Monday, May 1, 2017

ArtAchieve {review}

Art is one of those subjects that I try to incorporate, but I'm not good at working it into our routine consistently.  My kids enjoy the occasional art project, but I would love for them to have more exposure to different types of art instruction, so I was intrigued by the opportunity to review ArtAchieve.

What is ArtAchieve?
Created by John Hofland, a homeschool parent and art instructor, ArtAchieve was designed under the premise that everyone can learn to draw, and that drawing is an essential skill for everyone.  Their tagline is "Draw the World!" and all of the lessons are inspired by art from around the world.  They currently offer five levels of lessons, with each level getting progressively more detailed and challenging.  We received a one year subscription to Entire Level I, which is great for beginners.

We started with the first Free Drawing Lesson on lines.  It's great for observation and learning to see the types of lines all around you.  The warm-ups for each lesson follow a similar style, so for those needing extra practice with observation and drawing, do not skip the warm-ups!

The next day, we did Lesson 2: The Czech Cat, as recommended.  (It's a full lesson, but completely free, so a great place to try out the program and get used to it before moving forward.)

Top Left - Mom, Top Right - 7 year old
Bottom left - 4 year old, Bottom Right 10 year old

Even the four year old is interested in these lessons.  She's a young four, and doesn't quite have the patience or skill for the drawing part of the lessons, but likes when we do a quick-draw for her or print out something so that she can color in a similar style alongside us.  She's even (correctly) using terms like warm/cool colors after passively observing her brother's lessons, so I believe they are effective!

The instructional content is available as both a slideshow and a video for most lessons.  The videos offer a bit more detail and information, but the slideshows are complete lessons as well.  My boys prefer the slideshow because it's easier to go at their pace.  Each lesson follows a familiar format.  There is a warm-up first, which is printed.  Then there is a guided drawing, which is also available to print and follow.  The guided drawing is followed by coloring or painting the drawing.  The lessons generally use common materials.  A sharpie and markers are all we need for some lessons, while others require watercolors or oil pastels.  All materials can be identified on the individual lesson plans before purchase, so there are no surprises.  There are a few odd and end supplies, but things that are nice to have in our art cabinet.  A sharpie (or black permanent marker) is recommended because students should be focusing on art, and not on "mistakes," which I think is great.  This has been very helpful for one of my kids, who used to crumple his paper and start over after every mistake.

The Hungarian Insects

In addition, you can also see all of the cross-curricular components in the lesson description.  Every lesson has the potential to be expanded through geography, social studies, science and literature.  This helps make an interesting, well-rounded study if you so choose.  I've browsed all of these connections, so that I can easily tie them into our regular lessons when appropriate.

As an example, some of our lessons led us to the Caribbean Sea and the islands there.  I pulled up the lessons for the Haitian Gecko and we learned a little about Haiti, which worked out well.

Another way we tied it in was when we were reading a book that involved the sun and we used the lesson Four Suns with Four Faces.  There was no literature connection recommended for this lesson, so I used my book for literature, and relied on ArtAchieve's many suggestions for science, and especially for Art/Artists.  They enjoyed looking at some of Picasso's work.  ArtAchieve's connections are a great starting point.

What I Love
This curriculum offers step-by-step lessons for children who might be hesitant or lack confidence in their drawing ability.  I felt like most of the projects in Level 1 have more of a whimsical than "realistic" feel to them, so even though my cat is a cat and my insect is an insect, they don't have to look realistic to be "right," and that means it is less intimidating.

However, it's more than just a guided project.  Hofland reminds us that no two projects will turn out the same, because each artist is different.  He gives the student the freedom to use the lines, colors and designs that will make their project their own.

I also love that there are so many concepts taught.  Learning to see lines, and measuring and spacing lines on the page is reinforced in each lesson.  We're taught about warm and cool colors, hues and values, blending, and how to mix media.  It's hard to see here, but in Dragonfly from Ecuador we learned about using oil pastels to resist watercolors, which is something we'd never done before.  One of my kids was particularly impressed with this and spent time playing around on the scrap paper with the technique.  He loved doing it for the eyes, so they stayed white.

Final Thoughts
For a focused artist, you may be able to complete each project in one sitting, but we sometimes split it into two sittings.  We would do the warm up  and guided drawing, and save the coloring/painting for later in the day.  I would imagine most art classes would need two sessions.  The lessons are available to purchase in different ways.  All are available as a one-year license, but you can buy them individually (they currently range from $4-$6) or in various bundles, including the entire curriculum at once.  This gives parents and teachers different options, depending on their budget and the needs of their student(s), especially when working with multiple children of different abilities.

The website is easy to navigate, and how we utilize the lessons is very flexible.  This means you can choose a lesson based purely on the project that looks the most interesting, or you can choose a lesson that ties into your studies by geography or theme.  Unit study families will enjoy creating full units around these art lessons.  The different presentation options make them suitable for both visual or auditory learners as well.  We are happy with these lessons, and I would gladly recommend them for both homeschool and co-op/classroom settings.  I'm pretty sure we'll be purchasing Entire Level II for next year!

Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}

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