Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is how I home-school my two children. The majority of children in the United States of America attend some form of organized schooling either at public school, private school or a charter school.
I graduated from a public school, my husband attended a private school. Both of our exposure to art came from the art classes our school provided. Neither sets of our parents enrolled us in an after school art program or exposed us to art on a personal level.
Too often I find that parents rely on the system to teach and inspire our children. I believe that as parents, we are responsible for exposing our children to the arts while adding meaning to these experiences. Art is an essential component of education. All children benefit from opportunities to create. During these difficult economic times, arts programs are the first to be sacrificed in public schools.
I desire for my girls to be cultured. I want them exposed to the arts at a young age. I believe the benefits of fostering a love and appreciation of the arts is immeasurable. Because my husband and I have chosen to home-school our children, we take full accountability and responsibility for our children’s education. I cannot sit back and hope that someone else will teach or expose my children to the arts. I take action and get the job done myself.
In the month of August I created art lessons on famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and surrealist artist René Magritte. My goal as an art teacher is to make art education fun. I provided the opportunity for my children to learn about these famous artists by putting themselves in the shoes of these artists. I created hands-on art projects that are exciting and convey the characteristics of these artists.
The excitement that I observe and the high degree of information they retain while studying artists prove that young children do get it and are quite capable of appreciating art at a young age!
The feedback I hear from people that have seen the art projects I create for my kids and the masterpieces they make is positive and flattering. Many people have said to me that they think I am so creative and don’t know how I do it, and that they would never be able to do that for their children because they don’t have a creative bone in their body. I say hogwash!
Any parent can do what I do, and here’s how: First, you need to take the time to do it; trust me the time is truly rewarding. Spending quality time with your children is time well spent. Carve out time to think about which genre of art or which artist in particular you want to expose your child to.
After you decide on an artist, head to the library and check out books on the artist. Sit down with your child and go through the books together. I look at each of the artist’s work closely and come up with art projects that are age appropriate for my children.
When we studied René Magritte, I purchased two male Styrofoam mannequin heads from Amazon at $3.99 each, blue and white acrylic paint and foam roller paint brushes. One fine August day, I set up a drop cloth in my driveway, put paint smocks on my girls, showed them Magritte’s “The Future of Statues” and had them recreate his masterpiece. The project was simple, cheap and oh so much fun… and by the way their art was magnificent!
Prior to having my children do their actual art projects on the artists that we study, I always read to them about who these artists were. I teach them on a very basic, simple level who these people were, what challenges they faced and any obstacles or events that helped shape them as an artist.
I always start off every art lesson by saying, “What do we know about this artist?” I’ve trained my girls to answer right away whether that person is a man or woman. Any child can observe the artist’s gender, that step alone will boost your child’s self confidence that they are capable of gaining an understanding who this person is.
After we establish the gender of the artist I talk about where the person is from. We look at a map and/or globe and find where they were born, then find where my girls were born to develop a level of familiarity with any similarities or differences in the backgrounds the artists may share or not share, for that matter, with my children.
Next you’ll want to identify any major life events that happened to the artists that helped shape him or her. You don’t need to go into every detail but find something that your child may find appealing. For example, when I educated my girls about Magritte, I explained that he put familiar objects in unexpected places. I told them that when he was a little boy a hot-air balloon crashed onto the roof of his house. The balloonist had to carry the hot-air balloon through the Magritte’s window and carry it down the stairway. That event had a major impact on René Magritte. The unexpected scene shaped him as an artist.
My girls liked the hot air balloon story, it stuck with them. When we study an artist, I always decorate our kitchen table the night before with library books about the artists and any other items that have a connection to the artist. For Magritte I put green apples on the breakfast table, decorated one of the Styrofoam heads with a red tie and black bowler hat, which is what Magritte paints in his “Son of Man.
Let go of any inhibitions and have fun with your kids. Like I said, art education can be fun. What is holding you back?
What are your experiences teaching your children to appreciate art? How do you do it and how do they respond?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Courtney Cappallo of Massachusetts, USA. Courtney can be found homeschooling on her blog, Table of Four.
Photo credit to Courtney Cappallo.