I love art and even considered making it my career. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which child I’m talking to), I never seem to get around to teaching art as a hands-on, let’s-get-creative-and-make-a-mess activity. I don’t know why; it’s just one of those things.
So what do my children do for art? Well, we do Charlotte Mason style picture study every few weeks, and each of my children works through the entire Art with A Purpose curriculum, doing about one lesson a week for eight years.
Art with a Purpose
Art With a Purpose is an easy-to-teach curriculum that covers everything from coloring and pasting in the younger grades to lettering, color combining, perspective, and pen and ink drawings in the older grades. It does not, however, teach art history or appreciation at all. (Hence the picture study lessons.)
Each year’s Artpac contains 36 simple, step-by-step art lessons. Materials are usually simple to obtain. In fact, the only ones we’ve had trouble finding are the brass fasteners needed to allow movement in a monkey’s limbs and the hands of a clock.
Using this curriculum, moms have little teaching to do in the younger grades and even less as the children get older because the instructions are clear and easy to follow. Although classroom teachers are encouraged to work through each Artpac to provide their students with examples, this was not necessary for us at home.
Rod and Staff breaks down each year’s skills as follows:
- Artpac 1 Simple coloring skills, color-by-number, cutting and pasting.
- Artpac 2 Simple coloring skills, cutting, pasting, simple perspective drawing.
- Artpac 3 Coloring, shading with crayons, simple grid drawing and painting.
- Artpac 4 Coloring, shading with crayons, drawing stick figures, simple grid drawing, and perspective drawing.
- Artpac 5 Shading with colored pencils, drawing faces, painting and paint mixing, lettering, and grid work.
- Artpac 6 Shading with colored pencils, drawing faces, lettering, grid work, freehand and perspective drawing.
- Artpac 7 Advanced shading with soft lead colored pencils, grid drawing, calligraphy, paint mixing and painting, and sketching.
- Artpac 8 Shading with pen and ink.
View detailed outlines of each course, with samples.
Most weeks my children spend between 30 minutes and two hours on their Artpacs, depending on the effort they are willing to expend. They are usually pleased with their work, and often give the cards, pictures, or crafts as gifts. Many of them also adorn the bedroom doors.
We’ve encountered very few problems over the years. Some lessons in the early years are much too difficult and take too long. We don’t skip those, but I allowed the child to work on them for a long time, pointing out that it was a lesson in perseverance as well as in art. I also allowed children who struggled with motor skills to progress slowly, with the beneficial result that they were able to do a better job at the upper levels as well.
Published by Rod and Staff, the Artpacs feature a few pictures that are obviously Mennonite. Wording, where there is any, is inspiring and often Christian. Although the Artpacs have no projects about Halloween, Easter bunnies, Santa Claus, or baby Jesus, I have received several wonderful Mothers’ Day cards.
Each year’s worth of lessons is well under $10. This is a very good deal, especially for the grade 8 Artpac’s pen and ink pages that would retail for several hundred dollars at my local art supply store.
If you’re not the kind of person who thrives on doing hands-on crafts with your children, but you still want them to learn the basics of art, it’s worth checking out Art with A Purpose. It’s thorough, easy to use, Christian, and inexpensive.
You might also like:
- Monet and the Impressionists for Kids
- Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists
- Art in the Homeschool
Written by Annie Kate, a Christian homeschooling mom of five, who reviews and blogs at Tea Time with Annie Kate.
Disclosure: Having used Artpacs for a dozen years, I love telling people about them. I receive no compensation for this review.
-originally published 2011
Could this program be started in sixth grade?
Annie Kate says
Yes, you could start in 6th grade, but I’d start with the 5th grade curriculum. That’s when paint mixing and lettering are introduced. In fact, the 5th grade is a good place for any older student to start.
Most of my children did this program a year behind the recommended level and the extra maturity allowed them to enjoy the work more and to do it better. The final level requires a huge amount of patience and attention to detail, and I’ve seen similar work sold at our (expensive) local artshop for adults to learn from.
I am so grad to find your review. I have a similar situation – being “art able” but not consistent at art teaching. I have been looking intently at this program for basic foundation, ability to build their skills, and simplicity.
My question – Is it possible to combine students? I have a 3rd grader and 6th grader (plus K and toddler). I assumed I would back the 6th grader up to 4th or 5th. I did not want the 3rd grader to skip ahead a miss something. Then I considered starting them both in 3rd. Can I do two different grade levels easily? The last two years have been tough family years, so I am concerned with sustainability. I would appreciate any input.
Annie Kate says
You can easily do the two separately. The children should be able to manage it mostly on their own. I just hand it to them and explain things to the non-readers. But as I mentioned in a comment above, I would start the 6th grader in grade 5, or even earlier. The third grader could start in grade 2 or 3.
My children did best if they were a year behind schedule, even though three of the five are artsy.