist
  • 19:25 picture study step by step
  • 23:14 one copy of the picture per child
  • 24:48 narrations during picture study
  • 27:29 troubleshooting
  • 30:51 questions to ask about pictures
  • 31:44 picture talks
  • 35:58 Simply Charlotte Mason portfolios
  • 38:07 displaying pictures

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