TOS Crew: Artistic Pursuits


I thought it was just the non-artists among homeschool moms who were intimidated by the thought of teaching art to the children.

I was wrong!

Let me backtrack a little. When the TOS Crew got word that we’d be getting art curriculum from ARTistic Pursuits, I went to the ARTistic Pursuits website to pick out the book that would best apply to our children.

Of the five levels, it was pretty easy to eliminate two: Preschool and K-3. (Our youngest is 10.)

I looked through the page samples of the remaining three levels, and read the descriptions. Our younger two are 10 and 12 and have had some art classes. Ideally I’d put the youngest in the Grade 4-6 book and the middlest in the Junior High, but realistically it’s easier to combine subjects wherever possible. Now, I know that doesn’t work when there are differing levels of maturity and ability, but our younger girls are about on the same level with respect to art.

Possibilities for Independent Study

(What I didn’t realize was that the grades 4 and up ARTistic Pursuits can be used independently by a student.)

The three levels I was looking at (Grades 4-6, Junior High, and Senior High) are divided into two parts. The first book addrsses the elements of art and composition, things like line, shape, space, texture, form, and value. The second book addresses the use of color in art.

It all looked great! …but how to choose just one book?

I contacted the author and described our range of youthful learners, and was incredibly blessed to receive the two Junior High books!

I’m glad I did, too, because going through both books showed me how comprehensive this art course is, while looking at just composition or just color would have left me impressed, but not convinced.

Misconception, cleared up by looking through the actual books: From looking at the website, I thought each book was a semester of art, with two books making a year of art instruction and practice.

Reality: Each book is a full year of art instruction in itself. That made the $42.95 price much more of a bargain, in my eyes, especially considering that we paid $36 a month per student for art classes a few years ago.

The text in ARTistic Pursuits Junior High Books One and Two is friendly and conversational. The exercises are achievable. You don’t find a lot of step-by-step instructions to produce pictures, rather, the assignments are more exploration than copywork in nature. The author’s intent is to train the student’s eye and hand — the eye to see as an artist sees, the hand to draw what the eye sees.

Each course comprises sixteen units, each unit designed to be studied over a two-week span, with two one-hour art sessions a week. This gives you a 32-week course, a full academic year allowing time for additional exploration where the student wishes.


Each book begins with a Table of Contents listing the units in the course, plus a list of art supplies used in the course. Some of the art supplies are precisely described, including specific brand names. That is because the quality of art supplies varies widely. Poor quality leads to poor results and can discourage your burgeoning artist. (Voice of experience talking.)

While we’re on the topic of art supplies, ARTistic Pursuits offers discounted bundles of supplies needed for their curriculum, as well as links to art supply discount sources. Click on the “Art Supplies” button on their website for more information.

Next in each book comes a page entitled “What Parents Want to Know: Book Content and Scheduling.” It’s a one-page overview of the course, clear and concise.

Then the author speaks to the student, introducing the art course and sharing “secrets” of art, and how artists see and reproduce what they see, that the student will be exploring.

Four lessons per Unit

Each unit is presented in four lessons:

Building a Visual Vocabulary – observation and practice
Art Appreciation and Art History – the topic as an artist explored it
Techniques – using materials and tools to explore the topic
Application – final project

Each lesson includes hands-on work, and is designed to last about an hour, including reading, sketching, or more intricate and involved work on a final project. The author suggests that you schedule art class for a time when the student can “run over time” rather than getting interrupted if inspiration strikes.

World art

The focus of the Junior High program is world art, specifically oriental (Far East and Middle East) and western. Beautiful illustrations are included, both the work of artists from all over the world, and student work. Famous artists’ work is used to explore the unit focus, whether line, shape, or texture, as in the elements of art and composition in Book One; or hue, intensity, balance, and more, regarding composition and color in Book Two.

An artist’s opinion

I was very impressed with the books from ARTistic Pursuits, but I’m no artist. For the acid test, I took the books to a homeschool mom I know who’s an artist.

I didn’t say anything except, “I’d like your opinion of this course.” I sat down and watched and listened as she paged through each book in turn.

It was fascinating.

She started by exclaiming how beautifully the books were put together, the balance of illustration and text, the pictures selected. She nodded as she stopped, here and there, yes, this was a necessary topic in any art course, yes, this one, too…

She shook her head and said while she wanted to teach her children art, it seemed she could never find the time. At first, going through the books, she said they wouldn’t work for her; she was looking for step-by-step instruction. She pushed the books away, but was drawn to explore them again, and began to notice the organization, the recurrence of themes: vocabulary, art appreciation/history, techniques, application. She read through a unit, lesson by lesson, saying, “Wait, this looks as if it might be self-directed…” She found the “What Parents Want to Know” page and then understood the organization of the course.

Her final opinion: Good course. Doable.

I agree completely.

ARTistic Pursuits curriculum is available through their website and at the Schoolhouse Store. (There’s lots of good information on the website, by the way!) For $42.95 you get a full year of art instruction. Materials are additional but available at a discount. If you keep using ARTistic Pursuits, you’ll find yourself using supplies from previous years and adding to them.

To read the opinions of other members of the TOS Crew, as well as reviews of other levels in the ARTistic Pursuits program, click here.


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