"Art is essential to personal growth, not just a time filler or something to do as a break from academics. The soul needs art." -Dr. Diane Spears
Wow. Where to start? I have thought and thought about this review, and even started a couple of times, but I am just having an extremely difficult time putting this into words.
This art program completely exceeds all expectations of anything I had ever hoped of getting my hands on to help me nurture my budding artists’ creative abilities and appreciation for our Creator’s autograph on everything that He made. You see, He was, after all, the very first Artist. And He made us in His own image, making us ALL artists. So while we all can’t paint like Thomas Kinkade, or Van Gogh, or Picasso, we all have a masterpiece inside us somewhere. We shouldn’t be afraid to just sit and dream on paper, or mold a lump of clay or even just praise Him with our voices. Our wonderful music instructor Mr. Peter often reminds the kids that if a song doesn’t "say something" from your heart , then you shouldn’t even sing it.
That being said, I believe I have found a kindred spirit in Diane Shields Spears, Doctor of Christian Education. While hers far exceeds my Fine Arts portfolio, (holy cow, you gotta look at that!), I can completely identify with her artistic signature, which she describes here :
"I choose to present images that will cause the viewer to think on things that are lovely and of a good report (Philippians 4:8) rather than on political or morally controversial subjects.
I believe that my subject matter, executed with skill, can glorify God, whether or not the subject is "religious." This is not an excuse for not doing all religious subjects. Instead, it liberates me to wait for true inspiration from God through daily communion in the Word and through prayer, rather than turn out uninspired works. We all know there are too many images in this world that do not glorify God. I desire all of my artworks to glorify our God, the Creator of the Universe."
The first product that we are enjoying is the Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum CD-Rom in PDF.
This can be purchased for $39.95 here , as well as viewing sample lessons, an overview of the program, table of contents, and even viewing Diane’s researched article "Art is Good For My Brain?" which is also included on the CD-Rom. This can also be purchased in a hard copy black and white print book.
When I first popped the disc into the computer, I was quite overwhelmed. I thought to myself, "Oh my, what have I gotten myself into, I’m no art teacher !? This looks like a professional, all-inclusive, real, true art program!" So I got out my notebook and pen and began to take notes. On the Introduction page, I found an overview of skills addressed, how to use the manual, a discussion of fine arts as a vehicle for learning, art principles illustrated, a "Can You Answer?" section that was really cool, resources for the teacher’s brain, how to analyze artwork, and conduct class critique, helpful hints on art appreciation and art history, recipes (for some of the media like clay that is suggested to use), general rules for presenting lessons, information on different media materials for drawing, painting, sculpture, etc., and so much more. I will interject here that I was reluctant at this point to believe I could actually do this, as I felt as if I had just taken a college refresher course on being an art teacher. The information was just that detailed. Then, as I opened up the actual lessons, I was again, overwhelmed with the fact that this program was way more than just a craft project book. This is a true art program in every since of the word, addressing art elements, art principles, design elements, and more, all centered around God as the creator of it all.
The program consists of one or more activities per grade level (K-8) for each week of the school year (269 seperate art activities and 137 reproducable patterns, posters, and examples!). It is structured around seasonal weekly themes. Diane explains that she structured the program in this manner because it can be frustrating to have some wonderful project going and have to stop for holiday celebration artistically. She says ,"holidays are very important to children, and the Lord evidentally thinks seasons are too." She provides one or more scriptures as a foundation for the weekly activities.
Once we got started, we completed a lesson in about 30-60 minutes each week. Now each lesson comes with suggestions for art "reference" books to use that may be found at your library, so a bit more preparation time on teacher’s part is required, but many of the art resources can also be found online. The teacher’s prep also mentions meditation on certain scripture to prepare for the lesson, which I found really awesome, personally.
For purpose of review, the girls and I scanned through each grade level lesson and they picked the one they thought looked most interesting to actually do. They also went back through and printed off a few Kindergarten level lessons to use for Levi’s "Babyschool." They really enjoyed the lessons they did, and we will continue to do these lessons weekly. In the very beginning of the program there is a project to do a year long study of "Noah’s Ark." We are very excited to do this next year once we get into our new house, starting at the suggested time and following Noah’s adventure throughout the year. (This study is meant to parallel Noah’s actual timeline.) We will dedicate a whole wall to this, and this will certainly be a grand way to annoint our new home!!
Thus far I haven’t mentioned my passionate artist Morgan. We could see from the beginning that she was certainly artistically gifted. This is one reason why I was so passionate myself about implementing this art study. You see, I have spent hours online searching for art programs to strengthen and develop her talent beyond what I can do. She enjoyed completing the Thomas Kinkade program by Alpha Omega, and it was pretty much student directed. I was thrilled with it, as I thought who better to direct this budding artist than the "Painter of Light" himself? Well, I do believe I have the answer to that question now, "Diane Spears." And Diane was generous enough to allow our family to review the High School Art Survey as well.
This program supports the rhetoric stage of the Classical Education Model with 7 major themes, 36 lessons, 75 art activities plus 36 sketchbook assignments. While the CD-Rom PDF is copy ready, Diane says the ideal situation would be to have both the hard copy and the PDF available since the manual is written to the student. If you have a good color copier, however, the PDF will work just fine if you are prepared to print the pages recommended. The program was analyzed for National Visual Arts Standards, and may be used as a High School Fine Arts credit. Diane explains how to receive credit in her Introduction to the program.
Since Diane states that the goal of the program is real learning, not just covering the material, we have extended each lesson out to two or three weeks. The lessons contain library research, sketchbook assignments, visual memory exercises, and one or more main art activities. The first 18 lessons cover only drawing, and so can be easily scheduled out to cover a semester, or a whole school year. Lessons 19-36 can be scheduled over a semester, or as a more in-depth second year study.
We began each section with reading of the entire lesson together. The student, then has a journal in which to copy Scripture and vocabulary words, before moving into the art history commentary in preparation for library research. Next are the sketchbook assignments and visual memory exercises, and finally the art activity. The program is extremely easy to follow and certainly shows a well structured planning. Diane’s passion for her gift as well as her Creator are apparent and refreshing. She has answered her calling with fortitude and excellence, and I believe every Christian homeschool family (as well as any student serious about art) out there would certainly be blessed by her programs.
In addition to the K-8 and High School programs, she also offers a Beginning Calligraphy workbook that looks fabulous, and four Children’s literature guides which you can purchase seperately or all on one CD-Rom. You can also visit her fine arts gallery online.
In closing I must include my signature THANK YOU to Diane for her dedication to our children and to our Creator, and not being afraid to step boldly into this world to offer us a glimpse of who she is in Him. I have always encouraged my children to look at those beautiful sunsets as God’s artwork, saying, "WOW!! Good job on that one God!" But Diane has inspired us to recognize the hand of God in even more and find His autograph everywhere we look.
Go paint with your kids!!