The Elements of Art for Homeschoolers
With the pandemic turning many parents into inadvertent homeschoolers, The Inpired Mrs L asked me to give some guidance on adding creativity and art to the homeschool curriculum. Education just isn’t complete without the added elements of art.
My mother was an artist so growing up she always encouraged our creativity and I learned early on the psychological and intellectual benefits of creativity. Art is one of those subjects that is really more than meets the eye. On the surface it’s about creating works that are enjoyable to see, evoke emotion or tell a story. Underneath though there is a whole lot of brain development going on that will benefit children in many areas of their academic careers. Homeschool art should not be overlooked.
At the same time overwhelmed and overworked homeschool parents often push art to the bottom of the list in terms of what’s important to get through each day. Throughout history art has been used to tell stories and express the emotions of other people in other times and far away places. Art is critical to understanding history and each other.
Perhaps even more importantly we can also use art as a means to express our own emotions and tell our own stories. For many children the opportunity to communicate in this way is a vital link to their emotional well being. Giving your child the tools to communicate artistically will benefit them both academically and emotionally. They will come to better understand the world around them and their place in it.
Well that is great, but how do I do that?
The importance of art in a child’s education might stem from a deeply philosophical desire to communicate and understand, but the actual study of art is very simple to implement on your own. (I will also suggest a great all in one curriculum at the end of this article if you still feel too overwhelmed)
The elements of art are the foundation of any good art program as they are the “words” of the artistic language. Consider the following infographic:
Quite simply your study of art will follow the elements one at a time working your way through the following activities.
1. Define the element of art to be studied. (Ask your child what is a line? Discuss.)
2. Doodle some ways the element can be used to express emotion or ideas. (Let’s draw some angry lines, sad lines, soothing lines etc.)
3. Look in nature for examples of the element. (See the way the veins of the leaf are lines)
4. Visit an art gallery or museum and discuss the ways the different artists used the element in their works to evoke emotion or tell a story. You can also use online museum websites if visiting one in person isn’t possible.
5. Have your child pick one artist to research and report about how they used that element of art in their work. Younger children can dictate a sentence or two that you can write for them. Elementary students can write a paragraph, multi page report or oral presentation. High schoolers should do more in depth research resulting in a paper or powerpoint presentation. It doesn’t matter exactly what the project is—use whatever works for your child.
6. Have your child work on an artistic project themselves focusing on using the element being studied. (see resources below for project ideas)
7. Have your child discuss his/her art with you and explain how the element is being used.
These steps can be repeated year after year going more and more in depth as children get older. You can adapt and change it to keep it fresh by trying different media for your projects and/or focusing on different artists. Once a child really understands the elements of art then steps one and two may only take a few minutes.
Older children can use steps three and four to supplement their history studies by looking at artists from the time period they are studying and looking for the expression of what might have been happening during that time period. As you work your way through the elements of art each year you can adapt the program along with your child’s understanding.
A word about technique….
This program I have outlined is focused on creativity and expression which is an important foundation for every artist. At some point though serious artists need to work on their technique. There are definite ways to improve the quality of your art and your ability to create it the way you envision.
I am of the school of thought though that technique can wait so for most children the process outlined above is enough to give kids the artistic background they need. If left to their own devices children will develop a style and expression all their own. In my experience teaching technique too early can cause frustration and interrupt the growth of creativity.
When children are high school age though if (and only if) they choose to explore art as a career I highly recommend professional training around their sophomore or junior year. This way they will have the proper instruction and adequate time to create a portfolio. Technique is really something to be left to professionals who can guide your child without squelching their creativity.
So, what are you waiting for….
This simple process is an easy way to teach your child to use the elements of art to express themselves and to understand the way art has been used throughout history to tell the stories of people far away and long dead. They can use their new found understanding of artistic expression to tell their own stories and express themselves to you and others. By the time they are teenagers many kids really feel more comfortable expressing themselves artistically.
If you allow yourself to learn alongside your child and work through the projects you, too will enjoy the mental health benefits of creative expression. You can vent your frustrations, express your joy, and record memories of your children all without uttering a word. Art is a relaxing way to express yourself and look at the world in a different light. Art will open your mind and give you a new perspective and that will benefit everything else you do.
Related Post: Exploring and Learning with Paint
Now go get some art supplies and get started!
For those who prefer a set curriculum:
Great books for project ideas:
Inexpensive art supplies:
Mary Stephens is a long time homeschooling mother of four with two still learning at home, one in college and one graduated from college. She holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Passionate about both travel and education Mary offers homeschooling tips and tricks as well as free travelschooling units on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.