CM Art Study in NYC, and DNA too

Fifth Avenue sidewalk along Central Park.

The cozy, crisp feeling of the fall entices me toward more schooly schooldays, and I feel ambitious this time of year to include absolutely everything in our studies.

And "everything" includes Art Studies.

The Frick, late afternoon in the fall.

We've done Art Studies using the Charlotte Mason method on and off over the years. I have great memories of sitting on the couch with my kids studying one particular painting at a time and delving into the biographies of various artists, one by one. The method is effective, memorable, easy to implement.

Up Fifth Avenue from the Frick: The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
same late afternoon in the fall.

As wonderful as the Charlotte Mason method is for Art Study, I am lured away from the couch and photos of paintings to the museums in the city where we can see The Real Thing, in person.

Fifth Avenue, again.

I try to use CM methods when visiting museums and the first rule of thumb is to keep the visit short. It's tempting to spend hours at the museum, especially if the admission price is steep, but a shorter visit is more far more valuable, in my experience. (Hint: Double-check pricey admission costs; sometimes they are "suggested" and a smaller amount will be cheerfully accepted. )

And again, Fifth Avenue between The Frick and The Met.

And, I like to make use of the museum staff to make our visits living, to use CM vocabulary. Museum educators are generally generous with their knowledge and, because they love the topic themselves, their enthusiasm is contagious. They make the artwork and history come alive.

I recall one guided tour I set up for a group of homeschoolers at The Met. Most of the kids in the group were elementary-aged boys, boisterous and a bit loud. When the educator came out of the back room to introduce herself to our group, I cringed. She was a tiny, elderly, slow-moving, soft-spoken woman. I thought, "These boys are going to eat her alive."

Instead, the woman had the boys eating out of the palm of her hand. 

She had experience working with kids and she knew her topic (which happened to be African art) inside and out. From the get-go, she told the group stories and then pointed out, piece by piece, how the artwork related to the stories. She spoke slowly and softly, and she paused after funny bits in the stories and the boys filled the silence with laughter, boisterous and a bit loud.

She knew the importance of stories to capture attention, and she used the stories to help the students notice the artworks' details and to help them remember what they learned. These are tactics I've learned to appreciate as I work with Charlotte Mason's methods. While the boys in the group learned about African art from the museum educator, I learned my own lessons from her myself.

Last week, after I dropped off my daughter at one museum for an event just for middle-school students, I walked to another museum. On that day, I walked past most of the artwork and headed to the museum cafe, where I read The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson.

With Charlotte Mason's encouragement, I am likely to look for living books on topics rather than relying on textbooks alone. This book popped out at me while browsing in the library. Since my two kids have been learning about cell structure and DNA this fall, I myself am learning about cell structure and DNA, too. (One of the best side effects of homeschooling is improvement in my own education.) I'm enjoying The Double Helix, to my surprise. We've put more emphasis on Science in our family's homeschooling this year than we've done in the past, and - to my surprise - it's been fun.

Wollman Rink, Central Park, on an autumn evening
As my daughter and I, along with my daughter's friend, walked through Central Park after our museum visits, we noticed the skating rink was open. And so, a new season begins and entices me even more toward including absolutely everything in our studies.

And "everything" includes ice skating and handicrafts and reading poetry together while enjoying hot chocolate and Science and a whole bunch of other stuff too.

Note: As I type this, it's snowing on an October afternoon in NYC. Wow, a beautiful out-of-season surprise.


  1. I am so intrigued. I have a cousin blogging about her fist weeks in NYC. Between the two of you, I am just at the edge of my seat with wonder.
    It's honestly not a place I would want to live, but is is so completely opposite from the place that I live--that it fascinates me!

    I loved ice skating on our lake as a girl. That rink looks awesome. And the art museums. Yes, the real thing. Some Thursdays we have free days around here. I must check into it. I didn't remember that Charlotte said to keep the visits short.

    And full days...yes. Always full. Your excitement is catchy. Thanks. I begin to lose some momentum about this time. It's good to catch a new fresh perspective from someone. Thanks!

  2. I am very envious of your access to all those museums, art and otherwise. Have you done any sketching of artifacts, a la Mason?

    So glad science has been going so well - it should! When mom is learning too, it's a wonderful environment - learning together, side-by-side. (That's a GREAT book, too.)

    Too funny - no snow up here in MN!

    Admiration, Hope and Love,


  3. You sound like any typical HS Mom wanting to do a bit of everything. That's ok we're the teacher so we can choose as many things as we want. As long as our children can keep up with our pace I say keep stepping in to as many things as we desire.
    Hope you guys are having a great holiday season. Enjoy the snow. We got snow last year so it will probably be another 10 or 12 years before we get it again.