Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spears Art Studio Review

I am not artistic at all! Teaching art has always been a challenge for me and I don't enjoy doing it. I don't want my son to feel that way though. Spears Art Studio Curriculum is a great way to incorporate art into your school day or week. I was a little leery at first about this curriculum because there was a lot of information. However, don't let this intimidate you or make you think this is going to be a difficult curriculum to use. If you take the time to look over the material and really get a feel for how it works, you will find that it is very flexible, organized, and done by a professional. It actually made teaching art easier for me and we had lots of fun!

This is a K-8 grade curriculum you could easily get 9 years worth of use out of. While each concept is revisited every year, it is done a little differently and builds on the previous year's skills that were taught. You could also use this with several different aged children at the same time and choose the activity that is appropriate for each of their levels. This program is set up with all the lessons divided up into months. You can just go right to a month and it is divided into 4 weeks with lessons for each grade level. There is also a yearly activity that you can do. It requires you setting up a bulletin board (or if space is a problem, a tri-fold display board) and creating Noah's Ark. This activity will take your child through the timeline of the Great Flood.

Before you get into the lesson plans, there are several pages containing different art techniques, which I found quite helpful. Every lesson contains a theme to focus on, vocabulary, recommendations for art history to study, scriptural references and biblical concepts, and an art evaluation tool. There were a few lessons (like the Noah's Ark yearly one) that required the teacher and/or children to draw the animals from scratch. This is not something my family is able to do. That was a little intimidating to me and I felt a little lost. If this is the case for your family, I would recommend printing out some animal clip art and having the children color them so you can still do the activity. I think it's a worthwhile lesson and this shouldn't hold parents back from doing it. It just needed a little adjustment. Many lessons had patterns provided for them and often times, the examples for each lesson were in color. I liked having a color example to look it. Again because I am art challenged!

I loved the way art appreciation was incorporated into each theme. This is something I have wanted to do with my son but have never found a curriculum I liked or the time to really delve into. It's already included in this. The only thing that requires a little work on your part is looking up (either in books from the library or on the internet) the art work that is suggested to view. I found that if you can find two or three good sites that contain pictures of art, you can find most of the suggested titles. I do wish however that the Spears Art Studio site would have a place where all of these prints were available to view for the lessons. This would save a lot of time on the parents part.

This program was on a CD and contained several different pdf files. This makes it a little easier if you are looking for a specific month. You can open just that pdf file instead of scrolling through the entire book. If you would rather have it at your fingertips though, you could print the whole thing and put it in a binder. This would probably make it easier to refer to different lessons and finding patterns.

This was a very nice program to use and definitely teaches specific art skills children should learn and is fun at the same time. The CD is $39.95 (which includes shipping- Priority or First Class). That is a good deal for 9 years of art or something every child in the family can use at once!

They also have a high school program which can be bundled with this for $69.90 (again including shipping). If you purchase both, they include a FREE CD called Beginning Calligraphy Workbook- Grades 5-Adult (a $14.95 value).

They also sell literature guides.

If you are interested in any of these products, be sure to go to their site: Spears Art Studio.

Heidi Miller-Ford

With permission from Diane, I also got a copy of the High School curriculum and had one of my co-op members (and business partner) use it with her high school aged son. Here is her review:

Homeschooling, high school, art, non-creative teens, and a parent/teacher who lacks the drive to teach something substantial enough yet needs to get the art credit honestly can cause a lot of trouble!

Finally, there is something that is going to work for us! Let me tell you why the Spears Art Studio High School Art Survey, A Study from a Christian Worldview is going to be the answer to our credit on the transcripts this year.

To understand how good this program is, you need to understand Jacob. Tell me what to do, keep the same format, declare the purpose, motivate me, challenge me, don’t confuse me with unimportant details, give me something that translates into purposeful adult activity. This is Jacob.

Spears Art explains why this project is good for the brain, how it will help problem solving, how the Creator designed and appreciates the elements of art, it is rhythmic with the design of every lesson, has separate PDF files so you aren’t scrolling through hundreds of pages, there are tests after every unit, it lists supplies needed, and it covers art history. I can’t even name all that this program encompasses.

Visual memory exercises are given in every lesson. Jacob struggled with this at first, but he is finding that the assignments are strengthening his memory. To be able to tie in art to such a practical life skill is wonderful. Scripture references are given for every lesson. Verses are to be copied and meditated on. The vocabulary section is very good. And, all of this work is done independently, which is a plus.

My favorite section is the Art History. An artist is given to study (you must use your own references) and guidance is given so that the artist reinforces the meaning of the lesson. I have tried many, many ways to accomplish a high school art program. For those with very artistic children, this may be easy but those students will still benefit greatly from this program as more than just projects are involved. But for those parents who understand that God has designed us in His image, and that God himself is the most incredible artist, we know it is important to teach our children about this subject. We want to teach it and teach it well, yet we don’t know how or what to use.

This program comes with high approval from me. As for Jacob, this is the first school subject of the day by choice. Anyone with teen boys should try this. The 36 lessons, 75 art activities, sketchbook assignments, and the 144 visual memorization exercises are worth the $29.95 for a CD. This gives you a years worth of art. I will add in Music Appreciation to give us the whole Fine Arts credit for high school.

Kudos to Diane Spears for making a very thorough, easy to follow program that will translate over into adulthood. Everything that is taught has value and because it is grounded with a Christian worldview, it gives art meaning. This program met a need for my family, and it will certainly do well in the homeschool community.

Shannon Coe

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