Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 5, Mary Cassatt

Last week, my class was finally able to add a female artist to their timelines. Being the feminist that I am, I was beyond pumped to introduce my students to this woman who, not only gave her male peers a run for their money, but who also fought hard for women’s right to vote. What a lady.

We began class listening to a biography about Mary Cassatt while the children placed their pictures and information onto their timelines.  The following is what was to be written under her photo on the timeline:

Mary Cassatt


Born: America (Pennsylvania)

Died: France

Children were given a map of the US and were able to color in Pennsylvania.  We talked about why Cassatt was the first artist on our timeline who died in a country different from the one in which she was born (transportation improves as time passed, increasing the chances that people will move great distances within their life time).

Fast facts were:

  1. She perfected her art by copying the famous art works of others.
  2. Her art often focused on relationships, especially mothers and children.
  3. Cassatt was active in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

The children were then taught how to use oil (or hard) pastels in order to create drawings of a relationship important to them. I saw pictures of imaginary spouses and children, dogs, and even one of poop!  It is always so much fun to get to know my students a bit better via their art.


After they finished their pastel drawings they moved to the back of the room where they broke into groups to create posters for a Women’s Suffrage advocacy. On the white board, I wrote the following phrases which I had seen on actual posters related to the fight for the vote:

Women Pay Taxes!

Women Obey Laws!

Women bring all of the voters into the world.

Give mother the vote.

Are women citizens? If not? Why not?

Let women vote.

These quotes were meant to either be used directly or to inspire.


As you can see, some kids took the quotes and used them while others made up their own!  I love them all so much!


This was a wonderful class session where I was able to combine so many of my favorite subjects… art, literature, feminism, women’s history, and poop! Ha!

My children and I very much enjoyed this dvd, a type of historical fiction film based upon the life and true events that took place. We checked it out at our library.  Please know that the content in this film might not be suitable for all viewers so either read about it first or preview it. 

Stay tuned for next week: MONET!


Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 6, Claude Monet

Boy! To say this week’s class was my favorite so far would be an understatement. Not only because MONET but also because we had amazing weather, I was feeling pretty well, and the kids seemed extra interested in our project. So much fun!

We started class by copying our information into the timeline.  Under Claude Monet’s picture (who I’ve decided was very handsome) we wrote:

Claude Monet



Our fast facts were as follows:

  1. Monet loved to paint outside. He would get as up close and personal with his subject as possible.
  2. He loved to paint the house and gardens he had created in Giverny, in France.
  3. In the summer of 1899, he completed twelve paintings of the Japanese footbridge.

I read aloud from a book about Monet and then we looked closely at one of the paintings of the Japanese footbridge. We talked about how Monet loved to work outdoors and then I told my students that we were moving our work outdoors. It was a beautiful day and I knew it might be our last chance to be outside for art class.

This week we learned about chalk (or soft) pastels. I sat among the children and showed them how I had, earlier in the day, created my own Japanese footbridge on cardstock. Every student was given two cardstock sheets upon which I had created a bridge using masking tape. The idea was to use chalk pastels to create our sky and lily ponds. Once we had created the background, we’d be able to remove the tape and a white bridge would magically appear on our paper.

Each student was given the instructions to create two different bridge scenes, using completely different colors in each picture, indicating a change in the time of day. Monet would often paint for several hours, outdoors, using one canvas and then switch to a different canvas once the light changed. He’d repeat the process the next day, painting earlier in the day on the first canvas and then switching at the exact same time as he had the previous day.

A few students preferred to only create one picture but every student seemed to enjoy the process (except one of my own children who was having a hard time, sadly). After the chalk pastels were completed, we used Mod Podge spray to seal their work onto the paper!  It was smelly and windy, which posed a few problems, but my wonderful helpers made it all so much easier. Our kids all seemed to love the process and most chose to share when we returned to the classroom.




We are taking a few weeks off from art class but when we return, we’ll be learning about Grandma Moses.

For more on Monet, your local library will be a great resource. I think we checked out at least ten items on his life and work. Our favorite item was this dvd, however.  Make sure you review the material before showing it to your children because everyone has different standards on what is acceptable!  My children and I loved it. We also thought that the actor playing Monet looked like Jared Padalecki.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for a video I will be creating where I walk you through our student notebooks!  Thanks for reading.

Yesterday’s Artists, Today’s Inspirations: Homeschool Art History Class 4, Edgar Degas

Last week, my students and I jumped forward several hundred years to the period of the Impressionists and Edgar Degas.  As I explained in class, the reason I jumped forward is simply because I only have time to introduce them to eighteen new artists and so I simply chose the ones I wanted to  study based upon personal interest.  There are plenty of artists one could study during the time between Michelangelo’s death and Degas’s birth, but I chose to skip over them. When you are writing your own curriculum, you can do this sort of thing.

Timeline information is as follows:

Edgar Degas



Our fast facts for Degas are:

  1. He was a perfectionist.

2. Was considered to be a founder of impressionism.

3. His favorite subject was ballerinas.

I started out reading aloud some biographical information about our artist which I found on this link.  Once I finished reading the information, each student was given a color sheet of The Dance Class and were encouraged to color the picture as I read aloud from Chasing Degas, a beautiful picture book told from the point of view of one of the dancers in this famous painting.  Not only does this book introduce the children to Edgar Degas and his ballet painting but it also allows the reader to catch glimpses of several of his contemporaries.  After reading this book, students should have a firm grasp on the Impressionists and their place in time (the 1800s)  and location (Paris, France).

Children also received a map of France for his or her notebook.

After we read the picture book, I told the children about the 14 Year Old Dancer, the only sculpture that Degas ever displayed during his career as an artist.  Together, the students all created their own version of this sculpture using aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, and coffee filters.  Since we had so many wooden craft sticks leftover from a previous project, each student received a wooden platform onto which their dancer was hot glued upon completion.  The class seemed excited and proud of their creations and, yet again, I was fascinated by how original all of the creations turned out to be.  No one created a dancer that looked like any of the other dancers.


For further study, if you have access to it, please check out this dvd. We were able to check it out from our local library.  My daughter called it fascinating!

Next week, I’ll be introducing my students to Mary Cassatt, the first female artist to appear on our timeline!