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Drawing Curriculum
Curricula for Drawing, Painting, etc.

Home / Art Main Menu / Approach To Instruction / Art Appreciation / Drawing Curriculum / Chronological Art Lessons / American Art History

Note: Find one mom's lesson plans for Drawing With Children at this link.

Drawing With Children (DWC) by Mona Brookes

DWC really is user-un-friendly. I really had to work hard at putting together practical lessons as per her "Lessons" (descriptive information mostly) in her chapters. I received feedback from many on my loop that they gave up because they couldn't turn her book into practical lessons.

This drawing text can begin with students as young as 2-3 years of age! If you can get past the "user-unfriendliness" of Mona Brookes' text, you can stretch this gem over a wide variety of ages and ability levels. I currently use her book and methods in a co-op in which ages range from 3-10.

By "user-unfriendliness" I am referring to the fact that Mona's text tells you what should be done, but provides no real structured set of lessons. She merely tells you what needs to be done at each of five lessons, provides an example, and leaves much left to you to find on your own; collect samples of projects similar to her five lessons.

If you can get past this, her book is very useful! (I have thought often of writing her, though, and asking about the possibility of her putting together a more user-friendly format; structured lessons that can be drawn out for a time frame). Does she realize how popular she is among homeschoolers??

So far, I have had to resort to putting together my own packet of activities for the levels she mentions. Basically, this includes:

You need to see her examples to understand the differences in the levels. When presenting an activity to students, it is quite evident whether or not the work is within their "level." They will quite easily follow work within their level, and frustrate and even fail at the other levels. However, it is good to present material periodically beyond their level, to see when they are ready for advancement.

When we are using Mona's lessons, many of us see a generalized improvement in drawing ability. I have also used her text, and then come back to it for review and refining. It is working well for me now, despite some of the drawbacks.

Drawing With Children (DWC)
From: Devin

After comparing DWC to Drawing Textbook and Stebbing's books, I found I much preferred having the lessons spelled out for me, which DWC does not do. Despite 4 years teaching art classes to homeschoolers and a university background in art, I found it difficult to dig out enough meat for the drawing class I was preparing to teach. Perhaps this was because I'm not a very good artist myself. I realize that this is my weakness, not the book's, but that other homeschool teachers may share that same weakness. Her warm-ups are something that I gleaned and use all the time. If I was going to use a non-curriculum (for lack of a better term) book such as DWC, I actually prefer Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain which, if I recall correctly, Mona Brooks credits and recommends.

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Hooked on Drawing
From: Devin

I wanted to share with you all an instructional drawing book that I ordered from Rainbow Resources (after first checking it out at the library). I've been searching for a good book to use to teach a class of hs 4th & 5th graders and have looked at Drawing With Children (hated it--too hard to set up lessons), Barry Stebbing's books (very good, but the lessons take big "steps"), Draw Today (too gimmicky), and Drawing Textbook (good, but limited to cartoon-like images). I'm not a very good drawer myself, so I needed something that taught in small increments, had some fun lessons, and actually had the lessons set up for the teacher.

The name of the book is Hooked on Drawing! Illustrated Lessons & Exercises for Grades 4 and Up by Sandy Brooke. It's a very well-rounded course of drawing instruction written for grades 4 and up. It encompasses much more of a variety of materials, techniques and lessons than any other drawing course I've reviewed. It is not, however, self-directed (except perhaps for older, more motivated students.) The lessons are all very nicely laid out and easy to teach.

It's divided into 2 sections for a total of 61 sequentially-organized lessons:

The book lists materials needed for each lesson, shows examples by both famous artists and ordinary students, and is very user friendly. It's perfect and I just can't wait to use it! I found a copy at my library, so….CHECK YOUR LIBRARY before you spend the bucks on it! That's an order!

What ages? The youngest child I used it with was a first grader. Of course, I haven't ever tried to teach preschoolers to draw anything more complicated than stick figures and happy faces! I really do think you could adapt many of the lessons to use with younger kids, but other lessons would just be too difficult. In her introduction, the author says, "The exercises are designed for grades 4 and up. I have done some of these exercises with third graders who often, depending on their maturity level, have done quite well with them."

(For more info on appropriate ages for art instruction, see Approach To Instruction. -Paula)

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How to Teach Art to Children
From: Devin

How to Teach Art to Children published by Evan-Moor (I found at my local teachers book store) teaches the basic elements of art such as color, line, texture, pattern, etc. The lessons require a variety of materials such as watercolors, temperas, and colored paper. I found this book to be very, very "user friendly." It suggests fun, simple projects to reinforce the principles being taught, has a vocabulary list, and even suggests examples from both fine art and illustrated children's literature. Although the book was written for classroom use and some of the projects are group projects, I still think it does a fantastic job of teaching those elements of art. Many of the group projects can be done with a small, family-sized group or can easily adapted for individual use.

Another review from: Devin
Note: this is not a drawing program.

How to Teach Art to Children (HTTATC) is by far my favorite book for teaching the basic everyone-should-know-them elements of art to grade school children. It is an introduction to the basic elements of art and covers color concepts, pattern and design, line & shape and texture. It's easy to use, includes great ideas for both individuals and groups, and has references to supporting masterpieces and children's illustrated books. Half the book is color theory; I think its lessons on color are very valuable. However, if drawing is what you want to teach, then HTTATC is probably not your best choice. I picked it up at a local teacher's book store (it's from Evan-Moor) for about $12. Recently I've seen it in the Veritas Press catalog.

It's recommended for grades 1-6, but I've used with groups of students of all ages. I simply expect better work from the older kids. And, if this is their first exposure to color theory, it would be a good place to start. One feature I really like about this book, besides the fact that the projects are very "do-able", is that the authors recommend both literature references and fine art examples to illustrate each lesson. The illustrations are a good vehicle for getting the point across.

The book is very easy to use and I think it would make a good addition. Also, Barry Stebbing's Feed My Sheep covers color theory pretty nicely using colored pencils. I personally like to use watercolors when teaching color theory, but colored pencils make a nice alternative.

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Visual Manna
From: Devin

I think Visual Manna's curriculum's concept is good, but I'm disappointed in the execution. For example, in their lesson on Still Life With Poppies by Matisse, they give you a decent short background on Matisse (I would have liked a bit more), but the instructions for the accompanying project read, "Set up a group of inanimate objects, perhaps a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit, some favorite toys, etc. Now allow them to use a pencil and draw the grouping. When that is complete, encourage them to color it using colors that express their feelings." That's it? No drawing hints or anything? Nope.

For that reason, I think the title "Visual Manna's Complete Art Curriculum" is misleading. In my opinion, for an art curriculum to be truly complete it should:

1. clearly teach the elements of art (line, color, perspective, etc.),
2. touch on some basics in art history,
3. teach some basic drawing, painting and sculpture techniques, and
4. educate the student to look at art critically.

Visual Manna does a fairly good job with its art history but I feel it does only an adequate job in the other 3 areas. The biggest disappointment I felt was in its lack of instructions for the projects. They've collected some very good projects ideas, but don't explain how to do the projects thoroughly enough for the average user. The curriculum assumes that the student as either had previous art instruction or has a good amount of natural ability. The Jeffus are such very nice people that I would much prefer to give Visual Manna a glowing review. Perhaps I would have been less disappointed in Visual Manna had it not claimed to be "complete".

Answers to Comments About Visual Manna
From: S. Jeffus, Author of Visual Manna,

I was so glad to read your review.  I understand your critique, but I want you to understand, one of the reasons that our art classes are so popular is that the the most important thing in a curriculum that teaches art is inspiring creativity. After many years of teaching art not only in the public schools, but homeschoolers, and adults, I many times could not even show a model idea--because I did not want duplicates of it.  I want children to feel good about coming up with original ideas. 

The Visua Manna Complete  Curriculum is meant to provide a general, well rounded education in art in the three areas--an introduction to media and techniques--appreciation of master art work--and the vocabulary of the arts.It is not meant to go into detail, but introduce ideas and concepts, and inspire parents and teachers (many public school teachers also use it). It purposely does not give step by step projects.  We have other books that do.   The worst thing I can do as an art teacher is bore my students, and I found the amount of information I give about the artists is sufficient to whet their appetites, and then inspire them to think and do creatively.

The three concrete elements are important---but the abstract elements of inspiring original ideas and encouraging creativity is equally important.  Just like no three architects come up with the same idea for a particular building--no art lesson introduced should have a "have to be right" answer.  Our web site explains our philosophy.

We have added a timeline of art history--maybe you saw an earlier version without it---and will be revising it this next year--but basically---I'm very happy with the results it has achieved for so many students.

From: Patty W.

I have been using Visual Manna for the last half of this school year, and overall I really like it. Devin is correct in her assessments, although, since my kids tend to be on the artsy side anyway, it has worked well for us. I think the best way to find out if you'd like it is to go to their web site - they have sample lessons, which should give you a pretty good idea of what the lessons are like.

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Art Adventures at Home (AAH)
From: Devin

AAH is especially good for kids (and moms) who haven't done much art. It was written for homeschoolers and has lessons for 3 years worth of activities. The first year I used it, I taught a group of 6 and 7 year olds. It covers a nice wide range of projects and skills to expose kids to many media and techniques. I like the way the projects are grouped into drawing, sculpture, crafts, painting, and printmaking. I thought the directions were clear and easy to follow. I did find that Vol. 2 was fairly repetitive of Vol.1, so advise you to use one or the other, but not both.

I attempted to work some art history in with the lessons--sometimes I was able to correlate it quite well with the lesson and sometimes I wasn't [G]. I would have liked AAH to suggest art history topics to correlate with the lessons, but that wasn't their goal, so it's not really fair to criticize them for that!

The biggest problem I had with AAH was that the kids in my classes often weren't ready for some of the drawing assignments and would have benefited from some drawing work before tackling them. You might try something like McIntyre's Drawing Textbook for that. The sculpture, craft, printmaking and painting assignments were much better. Also, it's occasionally a bit of a stretch to see the concept that the project is supposed to teach (How to Teach Art to Children does a better job of that), but I have to say that during the 2-plus years that I used AAH we really enjoyed art.

From: StaceyL

I do have Art Adventures at Home and have used it a bit. Recently I was looking through the book again (Level 1 for K-gr#) and decided I won't continue with it. Why? Well, Devin gave a bit of a description of the program, and since she has taught a group with it, perhaps she could give a more positive picture of it. I found, however, that there were too many lessons I wasn't really interested in doing with the boys--some were too simple (things we would do out of the blue anyway, like make crayon etching of leaves under paper), others asked for a degree of competence in drawing which my kids don't yet have (e.g., "drawing something which is special to the child" with large shapes to show that it is special; or, draw a still life. Well, they can't draw well enough yet! AAH does NOT teach drawing. We made some use of the sections on color. Some of the supposed art lessons seemed to me to be a bit of a waste of time (e.g., straw painting--put some runny paint on the paper and blow it around with a straw--that's something I might do for fun with my 4 yob, but I don't see the need to add it to an art curriculum).

From: Devin

Stacey is right, there is very little drawing in AAH and drawing is their weakest section by far. I've found this to be true in many "general art" curricula.

Not everyone would think of doing leaf rubbings or blow paint around on paper (Stacey's got a lot of art savvy), but they're both a valuable way to familiarize early elementary children with the properties of different media. (There's just something about paint that kids love, isn't there?) Most of the kids in the classes I taught had had virtually no art experience, so very few of the projects were repeats for them. I didn't work my way straight through the book and I sometimes skipped lessons that had been done before or combined two simple lessons. There were still enough ideas to keep us busy for at least two years. In other words, AAH is a fun way to explore all the areas of art (and a few crafts, too).

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Artistic Pursuits
From: Devin

My daughter used Book 1 of the upper elementary (grades 4-6) last year and I was very impressed with the program. Artistic Pursuits does an excellent job of combining art appreciation with art instruction and interesting projects. Art appreciation is taught through the use of fine art postcards which illustrate an element of art (line, texture, form, etc.). Each lesson concentrates on one of these elements. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate the user-friendly format of these books!

The lessons are extremely easy to follow and the format of the book is very user friendly. Instructions are clear and well-written. Plenty of student work is used for examples, which is much more encouraging to students than examples of professional work only. My daughter did one page a day, but you could concentrate the lessons into 2 days. The author suggests taking 2 weeks to complete each unit. The units, or lessons, are formatted as follows:

The back of the book provides an evaluation sheet for grading the projects.

The level we used emphasizes American art and comes in 2 books. Book 1 is called "Elements of Art and Composition" and is basically all drawing lessons. Book 2 is "Color and Composition" and uses watercolor pencils and Prismacolor® pencils for color drawings. I believe all levels follow this same format.

The supply lists in both books are very reasonable and inexpensive. The same basic media are used throughout each book—saving the purchaser quite a bit of money on supplies.

We experienced only two slight problems in using Artistic Pursuits. First of all, I had my daughter work through Book 1 completely before scheduling Book 2. She began to get very bored (and whiny) with only black-and-white drawings. In the future, I plan to alternate blocks of lessons from both volumes, doing 2 or 3 lessons from Book 1 then skipping to Book 2 for 2 or 3 lessons.

The only other slight problem that we experienced, was that my daughter used up a lot of time searching for just the perfect subject matter. The author instructs the student to choose a subject that interests him or her. Sometimes the subjects are taken from pictures (either photographs or magazine pictures) and sometimes they are drawn from objects around the house. My daughter was able to waste an incredible amount of time and angst searching for subjects for her lessons. Not every child will experience this, but I imagine that the average student will. I wouldn't have the author change her instructions because I think a young artist will do a better job if the subject he's drawing interests him. I'd suggest that you, the parent, schedule a regular time to search for subject matter.

If a student has never had any drawing experience, I would not start directly in the grade 4-6 level. My daughter has had quite a few drawing lessons and still experienced some frustration. I haven't yet seen the book for early elementary ages; it may solve this problem. Otherwise, something like Bruce McIntyre's "Drawing Textbook" would be good preparation for this level.

One last comment, parents who hope to go through art history chronologically will be frustrated. This book organizes the flow of the lessons by the elements of art.

I give Artistic Pursuits five stars out of five!

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Drawing Textbook by Bruce McIntyre
From: Devin

This a classic in homeschool circles for good reason. It's a simple, step-by-step course of instruction that requires little parental help (or ability). The only potential drawback is that the style is rather "cartoony" (since the author was a Disney cartoonist) .

For initial, step-by-step drawing instruction, many posts said McIntyre is good, but boring. Alternatives which accomplish same goal: the Superdoodle books (available from Rainbow Resources). They're rather simplistic, but take you step-by-step through a drawing. Each group centers around a theme--reptiles, cars, pets, etc.

There's another popular series, called Draw, Write Now, that uses a similar approach.

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Kistler Books
From: Janet in NM

Which Kistler book should I use? Here's how I would choose: Draw Squad (DS) is his first book, and starts very basic. Imagination Station (IS) came next, and even though it is very similar to DS, I would say it seems to fit better following DS. I've never seen anything officially recommending that you use DS before IS, but according to my kids, DS started at a more basic level than IS (which we are now using).

Kistler also has another book called Drawing in 3-D. It is much more advanced than the other two, but it looks very good. We will probably use it sometime in the future. Here's his web site: Mark Kistler's Imagination Station.

Draw Squad
From: Devin

The author of Draw Squad, Mark Kistler, was a protege of McIntyre. His book is very much like Drawing Textbook, but is greatly expanded. It's got a lot of boy appeal--cities in space and all that. For the price difference, it's a better bargain unless ... you only want a taste of that sort of drawing. DT provides the inexpensive introduction to cartoon-like drawing which may be all you require.

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Stebbing Books
From: Devin

I haven't seen any of the videos, but have used selections from several of Stebbing's books. The books are pretty straightforward and I can't imagine needing a video to use them, but it couldn't hurt <g>. I do like the books. The lessons are directed to the student, so (if motivated) they could be done with minimal supervision. My only complaint is that sometimes the lessons take steps that are too big--they move on at a fast pace. Here are some quick reviews of the books I've got and/or used.

Lamb's Book of Art (LBOA) is recommended for grades 1-8 and presents 69 lessons. I especially like the first part of LBOA which presents the color wheel. It uses washable markers to teach color blending, which is very simple and interesting, though unusual. The only materials required for this book are the markers, a drawing pencil, a ruler, a brush, an extra-fine black marker, and a kneaded eraser. It probably proceeds at too quick a pace for children who don't have a lot of natural talent, especially in the drawing section. The drawing section is probably is the weakest in the book, IMHO. The first drawing lessons starts off introducing overlapping. You jump right in with a still life of a bowl of fruit. Some of the kids in my class were kind of discouraged with their first attempts at a rather hard concept. Because Stebbing tries to cover so many concepts in less than 70 lessons, he isn't able to go into any of them very deeply. Still, all in all, it's quite a decent introduction to some basic art concepts. You might want to consider first supplementing with McIntyre's Drawing Textbook (or Draw Squad) to better prepare them for the drawing unit.

Feed My Sheep (FMS) is recommended for grades 3-9 and has 225 lessons. It covers much of the same information as LBOA, (color, drawing, nature, cartooning, people, art appreciation) but obviously spends more time on each subject. Whereas LBOA uses markers to teach the color wheel, FMS uses colored pencils. The only media FMS uses are the colored pencils, acrylic paints and drawing pencils. The lessons don't take quite such large steps as LBOA, but younger students still might need some supplementary drawing lessons. By the way, FMS has a few lessons teaching the grid system ala Draw Today, but I think that it's much more balanced and complete because of the many other techniques also taught.

How Great Thou Art is quite possibly the only drawing curriculum written to and for high schoolers, with 60 easy-to-use lessons. Stebbing even includes a final exam in the book. If your student has never had a drawing course, though, HGTA might go too fast for him.

Book of Many Colors is recommended for ages 12 through adult and contains 150 lessons. It teaches the use of color through a variety of mediums: colored pencils, soft pastels, markers, pastel pencils, watercolors, acrylic and oils. Stebbing does a good job of covering choosing materials for each medium (brushes, paper, etc.) and give good tips for each. This would be a good book to use for a high school course, possibly following HGTA. A combination of the two would easily fulfill a Fine Arts high school credit.

Lamb's Book of Art
From: Lucie

We've been using How Great Thou Art books for years. They are the best art books we've ever found. The beginning level for your children would be Lamb's Book of Art. This is an actual beginning level drawing course where color theory and drawing techniques are taught. The child is expected to be able to understand what is being taught, implement it and build on it. I have observed many children using this series and most do not have problems with it and actually learn to draw more accurately! It may be a little too much for the six year old, but that depends on the child. Some six year olds I have known have used this book without any problems. It depends on the maturity and interest of the child at that age. I advise you to go for it - you'll probably love the series. Also, the publisher has given you permission to copy the book for your other children as long as you actually purchase one copy for your family.

Feed My Sheep
From: JJ

We are using Feed My Sheep. It is wonderful. There is very little for the teacher to read and the text assumes you have a brain. Preparation is minimal (very minimal) and supplies are affordable. You can buy good or great materials and have success. (I bought both ranges so the kids can experiment and then "perform"). The curricula allows you to easily combine lessons IF you want to. It does not, however, try to do this for you. Get it. I don't think you will be sorry.

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Draw Today (DT)
From: KC

I purchased the DT program, and pulled it out, ready to begin (my oldest was a 3rd grade girl). After reading all the introductory information, I was disappointed to find that it wasn't really appropriate for my age student...yet. I called the author/creator of the program and spoke with him at length, and the following is what he advised me. I would emphasize that this is not a program appropriate for younger elementary aged students.

DT uses "old" techniques (those studied by Van Gogh and others) combined with some modern techniques to instruct drawing skill. Their "before" and "after" examples are quite impressive. They (and other authors) argue that innate drawing skill is NOT required to be able to draw; that anyone can learn, if they receive the appropriate instruction.

The program uses charcoal as the medium, and provides a guidebook as well as an instructional video. (There is also a toll free number provided should you need help as you go through the program.) Portraits are the primary subject; grids and rulers are used to scale the photo to a full sized image. The program is self-paced and can be taught to groups or individuals.

The technique used is called "grisaille" and has been used in art for centuries: it is a form of "copying" used by Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Vincent Van Gogh and thousands of other successful artists. Copying has been part of the training that artists have always encouraged, particularly when it is in the context of copying the masters. (See the Introduction to the History of Art, by W.H. Jansen).

15-20 hours should be allotted to complete the program. From this, students can move on to drawing from still life (not photos). This program does not intend to teach creativity, but rather teach a number of skills. In this program, students will learn how to: draw; use basic art tools; appreciate the thinking and work in good drawings; understand the importance of positive and negative space; put into practice concepts of griding and scaling, and understand their historical reference; and various erasing and blending techniques.

With regards to "starting ages" for DT, there seem to be some inconsistent guidelines. In one section of the Curriculum Guide, it says "The program can begin as early as sixth grade or 11 years old. However, it is recommended for Junior High and Senior High students". Elsewhere in the program's literature, they recommend that if you have a student under the age of 12, to have the student do "more than one picture at each level." Yet, on one of the flyers promoting the program, it states that the program has "been proven effective with ages 8-adult" and again in another brochure, "effective ages 10-adult".

I was frustrated by these inconsistencies, and contacted Steve Golden, the author of DT. He provided me with a few suggestions (after I suggested to him to edit his literature!). First, he explained that the prime determining factor for starting was not age, but rather attention span and ability to follow precise, specific directions. In his experience, he said he had found that in general homeschooled children were better able to attend to his lessons and directions than their public school peers. However, he still felt that age 8 was probably too young to start.

Since I had explained that I would keep the program and just wait until my 8yo showed signs of readiness, he suggested that I might want to go through the program myself, and allow my 8yo to watch. I might then, he said, see her desire to learn or disinterest.

He also informed me that one of the signs or indicators that showed the student was probably ready for such a program (in addition to being able to attend well and follow specific directions) was frustration, shown in either (1) a sudden disinterest in drawing altogether when previous satisfaction was evident, or (2) verbalizing that their work doesn't "look right"; that they couldn't get it to be realistic enough to satisfy themselves.

Draw Today
From: Devin

I don't really dislike DT, I just don't think it lives up to all of the hype. I've got it and used it a bit and it does do a good job of teaching students some shading and familiarizes them with using charcoal. The best facet of DT is that it gives a student confidence--that is truly important. My disappointment stems from the fact that it only teaches them to copy and only uses one method (the grid). Now, there's nothing wrong with copying and using the grid is a fine skill to have, but that's only a small part of drawing instruction. I couldn't honestly recommend spending that much money on a drawing course that uses only one limited technique.

What Draw Today Teaches
Posted by Steve Golden, Author of Draw Today

As to the thought that the Draw Today Program only teaches how to use a grid, I would suggest that to look a little further. The following is a list of the other educational elements that are included in this program.

How to use charcoal sticks and pencils, tortillions, blenders, and erasers as drawing tools.
How to develop a surface ground
How to see and interpret light and darks (value)
How value creates shape ( called "chiaroscuro" also developed by Da Vinci)
How to use negative space
How to see mass
How to blend to create shape (modeling)
How to see and create details
How to scale
How to draw a tight rendering
The function and value of "squinting"
How to Correct

All of the above are included in the Draw Today Program. Clearly, art and drawing is a very large topic. We do not suggest that Draw Today is all of anything, however it does provide a very strong learning experience and a set of skills that will be extremely useful for anyone who would like to begin to learn how to draw.

Any other questions about the techniques used in Draw Today and their historical and educational relevance, please email .

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