Atelier™ Online offers art instruction at eight different levels for students in pre-kindergarten through tenth grade. All levels can be used across a span of at least three grade levels, so you can combine students in one level if they are a few years apart. The program includes art appreciation, art history, multicultural art, and art projects.
Memberships are purchased for a period of 18 months. The family package includes access to the basic course for one level (20 lessons) plus an Online Great Art Appreciation Program for each level that covers at least 10 famous art images with images and discussion guides. The 20 basic lessons should each take an hour to an hour and a quarter, but occasionally a lesson will have two parts and will require two sessions. The time required for the Online Great Art Appreciation Program will vary depending upon what you choose to do.
For an additional charge, you can get the Enriched Family Package that adds the Great Masters Virtual Museum. The virtual museum covers more than 90 artworks with images and discussion guides.
Supplies are ordered or obtained separately. Atelier’s Basic Art Supply Kit includes a drawing sketchpad, colored construction paper, newsprint, tempera paints, colored and black marking pens, watercolors, colored chalk, crayons, two paint brushes (different sizes), a sponge, a drawing pencil, eraser, and glue. Some levels will require other media such as pastels, modeling clay, tempera powder, tagboard, colored art tissue, liquid starch, burlap, and dowels. A chart in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook lists all of the above items and more, and it shows which levels of the program require each of them.
In addition, you will need other items that you might already have on hand, such as fabric scraps, egg cartons, wood stain, paper bags, leaves, and fixative. There is a materials list for each lesson, and you might want to gather items in advance so they are on hand when needed.
The Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook
The Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook explains the entire program, including the scope and sequence and short biographies of all artists whose styles of work are used within the program. It also has lesson plans, teaching tips, a list of supplies, a glossary of art terms, a bibliography, a section about how to put on an art show, and another section about preparing for a visit to an art museum. Some of the information is written for classroom settings, so homeschooling parents can scan for anything useful in those sections.
Parents and teachers are encouraged to avoid grading student artwork and to offer encouragement rather than criticism. Students are guided toward self-evaluation with questions at the end of each lesson.
Online Lessons and Resources
Once you have signed into your level, you will first see a list of documents and the links to the ten or more art prints used for that level. The first of the documents is the Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook. The other documents are mostly excerpts from the handbook. One important exception is the collection of Art Print Guides.
There is a two-page guide for each art print. Each Art Print Guide has a biography of the artist, information about the period (history, art movements, etc.), a description of the artwork, discussion questions (with answers), and activities that connect art with other subject areas. Some of the prints are referred to in the lesson plans in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook.
Even if you display and discuss some of the prints within the other lessons, you can use the prints and their guides to present entirely separate lessons on days other than those for the 20 primary lessons. The information part of the guides might be written at too high a level for younger students, but the questions about the art prints can be used with all ages—questions such as "What time of day do you think it is?" and "What shapes do you see repeated?" The Activities and Extensions section at the end of each lesson in the Art Print Guides presents ideas for discussion followed by activities. Some of these are entirely new art projects, while others suggest things like reading a story, attending a cultural event, and writing.
Below this initial display showing options for your level, is a drop-down menu to select a lesson. The online lesson includes links to the lesson video, the lesson plan (the same as in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook), a student handout with vocabulary words, and response/evaluation questions for discussion. Some student handouts include patterns for students to use with their projects.
The lesson videos, taught by course creator Marcia Osterink, were recorded in classroom settings but were edited for online presentation. They run an average of 15 to 20 minutes and have some great background music playing when Osterink isn’t talking. You will need to pause the video at different points for students to do the activities. Every lesson video follows a similar format covering four components (although they are not delineated within the videos): the required materials, an introduction to the lesson (sometimes with a warm-up activity), the instructor guiding students as they work through a project, and examples of completed student artwork. Osterink gives step-by-step instruction to get students started on their project, then she turns them loose to complete the project, generally allowing lots of opportunity for individual expression.
The Parents’ and Teachers’ Handbook has additional suggestions for teaching each lesson, but you really don’t need more than what is on the video. Alternatively, you could teach the lessons yourself from the handbook and skip the video lessons, or you could use some elements from the handbook’s lesson presentation along with the video lesson. The handbook often suggests using visuals of artwork. Some of these are included within the art prints for the level, but many are not. Discussion questions within the handbook’s lesson plans are designed to help students evaluate their own work.
Some of the lessons have tie-ins to nursery rhymes, storybooks, images, or real life. These might be included in the video, in the handbook, or in both. For example, in the second level lesson, titled "The Snowy Day," the handbook directs the teacher to read the book Snow by Roy McKie and P. D. Eastman, discuss the pictures, and talk about things that might be done on a snowy day. The video lesson has film footage of different snow scenes and snow play. Other lessons in the second level include tie-ins to nursery rhymes, such as "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater" and "Hey Diddle Diddle". The tie-ins are age appropriate for each level. For example, in the sixth level, there are tie-ins to the game CLUE®, pictures of the Statue of Liberty, and pictures of Victorian-style homes.
The projects were all developed for use within a classroom setting, so almost all of them are easy enough for students to complete with minimal assistance in one session. There is a great deal of variety among the projects, so students learn new techniques and skills working with various art media. Concepts are repeated from level to level, but at a more challenging level and with different subject matter.
Atelier Online makes it easy for homeschooling parents to give their children a comprehensive art education while also providing lots of flexibility as to which elements of the program to use.