Books, Homeschool, Products
Comments 4

Guest Post – Author Catherine Jaime on Leonardo da Vinci

learn how to teach your children about Leonardo da Vinci from expert and homeschool author Catherine Jaime

Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo, image from Wiki

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 Jaime

Leonardo self-portrait, courtesy of Wikipedia

After 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.

Leonardo’s sketch of a flying machine, courtesy Wikipedia

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!

sketches by Leonardo, courtesy Wikipedia

Two caveats I like to give people who are preparing to look into a study of da Vinci.  You don’t have to know everything about him before you teach about him, by any means.  I learn most while I’m teaching a topic.  But, I do recommend you go through any books you get about da Vinci before you share them with your students.  Da Vinci was fascinated by the human body, and many of his sketches are of nudes.  Secondly, as a young man Leonardo was anonymously accused of homosexuality.  I have found nothing in my studies to lend any credence to that claim, but it is something that is brought up often in biographies of him, and also in many fictional books about him. With both of those warnings, I still find him a worthwhile topic of study, just one that you want to choose your materials about carefully.

Catherine McGrew Jaime

Catherine Jaime is the mother of 12, including 9 homeschool graduates.  She draws upon her 30 years of home education experience to support and encourage homeschool mothers. She is the author of several books and homeschool products, including the game “Math Facts Fun,” the book of homeschool information and encouragement Organized Ramblings, and the historical novel Leonardo of Florentine, all previously featured on WhateverStateIAm.  You can find more of her products at her homeschool resource center, Creative Learning Connection, on the download site, CurrClick, on the ebook website Smashwords, and on Amazon.


  1. Pingback: Review & Giveaway – Da Vinci Student Resources | Whatever State I Am

  2. Hi, Catherine. When my boys were sick and out for the count a few weeks ago, we started watching NEST Entertainment Animated Heroes Classics DVDs we got from the library. They are wonderfully done, and if you have not seen their video about Leonardo, you should add it to your arsenal! I was impressed with how gracious he was. They have him sharing one of his fables and also show him working on a sketch of his flying machine. My 3 and 5 yr old really loved it, and I am excited to share your novel that I won with them!

    What resources do you recommend for sharing Leonardo with little ones?


  3. Jenny,
    For younger kids, I recommend visual and hands-on. You can get both of those in a lapbook, mine is:

    That’s also what I put together in the Doing Da Vinci book — lots and lots of great da Vinci drawings, as well as hands-on activities related to things da Vinci did. For instance, we studied da Vinci’s work on the horse sculpture, and then the kids made their own sculptures. We studied his work on robots, and then built our own. We looked at his designs for bridges, and then the kids designed bridges. Those are the ways I teach younger kids about da Vinci.

    I hope that helps.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s