Saturday, March 13, 2010

Review: Artistic Pursuits

I've drooled over Artistic Pursuits products for years.  A long, long time ago I even purchased a level.  I shouldn't have... at the time, I had boys going into 3rd and 1st grades, plus a 3.5 year old, and a newborn.  I wanted to use it.  But I was running in too many different directions, and it never happened.

Fast forward a few years.  I now have boys in 7th, 5th, 3rd and kindergarten, plus a 4 year old.  And as part of the Review Crew, I had the chance to review an Artistic Pursuits product.  I looked the new materials over, and chose the 4th-6th grade level, Book 1.

I was worried.  A lot.  Worried that it would turn out that I am simply inept at teaching art.  I know other people use the program successfully, so clearly I was about to discover that it is me, and I'm incompetent.

I made sure I had the supplies necessary for the first 7 units -- each unit is broken down into 4 lessons, meant to be done twice a week.  In the case of this book, that means ebony pencils, a vinyl eraser, a metal pencil sharpener, and a sketch pad.  Later units require a few other supplies (scratch-art paper, white pencil, black construction paper, and a couple of drawing pens).

So we got started.  And... surprise, surprise... we're still going.  It's working.  It is fairly painless for me.  I read the lesson.  I tell the kids what they are to try.  They do it.  I'm not a failure.

Let's look at Unit Two for a minute.  (You can see samples here) Unit two has to do with line and shape.  
  • The first lesson teaches a new concept -- in this case lines, and has the student think about things that happen in their life, and draw something from memory.  
  • The second lesson is art appreciation -- in this case, a painting by George Catlin, and it is used to illustrate the concepts introduced in the first lesson, plus there is a bunch of biographical information about the artist, and historical information about the subject of the painting.  The student is to observe things outdoors, looking for line and shape.
  • The third lesson is a technique lesson, introducing some basic steps to follow in drawing.  The student is to draw an subject from his collection of toys or models, really studying it before drawing to see the lines and shapes.
  • The fourth lesson is the application lesson, pulling things together into a final project.
Each unit is similar, so even after only two units, I feel like I have an idea as to what to expect going forward through the sixteen units in this book.  The best part is that this level is working perfectly for my three older boys, although only one is actually in the grade range indicated (they are in 3rd, 5th and 7th -- so one is a year 'too old' and one a year 'too young').  Combining my kids is essential for me to make art work, I know that.  

I am impressed enough that I am seriously considering purchasing the 4th-6th grade book 2 for when we complete this one, and having all three big boys continue on.  And I am also seriously considering pulling out my K-3 Book 1 and doing it with Richard and Trina, probably starting next January (Richard will be in 1st, Trina will be almost 5, halfway through her K4 year).  Because without newborns and toddlers, and with the confidence gained from working with the 4th-6th grade book, I think I can teach art.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about various Artistic Pursuits products at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from Artistic Pursuits.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Diana said...

Debra, I do have couple of questions, if you don't mind. Is the 4th-6th book 1 focused solely on drawing? My non-arty oldest found out this year that he does like to draw. He hasn't liked other artistic pursuits, but if it was JUST drawing, I think he would like it more.

Also, could your older student be self-directed with this or do you need to teach it? My oldest prefers to teach himself, so I was curious if it could be used that way. Thanks, and I really enjoy all your reviews!

Debra said...


Yes, this book is all drawing. The only thing that is sort of not drawing is the scratch art unit -- and that is at least sort of drawing, and I was told we could skip it if we couldn't afford the scratch paper.

I would definitely think this could be self-directed. I'm sure Connor could sit down and do this himself. The only thing is that I would want to be involved in the 2nd lesson in each unit -- that is the art history one. I want to be able to discuss that kind of thing, instead of them just reading it.

The way it is working for us is that I sit down and spend maybe 10 minutes reading/discussing, and then they work on the art projects on their own, either right away or over the next couple of days.

I think the jr. high book 1 is only drawing too. We looked at that, but it looked a bit more complex than Connor was ready to do. I'm glad we chose the 4th-6th grade book.

We may look at moving to the jr. high drawing book next year instead of the 2nd 4th-6th grade one. I think all three boys would be ready for it after completing this one (8th, 6th, 4th -- my 4th grader is my artistic one).

Diana said...

Thanks for responding so fast, Debra! That's really helpful. We're leaving our co-op where the kids get art, and so I will have to be purposeful about it at home. That will be easier if I am not facing groans of agony every time. :)

Angie said...

Great review!
i was bummed not to be on the list, but after reading some of the comments on the message boards, i decided we needed to try it. i was able to find Book 2 of the 4-6th grade used from a local homeschooling family. Maybe we can do a swap... i'll just work backward! LOL

Thanks for the write-up!!