There is something magical about a child's first up-close-and-personal experience with fine art. The richness of the subject matter; the variety of styles, genres, and time periods; the range of emotions and colors all combine to make lasting memories and mental pictures that will influence our children's perception of art for their entire lives.

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see." —Henry David Thoreau

I remember each time I have been to a new art museum—from the Rijksmuseum in Holland to the Portland Museum of Art, which had an exhibit on children's book illustrators during our trip to Maine—and each experience has filled me with a sense of beauty that can't be replaced.

No child is too young to take part in the expressions of beauty displayed in your local art museum. Of course, without proper focus and direction, children can become overwhelmed and come away with nothing specific for their memory to retain. That is why, as with anything else in our homeschooling adventure, it is our job to prepare our children for the journey with a well-planned prelude of expectations, questions to think about, and guidelines for looking at, and seeing, what is before them. Some museums have children's activities and exhibits to start them off, but don't be afraid to show your children the regular exhibits as well. Giving them specific concepts, subjects, and styles to look for will make for an exciting hour or two lost in the world of art. The anticipation is killing me, so let's get started!

Here is a list of ideas for the search. You could ask your children to look for a

  • portrait of a child
  • painting made only with dots (pointillism)
  • painting primarily in warm colors
  • painting primarily in cool colors
  • painting primarily in black and white
  • sculpture made of metal
  • painting with lots of shadows (The term for this kind of painting is chiaroscuro, meaning "bright-dark.")
  • painting of a celebration
  • sculpture of an animal
  • painting using mostly geometric shapes
  • painting using thick globs of paint
  • painting with a feeling of sadness
  • painting of a battle
  • painting or sculpture using symbols (such as an olive branch or dove)
  • sculpture that is broken
  • landscape with people only included in the background, or not at all
  • portrait that looks almost like a photograph
  • portrait that is completely unrealistic
  • piece of art that doesn't seem to you like a piece of art
  • painting of a specific place (Paris, London, George Washington crossing the Delaware)
  • painting with a lot of your favorite color in it
  • painting of a snow scene

I could go on forever! Use this list as a jumping-off point for your scavenger hunt, and adjust it according to the ages of your children. Have the older ones choose two to compare and contrast, or they could choose a style that they particularly like and write a report. Younger ones can simply find a picture in an art book and recreate it with art supplies. If you are not near an art museum, have the children search in a large coffee-table book on art from your local library.

The sky is the limit and the possibilities for discovery are endless! I hope you enjoy taking your family on this search-and-find mission!

Christine Hiester is a Christian homeschooling mom to three boys and a girl, ranging in age from nine to two. She is a musician by trade and is eclectic in homeschool style. She continues to grow and learn along with her children in this journey of life and discipleship at home. Visit Christine's blog at Fruit in Season.

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