Art is a very important part of our family. Will draws comics and does graphic design for a living. Ballet Boy is learning to play guitar and ukulele. I knit and crochet. Scorpion makes animations. The younger kids draw and color all the time. Let’s talk a bit today about incorporating arts and crafts into your homeschool – or just taking what your kids are already doing art-wise and turning it into valuable lessons.
First of all, even though arts and crafts are often bundled together in people’s minds, they’re not the same thing. A craft is something that a student (usually a young child) makes to certain specifications. Crafts are usually part of a larger lesson (think about what children make at VBS or Sunday School). Art is – or at least can be – a lesson on its own. Students are still creating, but they’re doing so in a more free form manner. Even if all the kids in the class are drawing the same bowl of fruit, it’s more about the students’ expression than it is about completing the project exactly right (with the possible exception of a still life, but that’s a conversation for another day).
With those definitions in mind, let’s dive in. We don’t actually do many crafts in our home. Because of all the art-mindedness going on already, we tend to focus more on the things that will help our kids have an art-mindset rather than just gluing some macaroni onto a sheet of paper. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – there’s absolutely not – but it’s not what we do.) In fact, we don’t really even do much organized art at all. It’s just sort of ingrained in our kids and we encourage it. All of our kids have started drawing from the time they could hold a pencil (or crayon), and as long as they’re drawing on paper, we support it. (We actually went through quite a difficult time with Bumblebee, who’s 3 now, where he was drawing on the walls. That was horrible, but thankfully he’s been the only child of ours who ever did that and he’s outgrown it now.) At a certain point, we move them over from loose leaf paper to sketch pads to contain the mess, but outside of that we just let them have free reign to draw whatever they want. This method teaches children that they can create whatever they want. Their only limit is their imagination! There is no right or wrong way to “do art,” and that’s probably the most important lesson to teach in my opinion.
What if you’re more comfortable with crafts than art, though? That’s totally fine! Kids can learn from doing specific crafts just as much as they can by drawing or painting, even if the lessons are a little different. In crafting, children learn how to follow instructions and how to be more precise in their creative endeavors. If they don’t cut that house panel out just right, it won’t fit into the other one to make their 3D house stand up properly.
If you don’t like having a specific art lesson each day (or even weekly, or biweekly), then how about incorporating arts and crafts into another lesson? Unit studies are a fantastic way to do this! A lot of pre-fab unit studies will have ideas for making art to go along with the lessons. Here are a few examples of ways you can add a simple art lesson to another, more mainstream course.
Have your child/children draw an illustration for the book they’re reading, taking care to choose a scene that doesn’t already have an illustration.
Using supplies found around the house, even if they’re not traditional art supplies, create a model of whatever they’re learning about. (We did this a few years ago with Scorpion and Grasshopper where they made edible models of a cell.)
Write and perform a play based in the time period you’re learning about.
Create their own manipulations to help master a tricky concept.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate art into your homeschool? Do you do specific art lessons, or do you prefer to use art as a supplement for other subjects?