Do you feel unqualified to teach your child the arts?
You’re not alone.
Whenever the topic of art comes up in homeschool circles, those who classify themselves as “non-artsy” shrug their shoulders in defeat, assuming they could never teach their kids art. They say things like, “I can barely draw a stick figure.” or “I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle attached to it”.
There’s good news for you in the non-arsty camp. Art is so broad that you are probably already creating art but without thinking much about it.
- Maybe you aren’t a maestro, but have you ever gathered flowers from around your yard to arrange a centerpiece for your table simply for others to enjoy? Floral design is an art.
- Do you send handwritten notes with flowing script, sealed with pretty stickers, intended to make the recipient smile? Writing and penmanship are both arts.
- Do you enjoy kneading bread dough and find it therapeutic and beautiful as you shape loaves for dinner? Baking is a delicious art.
The truth is that a creating art starts with art appreciation. It’s a lifestyle and and an atmosphere which stops to take notice and savor beautiful things. Raising an aspiring artist is easier than you might think but there’s one rule: You have to step out of your comfort zone and try it.
I wish people viewed art, music, and poetry (and every pursuit of crafting beautiful things) as integral to the whole person, instead of extra-curricular. Art should be considered the webbing on which all other academic disciplines attach themselves. History relates to art because it’s the story of people and people make art. Math, because design is orderly and universal truths are needed to create rhythm and sequence, etc…
Christians often view art as superfluous, like something you can enjoy when your real work is done. Taking time to create art is seen as a “hobby.” I think Protestants have gotten this wrong for so long that it has affected the quality of work produced by Christians when years ago, some of the most influential artist were Christians. I for one have seen my fill of cheesy “Christian” movies that lacked excellence and were, frankly, poorly made art.
“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?
As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.
Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.
The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.” ~Francis Schaeffer
I’m going to share ways we encouraged art in our home. But I’m really excited to share YOUR thoughts below about how you incorporated art inexpensively and consistently into the home. Thank you so much for contributing!!
Ideas for Every Day Art
There are so many ways to enjoy music.
- Pandora, Spotify, and classical radio are free and allow you access to the greatest composers of all time.
- When children are young, allow them to make their own music. Bells, rhythm sticks, piano, glockenspiel, pots and pans are all ways to let them enter into music making as they listen to the composer.
- Sing with your children! Teach them folk songs and hymns. Can there be anything sweeter than “Infant Praises” in the ears of God?
- If you have access to instruments, let your children play them.
- Attend free concerts in your community.
Ambleside Online has a composer study rotation, which is a painless way to immerse your kids into their work. We would choose one composer a month and mainline on listening to their work during dinner and free time.
- Start cheap. Crayons, watercolors, washable markers, chalk, pens, pencils, modeling clay, scissors, and good sized paper are all you need to begin with your children.
- Spend more as you progress. Eventually buy better art supplies as your budget allows. For the serious art student I recommend Windsor Newton Watercolors, Arches watercolor paper, Prismacolor colored pencils, Tombow Dual Brush Markers.
- As you work, talk about the process. You might point out that the red paint appears purple when you smear it over the blue. Or that the paint gets runny the more water you add. Or find out what happens when you mix blue and orange. Or as you are out and about, ask “How do you think we could paint clouds like those right there?” “What colors would you mix to get that spring green color?”
- There are YouTube videos galore on painting, drawing, pastels, etc. When our kids were young, we enjoyed the Draw Right Now series, especially books 2 and 5. For older students, look into Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
Don’t criticize your child’s artwork. Pretty please, just don’t. I once watched as a mother hovered over her 4-year-old as she painted, telling her that she was making “that tree wrong” and it should be “that color” and the child was shutting down, unsure of herself. Not very “inspiring” conditions for a young artist.
Consider anything your child shares with you as a gift. Ask questions if you like. But in the moment, criticism is not helpful.
Ambleside Online has a Art Schedule that is similar to the composer schedule. You study one artist per month or term. If you have a color printer, you can print them off and stick them on your fridge. If not, set each artists work as a screen saver so your child gets familiar with the feel/style simply by exposure. Let your child try to “copy” the masterpieces.
Boston has the MFA. Your city might have an art museum as well. Many libraries display the work of local artists, as well.
My mother loved poetry and would sometimes read it to us at night. We memorized poetry in school, and learned to love the flow of words and the way the language sounded.
If your poetry skills are shaky, or your reading aloud skills are sub-par, consider listening to poetry online. Less is more. One poem enjoyed for a few days is a delightful way to help them appreciate it.
There are so many beautiful poetry books for children:
A Child’s Garden Of Verses. (This edition is OOP but you can get it used for about $5 and the illustrations are lovely.)
Some poetry is easier than others. If you don’t know where to start, try the work of Christina Rossetti or A.A. Milne.
Many songs are just poetry put to music. Hymns can be sung, then spoken articulately. Folk songs can be spoken and clapped so they notice meter and rhythm.
I guess penmanship isn’t taught in school anymore, but in the Beals home, penmanship was practiced. Handwriting has a personality. When you see someone’s handwriting, it says something about them. They were in a hurry when they wrote this. They were relaxed and happy as they penned this. They were all business here.
Sending mail via the USPS may be outdated, but there’s something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail in an impersonal world. There are so many occasions to write. Sending a get well or a “thinking of you” is a gift to the recipient. I love getting a card from my grandmother with her proper, gorgeous script. Sometimes she affixes stickers to the envelope. Usually there is a recipe tucked in or most recently, a recipe for canning blueberry jam.
When my kids were younger, we used handwriting time to copy verses for older people who were shut in at a nursing home. We’d deliver the verse and hang it on their bulletin board to add some color and cheer to their room.
Rebekah especially loves calligraphy and you can see some of her work here.
The world of digital photography makes practicing this skill inexpensive and non-threatening. Don’t like it? Delete!
Kids can learn the ins and outs of DSLR via YouTube or library book and practice away fairly inexpensively.
There are so many useful crafts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Basket making, jewelry making, woodworking, needlework, beginning sewing with felt, needle felting, flower arranging, card making, ceramics, pottery, etc. are all areas where creativity can flourish.
I asked my readers to share how they’ve encouraged art in their homes. Here are a few responses.
I think that it has to be something that is a part of your everyday life, and not something you perceive as an extra. That can be as simple as: taking your children even when their infants to free outdoor concert, having the radio on at home playing music all different kinds, playing CDs, or MP3s, or DVDs! Anything with music in it. That might mean that the first concert you can only stay 10 minutes or so, that will get better over time. The same is true with drawing or painting, it’s not something you introduce as extra, there are crayons and paper is laying around everywhere and whenever they are bored or need downtime that’s what you do. I think if you don’t perceive the arts of something extra and the children won’t either, it will absolutely be a part of their lives. Give me children can also play percussion instruments and that’s fun to do the kind of family drum circle even when they’re just infants! Pots and pans work doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” Beth MacLeod Largent“I give my kids beginning piano lessons. Even if you’re not a virtuoso, it’s easy to do the beginner stuff. I highly recommended Alfred’s “Music for Little Mozarts” series. You can move through the lessons faster than a weekly lesson with an outside teacher and save 1+ year’s worth of tutiton. They have a music appreciation aspect to the series as well where you can purchase a cd and book. My kids love it. They dance and learn beginning singing. We also do the art lessons included in our homeschool curriculum. (My Father’s World). I always tell my kids that learning art and music makes their brain stronger and think better.” Charity Harley
“We have had a dedicated “art room” as long as I can remember, and the kids are free to create during their downtime. We talk about an artist once in a while, and display his/her works on the walls. I play piano and sing for them while they play or do art projects, and they sing along. I introduce them to classic and traditional songs, literature, art, poetry on a regular basis. The library has been a great resource for finding books, music, etc. Youtube videos have served us well. The Virtual Art Instructor has also been an amazing tool for learning visual arts. My kids also are in classical ballet and tap classes. Our education is heavy in the arts because my kids are extremely creative, and their creativity spills over into all other subjects. Their education is much more interesting and though provoking because of the arts.” Andrea Hanson
We started our young kids with just crayons and playdoh to give them a chance to create. And that morphed into preschool art like tearing paper to create collages and using beans or pasta to make things. I also rely on a few resources for project ideas – Before Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum that incorporates art and also Five in a Row for the older ages. Lots of good intros into artistic elements but in a welcoming way. Also a blog I like that gives good step-by-step instruction is Art Projects for Kids (http://artprojectsforkids.org/) – a lot of fun and simple projects using supplies at home. We also do nature studies and use field guides and nature books for ideas on drawing and using watercolors. For music and art appreciation, we check out books from the library about artists and composers (some good picture books are available) and listen to music online (allowing us to study some instruments). None of these have been expensive but have given them a good intro if it’s something they want to continue exploring Oh and we bought an inexpensive keyboard so our kids could take basic piano lessons and they’ve enjoyed it so far, even if it’s not something they are passionate about.” Kim Pina“Hubs and I are both musicians, and our oldest (7) is in piano lessons. One inexpensive thing we’ve done to introduce all of them is simply to follow our local orchestra(s) on facebook. There are LOADS of free opportunities sponsored by local businesses and such. My favorite is that we got to be in the audience for a live interview with Itzhak Perlman and to watch him play a solo in a piece with 70 young violinists from the area. Tickets for his performance with the city orchestra the night before were upwards of $140 each. Watching him play with local students was free! Just one or two songs, but still… I’m less “up” on visual arts. We’ve done some crafts, pointed out design in architecture, woodworking in old buildings, etc., but not much else. I’m filling that gap next year, though, with homeschool group art appreciation classes at our local art museum. It’ll be $450 total for all my kids for 10 classes, which I consider to be a good investment. It’s a well-known museum and classes will be grouped by age and taught by actual art educators. I’m pretty excited about it.” Tiffany Dujinski“Homeschooling has been a great blessing. It has enabled us many opportunities. Here are a few “out of the box” things that I have used to incorporate art into our family…playing the piano for them just after they climbed into bed. They all have taken piano lessons and two of them like to write and play their own pieces.I also incorporated color and creativity into lunch and dinner preparation. Fruit trays and vegetable trays lend themselves to lots of color and texture.I also talked about loving others through our presentation of the food. It says that we took the time to prepare for them and it’s healthy!Playing classical music in the background has given them a love for classical. It is their go to music. I have taught homeschool classes…we made cloth hand puppets (incorporating sewing) and then we developed a puppet skit (incorporating creative writing). I taught a drama class by pulling out some of the parables and then assigning different parts to act out. I have also spent time doing my own art and inviting them to join me and I have shared my art supplies. This is huge! Basically, I have shared what I love with them and they have in turn encouraged me in what I love to do.” Karen Todd“We always had music playing in our home. Consequently, our older son is an amazing singer and can play any instrument. We used to take trips to Museums, many are free on certain days, and the boys would bring along their sketchbooks and pencils. They would choose a piece and try to copy it. My younger son loves to sketch and draw. We also used to sculpt and paint at home. We made pictures for people and crafts for holidays. My kids appreciated hand made visuals of any kind and still make, draw, and write their own cards. They learned to appreciate the arts because their own creations and talents were so valued.” Amy Engelberger“For our family it started vey locally, art exhibits in our town. To meet & speak with the artists while viewing their work made it more real than textbook study, though that was to come as well. Artists are very generous people willing to encourage even the youngest budding artist. Sharon Gensmer
“I think it’s a lot like raising readers – fill your home with books, read to them, and spend time reading yourself. If you fill your home with music or art, do music or art with them, and enjoy it yourself, they’ll likely develop an appreciation for it, too. Music is part of the fabric of our family’s life, so our children’s appreciation has grown naturally. The other arts require more effort on our part, b/c my husband and I have not developed a strong interest in them ourselves. For music, we take them to every free classical concert we can, and we regularly enjoy music from our classical library and WCRB. Our enjoyment of classical radio has actually morphed into a fun game we often play at dinner – when an unfamiliar piece comes on, we first attempt to identify the period it comes from; then we venture guesses on composers from that era based on what we hear (a baroque piece featuring horns, for instance, will typically yield at least one Handel guess). With that simple game, our children are effortlessly learning the periods of classical music, the major composers of each period, the unique “sound” of the composers, and the key pieces an educated person should be familiar with, based on how frequently they are played on the radio (Beethoven Eroica, anyone?). This has been a real treat for us, b/c now we have kids putting on classical music while they eat breakfast! Jenny Noel