Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: How to Use Child-Sized Masterpieces for Art Appreciation

How to Use Child Size MasterpiecesHow to Use Child Size Masterpieces by Aline Wolf

You might be surprised to learn I decided to use this for our homeschool next year before I had actually read the book. Well, I did. You'll be even more surprised when I tell you it took me about thirty minutes to read through the whole book (though I just skimmed some of the information at the end).

After reading it, though, I am excited to try these exercises out with the kids. (The kids are really excited, too, after seeing me put all the cards in folders.) We'll be working through the first three steps: matching identical paintings, pairing companion paintings, and grouping four paintings by one artist. As she describes the approach, children are pulled deeper into the paintings, learning to pay closer attention to details and style in order to complete the exercises. Later steps involving schools of art and timelines build on those skills to increase knowledge of art history. She even mentions using groups of art work as an addition to history, culture or geography lessons. We'll work through at our own pace and see how it goes before investing in steps 4 through 8.

Ms. Wolf describes her simple approach to art appreciation, giving detailed instructions so you can easily create your own folders using whatever postcards you have at your local museum or that you might chose online. You most certainly do not have to buy any of the prepared groupings of cards (like Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 - Matching, Pairing, and Sorting - Level 1 Easy). Personally, I'm really glad we have the first three books because it's a little easier to see how it all works with some examples to move around myself. Using her descriptions, I'll also be selecting some postcards from our local art museum to augment our collection and make it more personal for the kids. (I'm hoping it will also make them more interested in the actual pieces in the art museum. We took them recently and they were definitely not interested!)

If you want to use the prepared groupings, you should plan on purchasing at least the first three books (Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 - Matching, Pairing, and Sorting - Level 1 Easy, Child Size Masterpieces for Steps 1, 2, 3: Matching, Pairing and Sorting - Level 2 Intermediate and Child-Size Masterpieces for Steps 1, 2, 3 of Matching pairing and sortingy, Level 3--Advanced). The books provide groups of postcards for the three steps at each level, but the instructions in the book seem to indicate you'll want to introduce the exercises to children with all three levels for Step 1, then all three levels for Step 2, and finally all three levels for Step 3. It seems like it would have been a better idea to group all of Step 1 together so people could give it a try that way, with only one book. I can understand being hesitant to purchase all of these resources to start a new program. I luckily only had to purchase one and used a gift card for that.

I do think you want this book if you are interested in using the Child Size Masterpieces. You may be able to muddle through without it, but it seems to provide all the important information on using the postcards with Ms. Wolf's approach. I read a few reviews online of people who thought it was too complicated. They seemed to think you could just throw some postcards together and go through them with your children. I'm sure you could, however, I think the system is actually fairly simple once you see the cards in action. I also think a more thoughtful approach in art appreciation can build the same kind of appreciation I'm hoping to develop with our music appreciation plans. Ms. Wolf provides the kind of detailed instructions I've found in other Montessori materials which often seem unnecessary, but work perfectly when modeling activities with children.

We'll see how these work in the fall, of course. I'll try to remember to post more on it once we're using them.

Originally, I was going to store the postcards in plastic bags because that's what I had and the folders seemed unnecessary. (A lot of other reviewers of the program said they just used bags or regular folders.) I didn't want to bother cutting down and stapling folders for postcards, but I was inspired after reading the book. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of the kids being able to get the folders out themselves and go through the exercises. Having separate pockets and the identification of the colored dots makes it very simple for them to complete the activity and return everything to its place so it's ready for next time.

I'll write a separate post with a few tips on making the folders, in case anyone is interested.


  1. Hello there!
    I have just found your blog and love all of your ideas for implementing Montessori at home.
    I've been hesitating also about storing the postcards, so I'd love to hear what folders you made. If you can have them pictured, please post the pictures too.
    Thank you and Happy Holidays!

  2. Miri, welcome to the Range! I wrote about the folders here:

    We've enjoyed our art appreciation so much I recently purchased sets 5, 6 and 7, but I haven't gotten them into folders yet.


Comments make me happy; thanks for speaking up!