Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Artistic musings

Art presents a special challenge to a Jewish parent. Mostly it's the issue of tznius (modesty). The Jewish idea of what's appropriate, even for art and self expression purposes, is very different from that of the secular world. There is also the issue of shmiras einaim, being careful not to look at things that are spiritually detrimental to one's soul, which is at least as important as eating kosher food. There are a few reasons though why teaching art is important. First, there are the technical aspects, of which there are many, that develop many practical skills that could be later applied, transferred or combined with other disciplines. Secondly, it teaches one to pay attention to detail and beauty in the world. Thirdly, a beautiful piece of art has a potential to be as moving and inspirational as a piece of music or a poem. Finally, it allows the individuals with artistic inclinations, latent or otherwise to develop their creativity. However, as far as I have seen there is no one art program or package that could be used by a religious Jew without modifications. So it's up to the parent or a teacher to come up with appropriate materials and present them to the student in a proper way. Luckily there are many sources of artwork available on the Internet (reproductions that could be bought or printed out) so one can pick and choose and select what is appropriate. Post cards and art from calendars or old books can also be used. One can even use picture book illustrations to explain various elements of art. For the Charlotte Mason system fans, picture study is a good way to introduce students to art. From the Montessori crowd, the idea of utilizing child sized masterpieces also offers a good way to introduce art. The book, Mommy It's a Renoir or How to use child sized masterpieces by Aline Wolf, explains the details (the books with the actual postcards are not all Jewish child friendly so you are better off making your own selections). As for the technical aspects there are myriads of books available on all different types of art, one just has to pay attention and make the necessary modifications. For the Jewish parent teaching art is more of a practical matter rather than cultural, even though some art can be taught in its historical context. There are also ways to combine art with teaching science and math or foreign language. Also, art could be a practical skill that could be used effectively in many venues in the home or otherwise. Art is a subject that could incorporated in home learning in many, many ways. It's also something that parents and children can do together. So if you or your child are artistic or like art, make it a part of your home education.


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