Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spears Art Studio--a Homeschool Art Curriculum for high school!

According to Howard Gardner, educational research scientist, fine arts instruction leads to better brain development in children. If a child’s education is lacking in the arts it will diminish his education in creative thinking, problem solving, discernment, etc.

Our family has always agreed with the findings of Gardner and valued arts education for our children since they were small. Dance, visual arts, and music instruction have ranked very high in our educational expenses budget. While most would consider them extra curricular, my husband and I have always believed the arts to hold the same value as math, science and language arts.

Unfortunately, in 14 years of home education I have never found a high quality, intelligent and user friendly visual art instruction curriculum designed to be used in the home. This being the case I have had to out source this part of my children’s education; never an easy task due to time and financial constraints.

Frustration has ended with the discovery of Spears Art Studio Christian Art curriculum. Diane S. Spears, Doctor of Christian Education and artist has developed a thoughtful, user-friendly step by step approach to art education offering it in two age appropriate levels. Customers of Spears Art Studio can choose from K-8 or high school level courses to teach their children. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the high school survey course on CD-Rom to review along with the help of my 17 year old daughter, Samantha.

The high school course consists of 36 lessons divided into seven units. The program covers art elements, principles of design, perception skills, drawing, painting, sculpture, fiber, printmaking, and graphic design. The seven units are divided under the topical headings of line and shape, shape and space, space and volume, color, color and texture, form, and the printing process and graphic design.

Each lesson contains a scripture to reinforce the concept of art with a Christian worldview, a brief art history commentary, a sketch book assignment, vocabulary words to define and visual memory exercises. Also included are student evaluation sheets, complete lists of supplies needed to be purchased separately, a brush chart, question and answer section, glossary, unit tests and answer keys. A detailed description of how to teach the course, evaluate student work and award high school credit is given in the introduction section of the course and is described as a “must read” for all teachers.

Spears Art Studio high school level survey course is a full year program that can easily be extended to two if desired. If dividing the course, Spears recommends completing the first 18 lessons consisting mainly of drawing exercises the first year and then saving lessons 19-36 for more in depth study the second school year. Spears states, “The goal is for real learning to take place and not to simply rush through the work.”

I had Samantha, a talented dancer and singer, but self-proclaimed non-artist of the visual arts test drive the curriculum. Surprisingly despite her resistance to learning to draw, she gave it rave reviews.

“I found it to be a very user-friendly curriculum. The activities are interesting and worthwhile. I liked the creative activities the most. It really gives you the ability to develop your own unique style with the projects.”

Sammi really liked Spears’ recommendation to pace yourself through the curriculum enabling the student to keep a balance in their schedule with other academics and activities. “It really doesn’t seem like this course would consume large amounts of time”, she said.

But what is a typical lesson like? The first lesson titled “Art Element: Line and Shape” begins with brief instruction regarding drawing and the importance and definition of line. The first section of the lesson lists a scripture citation, in this case Psalm 119:73. Two thought provoking questions are asked relating to the scripture for the student to answer in his journal below his copy of the scripture. A vocabulary section follows with six words which should also be defined in the journal. Next, a small art history section is written with three simple hands-on research projects requiring the use of the library or internet for completion. Now the student is ready to tackle the sketchbook assignment which in this lesson consists of using the newly learned concepts to create a decorative cover for their brand new sketchbook. The last sections of assignments are filled with visual memory exercises. These are designed to train the student to see as an artist sees. These particular assignments for lesson 1 utilized working with the student’s signature and initials to experience and experiment with the different types of line. The appendix of the curriculum contains additional visual memory exercises which are completed by staring at a design for a specific period of time and then attempting to reproduce the design in your sketchbook without looking at the original design. It sounds easier than it is and both my daughter and I thought this quick and painless activity very interesting.

Other sample lessons for both the elementary and high school level curriculums are available at Although Spears recommends purchasing art supplies locally she does have a handy shopping device on her website for those wishing to purchase on-line. Simply click on the Diane Spears wish list and it will link you directly to art supplies store. The entire supplies list for K-12 will appear on your screen and you can then decide how much of each item to purchase. Simply click “add to shopping cart” and you have purchased all the necessary art supplies in record time. Dickblick also offers free shipping for orders over $200.00, a real plus in my book.

The cost for the curriculum is minimal. A CD-Rom version of the high school curriculum is available for $29.95. Every student will also need a hard-copy, but the CD-Rom is printer ready. If you prefer to let someone else print your copy you can purchase a combo pack of hard copy and CD-Rom for $84.95. For those not wanting to have the CD-Rom at all a hard copy of the curriculum is available for $69.95.

My daughter is excited to incorporate this art curriculum into her future studies and I am thrilled to have it available to us. I think Sammi summarized our family’s experience with the Spears Art Studio best by saying, “This curriculum could help anyone interested in an art education. It is for the beginning student or someone who already has a passion for art. It will help everyone with the basics of art in order for them to pursue whatever media they want to study in the future”.

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