This week, I am featuring resources by Catherine McGrew Jaime on Leonardo da Vinci. My children and I have enjoyed these books immensely. We had already spent a little time studying art, and my oldest son and I had the privilege of seeing the only Leonardo work in the Americas, Ginervra de’ Benci, in person several years ago. What we never fully realized was the diversity of Leonardo’s achievements and interests. Our studies in Da Vinci: His Life and His Legacy, the Da Vinci Unit Study, the Da Vinci Student Book, and Leonardo of Florentine have impressed us with the diligence, hard work, creativity, and inquisitiveness of this artist, scientist, musician, and inventor.
Author, homeschool mother, and Leonardo expert Catherine McGrew Jaime shares why home educating families should enjoy studying Leonardo da Vinci.
A Leonardo da Vinci Home Education
by Catherine McGrew JaimeAfter home educating my own children for almost 30 years, I am still always a bit surprised at what people do and do not study with their homeschooled students. Not being much of a textbook-type person, and preferring to study topics of my choice in greater detail, I have had the flexibility to teach about such a wide range of interesting topics, oftentimes topics that seem to go unnoticed by many in the homeschooling community. Leonardo da Vinci is one of those topics. I like topics that can be shared with a wide range of ages and that lend themselves to many different directions of study, and da Vinci certainly meets that criteria.
Leonardo da Vinci epitomizes “the Renaissance man” to many of us. I have been drawn to him and his art for more than a decade. But when I taught my first set of classes on him, I was amazed at how little I really knew about him. I recognized him as the painter of the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, but not much else. It was fascinating to learn more about the variety of other things he had accomplished. He was a scientist, an inventor, a musician, a mathematician, and much more. In today’s society, people tend to be so focused on one area that they seldom have the depth of interests and talents that men like da Vinci did in his time.
When I started studying about him in order to teach the first classes (a 10 week series in a homeschool co-op), I quickly decided to do one week as an introduction to Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance world he lived in. Each week after that, we focused on one topic from his fascinating life. We did talk about the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, of course, though even those had more interesting stories related to them than I had ever realized. But the following weeks we learned about Leonardo and his music, Leonardo and his interest in writing fables, Leonardo and his studies of mathematics, Leonardo and his work in architecture, and a whole host of other fascinating topics. As a result, the students (of all ages – I was teaching classes for elementary age, middle school, and high school) gained such a deeper understanding of who he was and what he had accomplished.Several years ago I did another series of classes around the topic of Leonardo da Vinci, this time around da Vinci’s scientific efforts. If anything, it was even more fun than the first classes I had taught. This series was focused on hands-on experiences related to what da Vinci had done. It was fun to see the kids experience Leonardo da Vinci as someone who had designed a robot, designed bridges, studied the human body, worked on a horse sculpture, invented war machines, studied flight, and much more. With each class, we learned about what da Vinci had done in that area, and then the students constructed something related to that topic. It was very thrilling to watch them work out their versions of what this great master had done.
After having taught da Vinci in a variety of settings and classes, I still never find the subject to get old. Each time I teach about him, I seem to learn even more about what he was like and what he did during his very full lifetime. I strongly encourage homeschoolers to consider adding a study about him to their lesson plans. You can spend an hour and a half introducing him, or many hours delving into him and what he accomplished. Regardless of what you and your students are interested in, I’m sure you can find a tie to this fascinating Renaissance man!