We have been writing a series over the past couple of weeks on how we tackle those school topics that often slip through the cracks. Everybody knows that one of the great advantages to homeschooling is that you can be more flexible with your time and there is time to study things that your children may not otherwise be able to study. Often we intend to study them but just don’t get around to these subjects, for example art. Art history, art appreciation, art techniques. Now in our house there is quite a big difference between art and crafts. Art is a fairly quiet and thoughtful activity, as apposed to the explosion of craftiness which occurs most afternoons. This past year of school we started the day with art. Art is a great tool to bring kids back to the table, after they have drifted away from breakfast.
I know everyone says start with difficult subjects and end easier and for years we did that… but art was always pushed to the afternoon and we never got round to it, however math never gets pushed till the afternoon and forgotten – it is always done by lunch time!!! Turns out we are not afternoon workers… ours is a “work until lunch” kind of a school and art requires so much observational, emotional and creative energy – it really is quite intense and concentrated. We start school with it, when even the smallest people are still at their best.
So here you go Se7en Tips for getting Art History, Appreciation and Activities into day-to-day School:
- Our Favorite Materials:
I think art is just as important to my kids rounded education as math. I do my best to make sure that the art materials we use are fabulous. These materials are kept separately to the regular crayons and markers that my kids use all day long for their journaling and crafting. Here are favorite art materials:
- Dozens of good pencils: We use 4B pencils for art – they are softer than writing pencils and you can shade easily with them, but they are not so soft as to smudge everywhere.
- Good quality paper: watercolor paper, sketchbook paper… what ever paper… printer paper that we use for most pictures is not the best for art class.
- Notebooks: with good strong paper… there is nothing more disappointing than paper that disintegrate when worked with.
- Pastels: We use wax crayons in our journals, but for art class we use pastels and love the bright colors that you can smudge and work with.
- Watercolor Crayons: These are the most fabulous invention on this earth… they can be used anywhere, taken anywhere and when you are done… just add water!!!
- Watercolor paints: Honestly these I just grab what I can and you can get some really reasonable kids paint sets that work great… I usually pop a set into my kids Christmas stocking and they use them almost daily and they last the year.
- Drawing pens: These are expensive but they add a great dimension to their art. They do need really gentle treatment and my younger kids can be a bit overenthusiastic on those fibre nibs.
- Charcoal: Because it is fabulous to draw with…
- Inks: For inks we use food coloring, it works well and is readily available.
It takes time to create meaningful art, often as teachers, we just want to get through school and on with the day… but for my kids this is their day and they want to work well. My mantra when arting has become: “Take your time…” It works. I do have one child that really wants to dash through life and has to finish first. I have managed to slow our art down to an acceptable level by joining the class. If my kids are doing a project then I join alongside them. When I get their materials for the year I make sure that there are enough for me as well and this is one of the lessons of the day where we all sit together and work together. Our art usually takes us about 30-45 minutes, but I am flexible if someone is really busy creating I will never stop them… why stop an artist at work!!!
Creative thought and processes require discipline and training. Practice really does make a dramatic difference… and by doing a little drawing and observing each day, over the days and weeks, you can see a noticeable improvement in artistic endeavors. When we don’t do something everyday we tend to lose our rhythm and get out of the habit really fast… For me it would be easier to go straight to the “important school,” tick the boxes and be done, but it is more fun for all of us and easier for all of us if we have spent a little time creating. If I know for certain that this is the first class of the day – everyday – then somehow I seem to be okay with it, rather than constantly putting it off..
Art and the associated materials do not actually take up too much space. Almost all our arting occurs at the kitchen table and all our art materials are kept in one spot. I do keep a bag with our outdoor sketchbooks, pencils and watercolor crayons at the ready, so that we just have to pick it up and head out when the need arises. It is always good to be ready for a spontaneous outing! When it comes to art with kids it really is all about having everything handy rather than spending all your art time looking for bits and pieces, so that you can actually just dive in.
We do have an art schedule for our week… and my kids expect certain art assignments on certain days… I have found that when we know what is on the agenda not only is it easier for me to plan but it helps little people to settle quickly and get on with the task at hand.
- Monday: We usually begin a great artist or a great painting… read a little about the artist and talk about their style and technique… followed by emulating one of their works… if they do oil painting then we usually use pastels, if it is ancient rock art then we do chalks out doors and so on. A quick glance at the artists work and usually I can come up with an idea, if you are looking for a book packed with ideas like this then look no further than the brilliant The Children’s Book of Art by Rosie Dickins.
- Tuesday: We try out different techniques… pencils, inks, shading, patterns, colors,… lots of things, sculpture, printing, all sorts of things.
- Wednesday: Head outdoors… do observational drawings… anything outdoors… sometimes it is sketching the rocky wall, or drawing a bug or painting a plant… anything really… But outdoors!!!
- Thursday: Apply what we learnt on Tuesday to a still life or a landscape or a portrait…
- Friday: By Friday we have usually browsed through our library books and there are always a couple of arty one and someone will want suggest a project associated with a library book.
- Weekends: I try and take our nature notebooks out at least every other weekend – you can do spectacular outings to the local botanic gardens but honestly that isn’t essential, there is usually some natural thing to draw very close to home. The mountain behind us or overlooking the beach, the park down the road. (AndI fully intend to descend on our neighbors beautiful succulent garden really soon for a drawing session.)
We have tried a few, learn to draw type books… they tend to be far too prescriptive for me and smack of anything but creative. Anything that says it “can teach you how to draw” or can it “can train you to be creative” is probably a good warning of something to avoid… you will become bored terribly quickly trying to draw what that artist thinks is art… Having said that, we have really enjoyed the Art Skills Program, that we bought through Sonlight, they don’t tell you how to draw but rather suggest what you draw, they teach lots of useful tips… like how to draw a face using a boiled egg!!! They also have lots of arty techniques to learn, like creating apple dolls and so on. We have loved them and if you would like to know more about them, just ask and we can do a review for you.
There are so many inspiring books relating to art history for young kids… and art appreciation for young kids. I really suggest you head for your library and take a book or two out from that section each week… Seriously there is so much good stuff… This summer we read through the SmART about Art Series of books for kids and it was fantastic: They are written in the form of a school report (think very “Magic School Bus”-ish) and plenty of facts about the artist and lots of information about their art. There are heaps of artists in this series and they are at the easy reader stage… we read them together but they are really easy reading and child friendly.
And the Se7en + 1 thing…
I am no artist by any means but by sitting with my kids and by drawing, painting, creating along side of them I am clearly demonstrating that I think this is important. Also art really its about the process… get in there and enjoy it… often the finished artwork is nothing like you intended, often it is something a little less brilliant than you had in mind – that is okay!!! The point is to have fun doing it. Also, acknowledge their work and their efforts… We keep their work from our arty mornings in special journals… packing them carefully. If we do projects that may smudge then we slip a flap of paper between the pages… This is the art I keep and preserve, not necessarily all the other mountains of artiness that get created throughout the day!!!
Other posts in this series include:
- Tackling all the School Reading.
- Conquering Mapwork.
- Craft Materials and Crafting With Kids…
- Conquering Creative Writing…