The Harmony Fine Arts program combines the study of art and music, applying ideas from both Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches to education using a variety of resources. It follows along with three, four-year cycles of history with cycles aligning with the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages that many classical home educators have adopted. From Charlotte Mason, it adopts picture study which plays a prominent role. The use of real books comes from both approaches.
Harmony Fine Arts has lesson plans for each grade level but it only makes sense to try to choose a single level to use with all of your children if possible. Lesson plans are available only as ebooks, but the ebooks include very helpful weblinks as well as some of the referenced art prints. Art prints included in the ebooks have resolution high enough that children can study the details while some of the art prints that are linked on the internet have lower resolution. (Sometimes links to higher resolution images are available alongside a lower-resolution image.)
There are three options for each level of the plans for grades 1 through 8. (High school courses are laid out differently as I explain below.) Each option uses different resources. Few of the same artworks are used in all three options. For example, in Grade 1, option 1 has students do picture studies of prints that can be found on the internet (or might be among those included as art prints in the ebook). Instructions for picture studies are at the beginning of each book.
Option 2 in Grade 1 relies on the Oxford First Book of Art, using artworks, reading material, discussion questions, and activities from that book. This is the option to choose if you want children to do hands-on art activities other than coloring in the Grade 1 course. A supplies list is at the beginning of the book.
Option 3 requires Child-Size Masterpieces: Steps 1, 2, and 3 plus two Dover coloring books, and it also includes artwork links to the internet. Children will need only supplies for coloring for this option in Grade 1.
It is important to note the third option is actually more involved in all other levels. Each one incorporates a “course” book. Artistic Pursuits courses are used for grades 2, 3, Ancient Art and the Orchestra (previously titled Grade 5), 6 (titled Medieval and Renaissance Art and Music rather than Grade 6), 7, and 8. Mona Brookes’ Drawing with Children is used for the third option in Grade 4. Each of these course books is generally used as a stand-alone course on its own.
Here are what the three options for art look like in Grade 4:
Option 1 has students work with art prints for picture studies as in Grade 1.
Option 2 uses four books from the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series and a set of Art Cards, all of which combine with the lesson plans to provide hands-on activities in addition to art history and appreciation. For the activities, students work with markers, colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels, and watercolors.
Option 3 directs students through Drawing with Children and study of Art Cards in conjunction with other activities included in the lesson plan using supplies similar to those for the second option.
I think it might be difficult to decide which option to choose in some cases. For example, the second and third options in Grade 4 are both interesting. Also, Medieval and Renaissance Art and Music uses Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad for the second option and an Artistic Pursuits course for the third option—both are great.
Composer /Music Appreciation studies have only two options but only one set of lesson plans unlike the three options for studying art. Plans include the option of using a spine book or books for background on musicians and musical styles. The essential part of the lesson plans is listening to musical works. You can choose to listen online (using links provided) or you can use audio CDs.
Older grade levels generally use more resources. For example, Grade 4 incorporates five inexpensive books for art for the second option. Links to all the required resources for art and music are hyperlinked in the ebooks. McCoy has also created Amazon Listmanias for each course with links to products for the level for ease in locating them and ensuring you are getting the right items. McCoy appears to have searched for inexpensive options whenever possible so the cost isn’t prohibitive. Between links to free resources on the internet and the library, the cost can be kept very reasonable even if you choose the second option each year. Adding an Artistic Pursuits course is likely to be the most expensive choice.
Students in grades one through eight will study about six to eight artists and an equal number of composers each year. Lessons should take from one to two hours per week for picture study, art appreciation, and an art activity depending on which option you choose. Music lessons should take about 45 minutes per week, although you might replay the selected music a number of times during the week to help your children really become familiar with it.
You will probably want to maintain a binder for each course where can put loose art prints, student artwork, or other items in their own page protectors. Also, McCoy suggests using dry-erase markers to make notes on the page protectors or to check off completed activities.
Harmony Fine Arts also include some notebooking pages for most grade levels. There might be forms for “Artist Study” or “Composer Study”, worksheets related to a particular artist or art style, coloring pages, or a worksheet for reflection on music students have been listening to.
At high school level the plans change. Music plans are offered free online. Twelfth grade art appreciation is also offered for free. There is a single plan for each level, but you have the option of also using Artistic Pursuits courses (for grades 9 and 10) and First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink (grade 11) that add development of skills in working with various art media. The core plans focus on art appreciation using the spine books and DVD: The Annotated Mona Lisa, The Story of Painting (by Sister Wendy), and Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting DVD—these are used throughout high school. Students write a one or two page summary each month regarding their art appreciation studies. Art appreciation lessons are intended to take only about one hour per week, but adding a skills course also adds about two hours per week.
Music Appreciation plans for high school are similar to those for the younger levels. However, students are directed to write biographies of each composer and one or two paragraphs on composers and their music.
Most resources used in these courses are secular and might require some previewing or editing. Tips and “alerts” are included for some problematic sources at the beginning of each Harmony Fine Arts plan.
Whatever option you choose, the Harmony Fine Arts lesson plans can make it much simpler for you to ensure that you are covering both music and art. If you also choose a plan that fits with your history studies, you end up creating a unit study that helps student make connections between history and the fine arts.
Samples are available free on the publisher’s website so you can see what this actually looks like in advance.