School during breakfast, Part 2: Picture Study

I've shared a little about our hymn study here and about our Monday Hymn Practice here.

On Tuesdays we do picture study, and it's one of our favorite things! I was an art major in college and Art History was one of my favorite classes ever.

As to how we incorporate this into our week, I first choose an artist and purchase a book or some prints. [I've been able to purchase some good art books at used bookstores for this very purpose.]

Here's what the study part of that looks like at our house:

ONE: Announce the name of the artist you're studying, and any information (biographical) you think is pertinent. I usually write the artist's name up on the board, and read a short bio or a few facts I've found about the artist.

TWO: Pull out a print, hand it to a child. For the sake of this example I'm going to say I hand the picture to Isaac. Then I ask him to describe what he sees. The rest of us listen and try to imagine the painting in our minds. He does so. My children all love this part. Seriously, they fight over who's turn it is to describe the painting.)

THREE: When he has finished describing the painting, the rest of us get the opportunity to pepper him with questions about the things our minds are still wondering about.

The questions you may ask depend not only on the painting but also on how well your describer is. Our Isaac gets very detailed about what is going on in the painting (think: the story of it; what he imagines is happening), but he may forget to tell us what colors he sees, or what time of the day he thinks it is. Ella, on the other hand, will describe in detail the colors and pattern and folds of the skirt a woman in the painting is wearing but may forget to tell us what is happening.

A few ideas for questions:

What colors/shapes do you see?

How would you describe the people in this painting? [Dress, expression, position, etc]

What do you think is the most important part of this picture?
What is the focal point?/ Where is your eye drawn to?

What objects seem closer to you? Further away?

If you were to choose a title for this picture, what would you call it?

FOUR: Then Isaac reveals the picture to us and we all take turns making comments, things like:

Good job describing the boat, Isaac. That's exactly how I pictured it.

Oh! You forgot to tell us about those flowers there in the corner.

FIVE: Finally, I tell them what the name of the painting is.

The following week we begin all over again with a new painting by the same artist, and we review any of the paintings we've previously learned.

I usually select 5 or 6 paintings per artist (either my favorites or those that I think might be of particular interest to our children), and then we move on to a different artist.

A couple of other ideas:

1. Hand your child some paints or colored pencils (or crayons!) and tell them they get to color that painting!

This is one of the paintings we studied, early last year:

And here is Ella's representation of it:

2. Begin an art album for your child.

We bought a small photo album for Ella two years ago and have printed out the various paintings we've studied and she has added them to her album, listing the title and artist beside each one. She loves this!

{Pictured: page one of Ella's art album}


  1. love love love! Our picture study has become a tad dry for the kids lately. I'm so thankful to have some fresh ideas! Thanks Stacy!

  2. I love this idea!! Love, love, love it! This sounds like it would expand the kids' writing ability by being able to describe things so well too.

    Now I'm off to find some art :)


  3. great idea! How do you choose your art? and where do you get it from?

  4. Lovely idea! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Oh, I love the idea of one child narrating the photo, and the others imagining it! Can't wait to try that here! (We're on Escher... I wonder how Isaac would descrbe some of those!)

  6. Wonderful! We started Picture Study last year, but we are focusing on it more this year. I never thought I was an "art person" but I'm really starting to enjoy it. I just may have to use some of your ideas.

  7. An Art go girl! How about we come to your house for art once a week :o)

    We used Artistic Pursuits last year. I am not an artist in the least and needed something to tell me what to do. Your idea would be easy to do though..thanks for sharing.

    I love Ella's painting.

  8. Thanks for writing about this! I have these awesome art cards that I got free, but I haven't known what exactly to do with them. These are great ideas! Now I just need to do it! ;)
    I've enjoyed reading through your morning circle time routines. It reminded me of some of the things that I used to do, but got dropped along the way when the kids got old enough to make their own breakfast and I got lazier about getting up. I need to do something about that laziness...

  9. This is FANTASTIC! :) I have been using a couple of books from the Metropolitan Museum of Art series, "Can you find it...?" If your not familiar, there are about 13 prints included in each volume and there are accompanying questions calling on children to notice details. The questions are in the form of a rhyming riddle. I have two preschool age children currently and they LOVE doing this. There are a lot of other books in the series, but your ideas are much more expanded which I really like and you make use of an entire art book. You have helped me to plan for future grade levels, as art instruction is very near and dear to my heart, but some of the programs I've looked at are QUITE expensive. I also am very impressed with the art journal wherein you print out the print for your daughter! Thank you, thank you for the excellent ideas! And for this encouraging blog--I don't usually comment, but you've brought me out of "lurkdom!"

    God Bless,

    Mrs. Rebekah S.

  10. Carolynn (and others),

    I'm working on a follow-up post to this one and will answer your questions and provide more resources there!


  11. I havent a clue how I came across your blog but I love this post. Thank you so much!!!


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