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Learning About Vincent Van Gogh: A Unit Study

Before I begin, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Sarah at RightAtHome (on Instagram), who has an excellent story highlight on Van Gogh on her grid. This is where I found most of the books and resources recommended here, as well as inspiration for art provocations. I think it is important to credit, when credit is due.

As busy, home educating parents, there is no shame in buying ready made curriculums, or copying the activities that you see elsewhere. We're having an especially difficult season at home, with poor mental health and a stressful building project underway. I am grateful to have access to Instagram, with a wealth of inspiration and support.

Books and Resources

These are the books we ordered from our library. The first three are picture books, so suitable for introducing Van Gogh's work to young children. The last two are non-fiction, both of which are quite information heavy, but written for children around 9 years +.

This book is one that I pulled out from our home library and would highly recommend. It features art work stretching over 40,000 years, presented in a story format for children age 7-11 years.

And this is the only book I bought for our project, as it came recommended by a few. Bean is not really a fan of activity books, so she hasn't filled it in, but we have read through parts of it for inspiration.

I also pulled out our Meet the Artists Curriculum which we've barely dipped our toes into, having only looked at the work of Frida Kahlo so far. The course is written by a fellow home educator, with a passion for art history, and covers the work of 20 different artists.

And lastly, I bought the digital download of 3D Reconstruction of 'Bedroom at Arles' This resource was shared in Sarah's Van Gogh story highlight, and I knew that Bean would enjoy it.

Creative Projects

I prepared for our project by gathering all our books and resources, and creating a space to display them. My plan was for this space to evolve over the course of the project, and for the books and resources to be replaced by Bean's own creations.

Oil Painting.

This is a really fun technique for introducing a new project. Place a laminated image on a flat surface. You may wish to tape it down, to prevent it from sliding around. Tape a sheet of white printer paper over the top of the laminated image. Again, I recommend taping it down to prevent it from sliding. Provide your child with a little pot of oil (any oil will work - we used olive oil) and a thick paintbrush. When the child paints the paper with oil, the image underneath is revealed.

Still Life Painting

This was inspired by Van Gogh's sunflower series, which we had read about, and discussed using the prompts in Rebecca's Meet the Artist curriculum (linked above). I picked up a colourful bouquet of flowers from the supermarket (no sunflowers in February), and set out our acrylic paints. I worked alongside Bean, but we both found it quite challenging. It helped us to understand just how much work must have gone into each of Van Gogh's still life paintings.

3D reconstruction of 'Bedroom at Arles'.

As expected, Bean really enjoyed folding and sticking all the elements to put together this familiar scene (I did all the cutting beforehand, as I knew it would have been too much for her). This really brought the painting to life, helping us to imagine Van Gogh's life when he lived at Arles.

Starry Night Wax Painting

You'll find the full instructions for this tutorial here. With thanks to Nicola Etherington, who recommended this tutorial to us via a post on our Facebook group.

Van Gogh Immersive Experience

And lastly, we visited the Van Gogh Immersive Experience, while we were in London. The exhibition in London has been extended until May 2022, and I noticed that there is now a waitlist for Bristol, with dates from June 2022. It's a completely new way of experiencing an art exhibition, and such a magical way to bring art alive for young children. I'm excited to see the Klimt version now, which I hope will come to Bristol too, at some point.

We've decided to finish our Van Gogh project there for now, as there are other things we want to move onto. I hope you find the links here useful, if you are planning a Van Gogh project of your own.

With love,

Rowan x

This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.

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