Masterpiece Makers: Fine Art for Homeschool Families (with Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse)

Masterpiece Makers Fine ARt for homeschool families alisha and olivia gratehouse Homeschool Conversations Humility and Doxology interview

I’m back with season 4 of the Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology podcast! This is going to be such a fabulous fall filled with fantastic guests. (I couldn’t stop the alliteration once I got started…) Look for a new episode in your podcast player of choice every other Monday (with a few bonus surprises coming your way in between). Please subscribe, rate, and review the podcast in your favorite podcast app, and join my email list so you don’t miss a single episode!

Today I am joined by Alisha and Olivia, a spunky mother-daughter duo. Olivia is also the first of many homeschool graduates joining us on the podcast this season! We especially focused our chat on fine arts for the homeschool family. I loved Alisha’s tip to have a “Fine Arts Friday”! Listen in for some artistic encouragement (even if you don’t feel artistically inclined).

And if you’re reading this the week the podcast goes live, be sure to check out Masterpiece Society Studio, open for a limited time (August 2- August 6)!

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Who are Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse?

Alisha Gratehouse is an artist, minister’s wife, and veteran homeschool mom of three young adults. She is passionate about nurturing creativity and bringing the joy of art to others. In 2014, she began creating online art courses to fill what she believed was a gaping void in the area of homeschool art. Now through her company, the Masterpiece Society, she offers a complete art curriculum, teaching kids and teens art expression through multiple art mediums and techniques, as well as art history and appreciation. Alisha is the founder of the Beautiful Life Creative Community, where she encourages women to nourish their spirits, cultivate their creativity and live a beautiful life (Psalm 16:11).

Olivia Gratehouse is a sci-fi writer, classically trained pianist, and a tea addict. She was homeschooled from the beginning and graduated from Bible college in 2016. Currently, she manages and is a contributing artist and writer for the Masterpiece Society. When she’s not scribbling away, she enjoys reading, cooking, crafting, and quoting movies.

Watch my interview with Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse

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Amy Sloan: Hello friends, today I am joined by Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse. Alisha is an artist, minister’s wife, and veteran homeschool mom of three young adults. She is passionate about nurturing creativity and bringing the joy of art to others. In 2014, she began creating online art courses to fill what she believed was a gaping void in the area of homeschool arts. Now through her company, the Masterpiece Society, she offers a complete art curriculum teaching kids and teens, art expressions through multiple art mediums and techniques, art history and appreciation. She is also the founder of the Beautiful Life Creative Community, where she encourages women to nourish their spirits, cultivate their creativity, and live a beautiful life.

Her daughter, Olivia is a Sci-Fi writer, classically trained pianist, and a tea addict. She was homeschooled from the beginning like I was and graduated from Bible college in 2016. Currently Olivia manages and is a contributing artist and writer for the Masterpiece Society. When she’s not scribbling away, she enjoys reading, cooking, crafting and quoting movies.

It sounds like some fun times at your house, for sure.

Alisha Gratehouse: Definitely. There’s always something going on.

Starting a homeschool inspired by Charlotte Mason

Amy: Before we get started talking about art, which I’m really excited to dive into with both of you, one of the things I love to do here on the podcast is just talk about some of the things that make us similar and different perspectives on homeschooling. It’s really encouraging to hear each of the different guests come on and answer a few questions from their own point of view. I just would like to start first by asking you, Alisha, why did you start homeschooling and did your approach to education change at all over the years?

Alisha Gratehouse: I haven’t thought about this, but just as you were asking me, I was reminded that before I ever had children, I worked at a Christian publishing company and talked to a man who gave me a long spiel about how important it was to homeschool your children. I think that that actually was like, really it fell on fertile soil because I loved that idea. In fact, I wish that I had been homeschooled back in the eighties. I was like, “Mom, could you just homeschool me?” She was too busy. Anyway, once I found out I was pregnant with Olivia, who’s my first born, it was in me that I was going to homeschool from the beginning.

This was back in the day before Ambleside online existed. They existed, but they were called the parents union online or something like that. We didn’t have the internet like we have today. We just had daily messages where everybody’s little emails were in a digest. That’s how I learned about the Charlotte Mason method. We basically stuck with that, we would do a little bit of our own things here and there, but we were mostly Charlotte Mason-ers the whole time.

Unnecessary homeschool worries from a veteran mom perspective

Amy: Then do you think, as you look back from this veteran perspective, are there things that you noticed that you really worried about early on that now at the end of your journey, you can look back and think, I didn’t need to worry about that.

Alisha: Definitely. Well, I was telling Olivia, I worried about my middle child who’s my first born son who was always, never where I left him. He was very ADHD and he needed to run and play outside to get all his energy out. It was very seldom when I could get him to concentrate and I was pretty hard on him. Now, he still has a little touch of that, but he works for us and he’s a right-hand man to my husband and worrying about getting all the math lessons completed and making good grades in math when that wasn’t my specialty at all being right brain. Anyway, I can look back over the years and think that I did worry a little bit too much and I should have probably been a lot more laid back.

Amy: I think when you’re right there in the middle of it– when you’re right there in the middle of it — something can just grab your imagination and it feels so big. It just can take over everything you’re thinking about for that season. It’s good for us to remember, like in 20 years, as you look back on it, is that one math worksheet really going to matter as much as the relationship with your children?

Alisha: And making your child cry.

A homeschool graduate reflects on her favorite parts of homeschooling

Amy: Olivia, how about for you? I would love to hear some of your favorite parts of being homeschooled, or maybe if you saw some downsides. It’s always interesting to talk to another homeschool graduate?

Olivia Gratehouse: I love being able to go at my own pace. That was something that meant a lot to me. The fact that I could sit and focus on something that I had a lot more interest in, like literature and stuff like sciences and stuff like that. Then even if you wanted to work on your schoolwork pretty quickly, so that you had the rest of the day to go out and play, that was always a bonus for me. I liked being able to do that.

It was also the connectedness of us as a family. We did our school together. We had read alouds, we did science experiments and nature walks. I loved getting to do that as a family, all of us getting together and doing stuff like that.

Alisha: They’re still best friends to this day. They still get together on Friday nights. If they’re all home from work and do their things together.

Amy: That’s what I’m hoping. I’m just imagining in like 20 years, everyone comes back and is still quoting Shakespeare at each other in the living room. I’d be like, “Yes, victory!”

Well, let’s transition and talk a little bit about art, which you guys are passionate about and have so many wonderful resources for. It is something that I feel so inadequate about as a homeschool mom. I just am going to ask you these questions basically so I can learn all your wisdom here.

Alisha: I don’t have much.

fine art homeschooling Homeschool Conversations Podcast Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse Masterpiece society

Why is art worth including in our homeschools?

Amy: Was art always an important part of your own family’s homeschool life and then broadening out from there? Why do you think it’s something worth including in our homeschool families?

Alisha: I will say that art and crafting was always a part of my life. My mother, my aunts, my extended family…we would do that together around Christmas, craft and create, and I was always the right brain artsy one, whereas my sister was good at business and math. Her kids are a calculus teacher and a CPA, and then I’m like floating around in the atmosphere or doing my own thing.

I was always artsy, but once we got to homeschooling of course I was trying to do everything Charlotte Mason said, and the picture study did not work with my family. It was a little bit tedious, it was boring.

I was also a pastor’s wife. We fostered children. I had my hands full, but once the kids got a little bit bigger and I realized, “Hey, this would be perfect just to start offering online courses for homeschoolers,” because I love kids, I haven’t grown up myself. Plus I love doing art and it just meshed. I think that if I had had the resources that exist today, it would’ve been better for our family. Back then we did a little bit of picture study-

Olivia: Just a little bit here and there.

Alisha: read art books, looked at pictures and stuff, went to art museums.

How to find time to include art in the homeschool day

Amy: Do you ever think there are some strategies that you would suggest just to make sure art can get included in our homeschool day because on the internet, we’re bombarded with all these things and you’re supposed to do this and that. We can feel like it it’s one more thing on our to-do list. If we’re convinced this is worth doing, what are some strategies to actually get to it?

Fine Arts Friday

Alisha: One thing that a lot of the members of our Masterpieces Society Studio do is they have a Fine Arts Friday. They plan a special day where it’s not just art, it might be music or composer study. I think we did stuff like that with art and music-

Olivia: Nature walks.

Alisha: It was like a fun day. If you don’t want to do it once a week, then maybe once a month or even it doesn’t have to be a subject, just let your kids have art outside and with just something to let them be creative. I lost my train of thought with that.

Olivia: I was going to add on, from the perspective of being the one in school, that was always something fun to look forward to. On each day you would try to have something a little bit more in the fine arts. We didn’t stick with it as much, but we tried to do that. That was always something, from my perspective, I always looked forward to doing the fun parts of the day and all that stuff. When you have it scheduled, like on a Fine Arts Friday, that’s something that they can look forward to all week.

Amy: I love that perspective and not having the pressure of you have to do this large amount every single day, but a little bit on once a week or even once a month or as you feel led during the day, as the kids just go.

Alisha: Just let them go.

Amy: That’s what art generally looks like at my house. It’s like we have a craft cabinet full of random stuff and I just let them cut it and glue it and do whatever they want to do with it.

Alisha: That’s perfect. You’re there learning what they like. They learn how to express themselves and they’re not putting a box of art has to look like this.

fine art homeschooling Homeschool Conversations Podcast Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse Masterpiece society

What kind of art study is good for the various ages in our homeschools?

Amy: Well, I would like to get a big picture overview of what art might look like differently at elementary or middle, or high school ages. As a mom of five wide age range, I often am looking for things we can all do together, and that can be good, but I know there’s also value in really meeting the needs, age-appropriate development of our children. What would be a big picture things we could be working on and focusing on at each stage?

Alisha: Well, Olivia and I discussed this, so I’ll let you chime in whenever you want to, but we were talking about maybe just starting, if you want to have all your children together, with an artist and focus on one piece of art and find a template that say, you’re doing Van Gogh’s sunflowers and let your older ones use whatever they want. They could do watercolors or acrylics, as long as you have a template and then let your, the ones that are younger, color it or give little ones, water colors, and just let them go to town. Having fun. You can all talk about it together while you might read a little bit of a bio about a Van Gogh’s life, or listen to our podcast, “The Masterpiece Makers,” I’ll just put that little plug in.

Amy: Yes. Oh, my kids were so excited when they heard, I was talking to you guys and they were like, “Oh, the people from the art podcast.”

Alisha: We are such big dorks. Sorry about that, but we like to make art fun, and obviously there’s going to come a time where you are going to want to help each individual one, but just, I would make it fun for everybody and let them do what they can so that nobody is frustrated. If the older ones want to go off and do even more and learn on their own, then that would be good. Do you have anything to add to that?

Olivia: No, you said everything that I was going to say.

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Amy: Well, let me ask if I can push a little bit and I’ll see what Olivia would have to say about this. Let’s say we’re talking about a high school student and maybe something we’re wanting to do a little bit more formally, like a fine arts credit or something. What do you think that could look like?

Olivia: Well, honestly you could be studying the artists themselves and even in one of our courses, we reproduced some of the art pieces from the more master artists. Like she was saying, we have different levels so that a younger kid could maybe just color in the picture, but with the older kids you have those extra steps where they’re taking more time and they’re able to focus more and really just put into it however much that they feel like they want to. We also have the step-by-step guides making it easier so that they can follow along. Does that answer your question?

Alisha: We were talking about adding, even learning the techniques of the artists, adding in more art appreciation, letting them maybe gather information and write their own little bios and just get to know them. That’s how we have just learned so much and we feel like some of the artists, we know them because we just know so much about them and that’s weird though,

Olivia: Maybe a little bit, but it’s a fun process to learn about them.

Amy: It’s fun to learn. Wasn’t it Durer you guys talked about, he was a rock star with his hair? That’s right. See it stuck with me, weird random fact. I really appreciate what you had to say too, that I don’t have to feel like as a mom, that I have to know all about the art to lead step by step, and some of it is just learning about the artist as well and the technique and I can read a book. I can read a book out loud and then to have the younger siblings coming along so they feel a part of it. That’s really great.

Is art study just for artistic moms?

Well, what would you say to a mom who feels really inadequate about art history or the hands-on implementation of art, now is art study just for artistic mamas?

Alisha: I hope not.

Olivia: Absolutely not.

Alisha: No. I basically learned a lot, not just art, but I would learn, and you do that too, I’m sure as you go with your kids, you learn about different scientists and different things. Why not just learn with your children what you want to learn? I don’t want anyone ever to feel like they have to do something and if some moms think they don’t have a creative bone in their body, so how can they help their children do any art, but we learn from those who’ve gone before and I love to offer art courses and the moms, we have so many moms participating in lessons ahead of their kids so that they can come back and then help them complete that.

Olivia: Plus I feel like people get it in their heads, especially the older you get, you get it in your head, “Oh, I got to make this perfect and if it’s not perfect then I can’t do art at all,” but that’s not, that’s not the point of art at all. Art is not meant to be perfect. Art is meant to be an expression of yourself, so if you have all your own creative flares, even if you mess up in certain areas, it’s such an easy fix and it’s more of the creative process of expressing yourself and what it means to you, what art means to you instead of trying to stay within the lines per se.

fine art homeschooling Homeschool Conversations Podcast Alisha and Olivia Gratehouse Masterpiece society

How can we help a child who is resistant to art?

Amy: What if it’s your child who’s resistant to art? Maybe it is that fear of failure or the perfectionism that’s creeping in, or maybe they’re just like, “No, I have no desire to do this art.” Is there a way that we can help them grow an artistic mindset or be willing to try something?

Alisha: I would want them to at least try something once before they just decide that they don’t like it and with no pressure on them whatsoever and you had mentioned–

Olivia: At least try different art aspects because there’s watercolor, there’s acrylics, there’s sculpting, there’s oil pastels. There’s so many different varieties of art that they could try and if they just found one that they liked better that’s always better than nothing.

Alisha: There’s some that I don’t like at all. I prefer to stick with paint.

Amy: Well, what do you think as you think back about the hundreds, I’m sure between the two of you, it’s probably multiple hundreds of art projects you’ve ever done, do you have any particular projects that really stands out in your mind as something that you just really remember loving doing at the time or that you learned a lot from?

Alisha: Well, I’ll let you talk for yourself, but the ones that I’ve enjoyed have been since I have started teaching, because I’ve learned so much more. I took art appreciation in college, but I’ve learned so much more teaching it myself and so this wall back here is just copies of some of the most famous pieces. I have loved the over the years just getting to know the master artists and recreating their pieces and learning their techniques.

Amy: How about you, Olivia?

Olivia: Well, mine is a given my favorite has been LiterArture, which is basically taking different pieces of literature and making a piece inspired by it. That’s been my baby and I don’t know, there’s just something about, well, I’ve always loved books and there’s just something– It’s been really wonderful getting to take these pieces that I’ve grown up loving and then making a piece of art inspired by them that kids can work on while they’re reading these books.

Amy: I love that. I was looking over some of the options with my daughter who is going to be doing some of these art projects for her high school year. She’s very excited. She also loves books and loves writing. She’s done NaNoWriMo and things in the past, and so that was like the perfect combination of her interests. I was definitely like, “I think I’m going to need to help you with these,” so that I get us an excuse to do them too.

Olivia: There you go.

Alisha: Bonding time.

What artist from history would you like to hang out with?

Amy: That’s right. Well, we mentioned earlier you guys have this fun and fabulous art history podcast and so you guys find all sorts of unique and quirky things about the artists, but you’re also really teaching us about the technique of the artists, where their place in history is and all these things. As you have either someone from the podcast or just in your own studies, if you could meet one of these artists and either hang out with them or like do an art project with them, which artists would you want to hang out with.

Olivia: Van Gogh.

Amy: Tell me why?

Olivia: Oh my goodness. He was just, he was so sweet and he just he lived such a tragic life and I would have loved to have known or spend time with him to show him just how beautiful his art was and that what he created was something worthwhile and worth his time.

Alisha: I would be the same because I have a book of his that are just his letters to his brother and some of the most profound and beautiful quotes about loving people and God, and his heart was just so precious and so I would be the same. Claude Monet is my favorite artists but if I were to meet one, it would be Vincent. Yes.

Olivia: Like that one Doctor Who episode, where they go and meet Vincent Van Gogh, every time at the very end it’s like the waterworks happened because it’s just so sad.

Alisha: We always cry.

Amy: That’s fantastic. I love it. Well, this season I’m asking all of my guests the same two questions. So with question one, I’ll ask Olivia to go first and then I’ll swap and with question two, I’ll ask Alisha to go first. Olivia, what are you reading lately?

What are you reading lately?

Olivia: Oh man. I usually have some science fiction book that I’m reading. I’m currently in the middle of an Asimov. I keep going on and off while reading the same book, but that’s usually what I’m reading.

Alisha: She’s a robot.

Olivia: I like robots and science stuff.

Amy: How about you, Alisha? What are you reading?

Alisha: I am reading– I also have several books going, but the one that I’m actually being very consistent on trying to finish right now is called The Practice by Seth Godin. It just came out this past year. Basically you were talking about the concept of that book is that whatever art, if you’re a writer, or if you are a creator, or a photographer, or actor, just practice. Fail, learn from your mistakes, edit yourself and just keep on practicing. Keep putting it out there and forget about fear, forget about trying to be authentic, just do the work. It’s been a really good book.

Amy: That’s applicable for the art of business, for visual art, for our writing. That’s applicable in a lot of areas.

What is your best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly?

Well, the final question, I’m going to ask everyone this season and I’ll ask Alisha this question first, is what is your best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly?

Alisha: Let them have a lot of outdoor time, especially if you have boys. My boys, I think they spent most of their childhood in our forest in the backyard. I don’t know. We were talking earlier, just looking back over our homeschooling years, mama just needs to relax a bit more and know that it’s all going to work out. It’s you being consistent, having your children in your home, having dad there if he can be and just providing that security and stability and love and peace.

Amy: Last season, the question I was asking my guests was, what’s your strategy for helping with homeschool day going wrong? I would say overwhelmingly the tip was to send them outside, but I like that your tip is to send them outside in order to help it run smoothly. Maybe then it will help keep the day from going downhill.

Alisha: Another tip is to put them in the bathtub for some water therapy.

Amy: Everybody wants to play in the water. Yes. Olivia, what would you say? What would be your tip for a homeschool day running smoothly?

Olivia: Well, definitely let your kids go at their own pace. There are going to be different subjects that they are so much better at and that they are going to need a lot more time with. If they need to spend more time on say math, math is the universal, nobody likes it, let them go at a slower pace, but if they wanted to read more and more than they would have that freedom to just keep on reading as much as they want. Just go at your own pace.

Amy: I think that’s definitely one of the gifts of homeschooling, that we can zip forward when want to, and then we don’t even have to keep at the same pace. I think that’s a challenge people think, “Oh, well they were going so quickly in the subject and now they’re slowing down. I need to keep them on the same pace or whatever.” Just that flexibility of really going through the ebbs and flows. When things are harder, we can slow down. We’re not getting behind anyone. Behind whom? We’re just going at our own pace.

Find Alisha and Olivia Online

Amy: Well, where can people find you both all around the internet?

Alisha: is our website. It’s also our IG handle and Facebook handle masterpiecesociety, one word.

Amy: All right. Great. I will have that linked up in the show notes for this episode over at Thank you both so much for chatting today. This has been fun.

Alisha: Thank you Amy for inviting us.

Olivia: Thank you.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

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