CM Homeschool picture study Millet Daisies

As we have been on the road this homeschool convention season, we have stayed in many hotels and eaten at many different restaurants. Two truths have been reinforced along the way, and it dawned on me that those truths also apply to Charlotte Mason’s method of picture study. What is the point of looking at old artwork? Why do we do picture study?

1. Little extras make a big difference.
2. You get used to what surrounds you.

Little Extras Make a Big Difference

Some restaurants and hotels do only the bare minimum to get by. Such establishments are adequate but nothing to write home about. But others have added little touches that have made our time with them more pleasant and enjoyable. It can be something as simple as lemon slices with the water or a “Hope you have a good day” note from the one who cleans the hotel room. Those extras don’t take a lot of time, but they add another layer of enjoyment to our experience.

As Charlotte Mason-style educators, we seek to spread a feast of living ideas for our children. Most likely we will include the basics of history, math, and science. But let’s not forget the little extras that add enjoyment and variety. Picture study doesn’t take a lot of time—less than fifteen minutes once a week—but its benefits are far reaching.

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture” (Vol. 1, p. 309).

Little extras can make a big difference.

You Get Used to What Surrounds You

As this traveling season wears on, we are getting used to living out of a suitcase and eating concession stand food at concession stand prices. Are those the best? Not at all. But we are growing accustomed to what we are surrounded by.

Our children are the same way. Their sense of beauty and appreciation is being formed by what is around them. If they are surrounded by fast-talking, fast-moving cartoons or touched-up photos of pouty, anorexic young people, that is what they will get used to. That is what will cultivate their tastes, and soon that is what they will prefer because it is familiar.

Picture study gives us a simple yet powerful tool to influence our children’s sense of beauty, to cultivate within them a taste for what is good. Charlotte Mason said that one of the parents’ jobs is “the cultivation of the power to appreciate, to enjoy, whatever is just, true, and beautiful in thought and expression” (Vol. 5, p. 212).

You get used to what surrounds you.

And as an added bonus, those beautiful and noble expressions found in pictures will also feed our children’s imaginations. As Charlotte put it,

“Every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination . . . At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold” (Vol. 6, p. 43).

Why provide just the bare minimum in our home schools when Charlotte has given us picture study to enhance the feast and surround us with beauty on the journey?

Next week we will look at the simple steps of doing a picture study. In the mean time, you might like to take a look at this week’s CM Blog Carnival. We just learned that it also happens to be on the topic of picture study.


  1. I was hesitant to do picture study. I don’t have copies of pictures and really don’t have time to find them. But I did and we’ve done it this year.

    Well… Our local art museum offers free admission once a month. I had taken the girls last year and it was a disaster. I took them last month and they LOVED it! I just told them the free day is this week and they are so excited to go back.

    They’ve gotten used to it. It’s becoming part of their lives. I never would have believed it.

  2. How funny, I just started the chapter on Picture Study in Karen Andreola’s book! 🙂 Great reminders, thanks. We started homeschool this past year, and it’s all been about experimenting. One thing I wanted to throw in right away (I have a kindergartner, two preschoolers, and a baby) is picture study. I decided that the point is to be familiar with what they’ll come in contact with, and since we live in Japan I started rather unconventionally with Hokusai, a famous Japanese artist who’s works we see everywhere! After regarding one of his most famous, I was pleased to find out that Van Gogh, Monet, and many other more “conventionally” studied artists were greatly inspired by him! So it was a natural segue to look at Van Gogh next. It’s been a treat to see my children learn to love this time of looking at pictures and finding beauty and inspiration (we did color blending crayon sketches with blue and yellow, after observing “Starry Night” and my 4 year old pointed out the greenish hint around the stars).

  3. Looking forward to reading your simple steps to picture study! I love art and want to help my children love it too. 🙂

  4. I am blessed to read this today. I would like to remember to add those “little touches” to our daily routine…picture study, love notes, and lemon water. We share your love for God’s Word, hymns, art, nature, and literature. Thank you for inspiring me to keep things special and simply Charlotte Mason.


  5. Thank you for this encouragement to make time for picture study. This was timely and needed. Very well written!

  6. You are so right about getting used to what surrounds you. This applies to music as well as art. We do not listen to “secular” music generally but do listen to contemporary worship music and contemporary Christian music sometimes. I have not made much classical music available over the years since my children were born, so that is probably why they balk so easily at composer study. Seeing how simply picture study is introduced into one’s homeschool has given me greater resolve to include composer study more consistently next school year.

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