Art History for Kids

I have a confession to make. I Love Art History. It was my favourite subject at school (well Art History and History) but for some reason we have not included a lot of Art History in our home education. We do lots of Art and we have learnt about individual artists but we have never looked at the progression of Art through the ages, how it changed and developed and what caused the changes. Last year when my daughter was working on her Art Award I actually spend some time searching for a good Art History book but I never found something that I thought was comprehensive but not overwhelming (very hard balance because there is just so much to cover). And then I heard about this gem Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art (and it really is a gem of a book).

Vincent's Starry Night and Other stories. A children's History of Art

It was exactly what I wanted. It is a comprehensive guide to art history throughout the world (not just European art although there is a LOT of European art in it) and it has been written in a really easy to understand manner. The more I have read it the more I have been impressed with how much they have included yet by talking about the events in a story like manner you don’t always realize how much you are actually learning.

The Book is 336 pages long – so it is quite a thick book but it is broken down into 68 short stories.  Each story is about a famous piece of art (and they include all types of art work – cave paintings, statues, stained glass windows, architecture, frescoes and of course traditional paintings). 

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Each story is written as if the artist is alive, busy creating the work, so you often get the artist commenting on something.  I think this is what makes it so appealing to kids and makes it just such an easy to read art history book.  And although each story talks about the artist and the famous work they are busy creating the author has also managed to weave a lot of important information into the stories, like how the different art techniques worked, how events of the time impacted the artist (the development of photographs) and of course the personal touches (we loved reading about how Raphael used some of the famous artists in his work).

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Covering over 40 000 years of art is a huge task and making that massive period of art interesting for kids is an even greater task.  But this book achieves that.  It is a foundation of art (please be realistic – not everything is going to be covered in 336 pages), but it covers the important movements and developments and it will create curiosity so the kids can go and explore further. 

Vincent's Starry Night and Other stories. A children's History of Art

My kids and I highly recommend this book and think it is a steal at the price (under £20).  We think it is just the right combination of facts and interesting snippets written in such a way that it is easy to work through one at a time (although my kids often want to cover more than 1 story at a time).

Vincent's Starry Night and Other stories. A children's History of Art

Oh and don’t get put off by the age range given to this book.  I have seen it suggested that it is for ages 7-11 but I really think you can use this for older kids and in all honesty I have personally enjoyed reading this book just for my own knowledge.

Admin – I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Light Topic pack from Oaka Books

I mentioned in my previous post that we have just covered Light in Science. And one of the resources that we used was our Oaka Books Topic Pack on Light. While we were using it an interesting shift happened for my daughter. She has always LOVED the Oaka Books History packs purely because History is her subjects and she likes to get multiple sources on all History topics so she can read and reread and just go into a lot of detail. Which means she always asks for Oaka Book History packs. But while we were working through her Light pack she turned to me and said – “Mom I think we need to get all the physics topic packs that Oaka Books produce, because it turns physics from being something I find intimidating and unsure about into something that I actually understand.” So there, from a History/ English Literature loving child who is not always keen on physics these topic packs are brilliant. (And I must admit from a home educating mom, who has to explain all these concepts – I agree.)

As always the topic packs includes a booklet (notes), a write your own notes (which is becoming more and more appreciated by my daughter) and a board game.

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Each page is broken done into boxes with an illustration and a few short concise sentences (no wordy long confusing paragraphs). The illustrations are brilliant and I have found my daughter (who is a very visual learner) often reminds herself of what she has read by remembering the illustration included in the booklets. She will get stuck and then say something like – “in the box with the speed of light being chased by the speed of sound they said it travels at 300,000,000 m/s.”

Oaka Books Topic Pack on Light. KS3 Science resources

With the light pack we broke it down over 2 sittings (the kids had already read through a Light book and spoken about the topic in details with their dad). We read half the topic booklet together, reminding ourselves about what they had discussed with their dad and then my daughter went and worked through the first half of the Write Your Own Booklet. And the next day we read the second half of the topic booklet and she completed the Write Your Own Notes.

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After we had finished we played the game, which is always excellent. Honestly these games are so simple but I want these games for every single thing that we learn about. They are an excellent way to wrap up a topic and then a brilliant way to come back and revise or remind the kids about a topic. I am known for digging out the games from the topic packs that we have completed and just randomly setting them up so that the kids get reminded about topics we have already covered.

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I have always loved the History Topic packs and I must admit the Science ones are just as good, if not better purely because it is a subject that does not come naturally to my daughter.

KS3 Science Resource. Perfect for home learning. Light Topic covered in a booklet, write your ow notes and fun game

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As part of Science we have been looking at Light and we used 3 different resources.  The light section from our Activate book, a Light reading book that we have (Light: Band 17/Diamond (Collins Big Cat)) and our Oaka Books Light Topic pack. And I must admit they worked really well together. We started by reading through our light book.

Light a Collins BIG CAT inform book

This Light book is written as part of the Collins BIG CAT series which is aimed at KS2 ages and this particular book is geared at year 5/6.  But I found it a perfect way to introduce and then go through some concepts on Light with my Year 7 daughter.  (She really liked the fact that her science topic was covered in a normal reader format).

The book is 54 pages and really covers quite a bit but in an easy to read style.  It starts by introducing Light talking about what Light is and how shadows are formed. Then it goes onto Sun Clocks and mentions Stonehenge (my daughter loved that they included sections like this, she says it made the topic more interesting).

Light a Collins BIG CAT inform book

It talks about reflection and refraction (and they also suggest trying a few experiments at home which we thought was a nice touch).  Then onto lenses and how we see light.  My daughter loves biology so it is always good to try and link any physics to biology whenever possible.

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Rainbows (again a nice extra addition) and travelling light. And then it goes onto a whole section about light in space, rotating earth, eclipses (so really if the kids have looked at space, which mine did recently it linkes the two concepts really nicely).

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Visible and invisible light, radio waves and ultraviolet light – again it links light to other elements in this case animals and plants. It also talks about photosynthesis and animal food chains.  Which we all thought was an interesting inclusion but it made us really think about how important light is to life on earth so we all think it was a good inclusion.

Light a Collins BIG CAT inform book photosynthesis

And then electrical light, the light bulb and solar power is covered. Ad it ends with a bit about light in the future.

I must admit this light book covered a lot.  It covered the expected light concepts like waves, reflection and refraction but it also took it a step further and included more detail about how light affects our world which both the kids and I think made our Light topic that much more interesting.

I was really impressed with this little book on light.

Admin – I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

A reader that supports a Science Topic Light. Easy to read and fill of information. Perfect for home learning

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Joan of Arc

We have been looking at the Hundred Year War (well actually 116 years) between France and England in our History. It is a fascinating period. We have looked at quite a few of the English characters in detail so I thought it would be good to highlight a French character from this period and of course Joan of Arc was the immediate choice. (My daughter enjoys learning about strong female historical figures). We did read about her in our History book but I wanted to do more than that so I had a quick search and realized Activity Village has included her in their Historical figures section – Joan of Arc for kids.

They have a number of great pages to choose from.  We started with one of our favourites the Comprehension pages (I am always a huge fan of non-fiction comprehensions because kids read factual texts and then get to practice their writing, spelling and punctuation when they answer the questions.)

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If you don’t want to do a comprehension then we recommend downloading the factsheet.

After completing the comprehension the kids created their own mini Joan of Arc booklets.  I am a massive fan of these little booklets.  I always tend to print them out and my kids enjoy the fact that afterwards they have their own mini-collection of booklets they have created (they have a massive collection of these booklets which include lots of historical figures and fact booklets about a large number of different animals).

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When we started using these booklets it was just a great way to encourage the kids to write but now I am finding another great reason for using them.  My one kiddo struggles to summarize facts, she loves the detail and really struggles to leave out bits of detail just because she finds those details so interesting.  But being able to summarize information into key points is a vital skill so we are now using these booklets as a great tool for her because there is only so much space to write in so she has to condense everything and just stick to the key facts.

And then we had a go at the Prosecution vs defence page.  I choose this page because it fitted in really well with a theme of different points of view which we have been talking a lot about while we covered the hundred year’s war.  This period is a perfect example of how 2 different sources can talk about the exact same event but if one is an English source and one if a French source they are totally different.  And I thought thinking about the defence (from the French point of view) and the Prosecution (from the English point of view) would be a great activity to enforce this idea.

The prosecution vs defence page for Joan of Arc from Activity Village

But there are lots of other great worksheets that you could use some of our old favourites are the diary one and the interview one.

And finally we had a go at drawing our own Joan of Arc characters.

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I always enjoy these famous people sections from the Activity Village website.  There are always so many options for activities.


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Fiction Workbook for KS2

My kids enjoy writing stories. They often take a book they have read and then recreate their own version of it or they just create random stories. And I must be honest I have enjoyed watching them do their own writing so I have largely left them to just go for it (we have a massive collection of books they have filled with their own stories). They know about the basic story mountain that you always hear about but that is really it. We never covered things like creating a character or setting a scene (although they have actually picked up quite a bit on their own).

But this year all we decided that we would take their writing up a level and find something to work through. We wanted something that would cover characters, settings, different styles of writing but nothing that involved too much writing (yes that may sound strange – my youngest is not keen on doing long worksheets but he is happy to sit and write his own stories and I didn’t want to destroy that enjoyment of writing by giving him lots of worksheets).

I had a look around and chose the Understanding English: Fiction: KS2 English Study Book, Ages 7-11.

Understanding English Fiction

We have used this series a lot and it works well with us because it is nice and concise. It is a Key Stage 2 workbook but I must admit I bought a copy for both my kids to work through (they would be year 4 and year 7 if they attended school).

Straight up – this is not going to cover everything and I did not expect it too.  Fiction is a large topic and you could go on and on about all kinds of detail.  This is a 39 page workbook (costs under £5) which highlights some key aspects about writing, gives the kids ideas on how to extend and improve both their understanding of what they read and their writing and then you can always take it further if you want. 

So what do I like about this workbook? I like the way they talk about creating characters and giving character clues in your writing. I love that they use extracts of well-known stories to show the kids how something can be achieved. 

character clues included in the Schofield & Sims Understanding English Fiction book

I also liked the fact that they show 3 standard forms of story writing and explain you how you set them up – a traditional tale, fables and a modern retelling.  I liked that they spoke about the different genres.  Also the sections about setting a mood and creating tension and suspense.  And I really like that they included a circular story structure instead of the much used story mountain.  So yes I think it is well worth the price I paid for it and I do think it gets the kids thinking and yes as always we don’t only use this workbook in isolation.  We used it and then extended certain activities as we wanted. But it does make a really good base and it pointed me in the right direction to help the kids.

Story Structure Schofield & Sims Understanding English Fiction Book

What exactly is covered?

  • Character clues (creating your character)
  • Settings
  • Mood and atmosphere
  • Story Openings
  • Exploring points of views
  • Using dialogue
  • Writing a Play
  • Traditional Stories
  • Plotting out main events
  • Fables
  • A modern retelling
  • Comparing stories
  • Story structure (circular story structure)
  • Plotting your story
  • Reader response
  • Tension and suspense
  • Genre conventions

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I have found this a very useful resource and my kids are quite happy working through it (no complaints).

Admin – I bought these books for us to use in our home education.  This is not an ad.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.


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