Art curriculum always gives me problems – will it be detailed enough for the girls to follow or will it be so detailed that they feel they have no personal work in it? ArtAchieve is a nice balance of the two extremes, in my opinion. We have been reviewing the Entire Level II program from ArtAchieve and all three of the girls have used it.
There are a total of five levels that can be purchased, though each level works much the same way. After gaining access to your level or individual lesson, it is easy to just jump right in. In Level II, we were able to used mostly things that we had on hand and, if we didn’t, it was very easy to just adapt to whatever we did have (or wanted to use). For example, on the Hiding Butterflies lesson, we were instructed to paint the finished drawing. Miss L did not want to because she felt that using colored pencils would give her the effect she wanted. So, that is what she did. It did not change the purpose or product of the lesson but allowed her to personalize it easily.
When you begin a lesson, you login to your account and then click on the lesson you want to begin. Each lesson has instruction links as well as links to printable portions for the lesson. For the printable portions, there is a warm-up to print off that helps focus on various shapes that will be used in the art piece. There is also often a printable of the image. I can see these being really helpful if you have a younger set of student who want to do the lesson with you but are not able to actually manage the drawing. These could work as coloring pages. These printables open in a PDF viewer and can be printed from there.
When you are ready to begin the lesson, there are normally two options: a PowerPoint slide lesson and a video version of the lesson. We used both and each one has its own benefits. The PowerPoint slides were really beneficial for working at your own pace. You could fly through the things you didn’t need to wait through and you could take as much time as needed on the drawing portions that were taking you a while. They were straight-forward, no extra words to confuse or frustrate. The simplicity of the step-by-step drawing really kept things moving and the girls really preferred this method.
We did try the video a couple of times but it was not a favorite. The need to wait through the things you could quickly read on your own is a point that the girls really did not care for. They also felt rushed often when using the video. It was more difficult to pause and it often paused with a hand over the part you were trying to draw, thus your example was obscured. There was a huge benefit in the video, though – it was very easy to use their example and add personal touches, personalizing the artwork the way you wanted yours to be. An example was the Sri Lankan elephant was so easy to see HOW to add the foreground and background, to put the trees and bushes where you wanted them, on the video. The slides for this one did not give any option for this.
The lessons, whether slides or video, do a really good job of helping teach the student to visualize what they want and move to that image in their head. I love that there is a common statement that not every line will be exactly what you want so you keep going to change it to what you do want. This is the type of positive environment created throughout all of the lessons.
Another exciting feature of this program is the inclusion of cross-curricular connections, right in the slides and on the website. Depending on the lesson, there are various connections that help the students really grasp the background of art. Art does not exist in a vacuum and these activities do a fantastic job of highlighting this fact. Each lesson is based on a real-life artifact from some country. The background of the artifact is discussed and then various additional explorations are given.
Some examples include:
- video of Dala horses being made
- history of the country of origin – some through videos and some through articles
- books and stories that complement the artifact or main image in the artwork
- research – example: research myths related to cats
- recipes from the country of origin
- and much, much more.
Our favorite was probably the tessellations. We watched several videos and did a lot of looking at images by M.C.Escher. What fun that lesson was!
We used these for every one of the lessons we attempted. It was always interesting and made for a much richer lesson. I will caution that many of the videos are from YouTube so be prepared for that sidebar that can pop up with unwanted images and videos. Additionally, we did run across several links that appeared to be broken. Some of them resolved the next time we came to them but some of them did not. So, keep checking.
This cross-curriculum portion really adds depth to the experience and is a wonderful part of the lessons. Don’t neglect it!
I really like this program. It wasn’t for each of us and different lessons worked well for different children.
Miss E was able to take the mermaid lesson and apply it to a number of different outlets (she created a gorgeous chalk drawing on our driveway!). She loved the tessellation lesson, as well. But she didn’t really enjoy working on some of the others. She is looking forward to trying the shading lesson (which is one you can access without cost if you sign up for a free account).
Miss L absolutely adored the Hiding Butterflies and enjoyed doing the Dala Horse, as well. She liked the ease with which she could follow the slides (this was really important to her) and she was proud of her finished products. She also enjoyed watching some of the videos and working through some of the historical cross-curricular connections. She particularly enjoyed this with the butterflies.
Miss J? Well, she enjoyed sitting down to do the tessellations, as well, though the instructions were difficult for her to follow. At 8 years old, it worked much better for her when I took the part she cut off of her square and added it back on to the other side, taping it in place. She then could just copy the entire image instead of having to fit the partial tessellation inside the correct part of a box. (I don’t even know if that made sense!) Artwork is always a joy with this young lady but this program just did not fit her free spirit towards art very well. She is an out-of-the-box thinker and she did best when she just created her own thing after going through the cross-curricular activities.
Overall, we have really enjoyed this program and will continue to work through it.