Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Art History with HIGASFY {review}

Homeschooling families have a lot more flexility and freedom to add beauty into their child's education, and one way I do this is through Picture Study.  This is a very simple method of observing and narrating half a dozen works of art by an artist over twelve weeks to become familiar with their style.  Picture Study is not the same as art history though, so when I was offered the opportunity to review HIGASFY Art History Video Series, I was intrigued.  I felt this art history program would be a fun supplement to our picture studies, and I was right!

What is HIGASFY?
HIGASFY comes from Mrs. Beth's catchphrase, "Have I Got A Story For You" which she uses when she ends her weekly story on a cliffhanger!  Gasfy is her green paint drop of a sidekick, and she frequently says "Hi, Gasfy" when he enters the scene.  He asks lots of questions that kids might have, and he comes across as fun when he plays little jokes on Mrs. Beth, like pretending to eat paint like van Gogh, or confusing the term Baroque for broke and having a garage sale.

HIGASFY Art History Video Series is designed for 1st-8th grade students and includes four individual series:  Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist.  Each series includes 16 weeks of curriculum with video lessons, in-depth study of famous artists, and complete lesson plans that are designed for you to pick and choose the art activities and/or cross-curricular activities.  Even though you receive access to the fully study, even just the videos are beneficial, and that is the route we chose to take.

Each series contains the same basic format
  • 1 Video introducing the art movement
  • 3 artists studied in-depth 
  • 2-5 videos per artist (most artists average 3-4 videos)
  • Curriculum bundle with 16 lesson plans
  • "Name that Artist" Assessment
  • Flashcards
  • TEKS alignment

We decided to start with the Post-Impressionist series for a couple of reasons.  The time period fit relatively well with where my 5th and 7th grade boys are at in history, and my 10 year old has wanted to study Vincent Van Gogh of awhile.  It seemed like a great way to start off our Picture Studies for the year!  {I've watched more videos than the kids, to decide which artists to continue studying.}

Video Lessons
The videos are fun and engaging!  Mrs. Beth is upbeat and animated, and her love of art shines through!  For the most part, Mrs. Beth is in her studio, teaching us about art movements, through the life and stories of the individual artist.

The Post-Impressionist series focuses on van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso.  We actually started off with a lesson about Impressionists, so that we could understand Post-Impressionists.  If you've done the Impressionist series first, I imagine this is a review, but if not, this is a great introductory lesson!

Occasionally we will see a full screen image of a painting, and Mrs. Beth will tell us the name (or have us guess it first) and point out details. She discusses concepts like brushstrokes or warm and cool colors, uses vocabulary like "still life" or encourages us to compare the different versions of a painting.

"Basket of Fruit" by Caravaggio 

My kids are 4, 6, 10 and 12, and since I have kids on both ends of the intended age range, I was interested to see how they would respond.  My 7th grader and 5th grader get a lot out of the videos, and do not find them childish.  They were the first ones to pick up on how she ended each video with a cliffhanger, or how the pictures behind Mrs Beth changed in the series or with the artist.  My 1st grader can lose focus sometimes, as some of the videos are 30+ minutes, but I find that stopping the video approximately halfway through for a break helps.  Although the 4 year old is not the intended audience, she asks frequently for HIGASFY and tries to follow the videos!

Famous pieces of art are scattered throughout all of the videos, and Mrs. Beth doesn't omit pieces simply because of nudity, but she does censor them, in case that is important to your family.

The 16 week curriculum bundle includes Lesson Plans, Name That Artist, Flashcards and TEKS alignment.

Each lesson includes objectives, vocabulary, critical thinking questions, and a few suggested art activities from which to choose.  Sometimes the activity is painting or drawing, sometimes it is discussion based, or perhaps creating a brochure for your own artist colony.  They've all seemed fairly simple to do with basic supplies, so they seem to be cost-efficient, especially for multiple children. Additionally, there are a variety of cross-curricular activities, such as looking up important locations to the artist on a map/globe, a writing assignment, researching a science topic (like learning about crescent moons with Starry Night) or additional group projects such as creating a vase of sunflowers together!

For the activities, we mostly focused on the geography, because we tend to look up places we read about anyway.  The kids also liked comparing different versions of the same piece of art, though they don't necessarily like recreating works.  Its certainly easy to add each artist to a Book of Centuries as well!  You can also find lessons for free draws, references to HIGASFY's Pinterest account for activities, or crossword and word search puzzles.  

The flashcards are nice - there are two per page, and you can print double-sided with the "answer" on the back.  It is recommend to laminate for durability.  They are good quality pictures, but they would require a lot of ink to print.  

The activities vary greatly, so they really do work for a wide range of ages and learning styles.  The curriculum is designed as a 16 week (1 hour per week) art curriculum for classes, but is flexible enough to be used as an after school program or summer art camp as well.

Final Thoughts
As stated, each series is written as a 16 week course, so if you're doing the curriculum as written, you need at least four months to complete a series.  You could try to just pick and choose artists, but with the month-to-month subscription, if you have an introductory video and an artist with 4 (or even 5) videos, you'd really have to push to squeeze it all in.

Even though we are not strict Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, one area I follow rather closely is Picture Study - and that is twelve weeks on one artist.  HIGASFY is so fun and educational, but it does go through an artist study at a much faster pace than we do, so it is a little hard to reconcile the format of the program with our studies.  It is such a full resource though!  I love that they offer additional resources on YouTube and Pinterest, and the curriculum bundle is full of great activity options, but the videos alone are fabulous, and we have really enjoyed watching them each week!

To find out more, you can watch a free video lesson on HIGASFY Art History Video Series, find them on social media, or read more reviews!

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