“I’d like to teach art, but there are too many subjects to teach and only so much available time in our school day.”
I hear that frequently from homeschooling parents. Couple that with the fact that many parents find it difficult to teach art, and it’s no wonder that art instruction is shifted to the back burner—or left out altogether—in many homeschool curriculum’s. This situation is not unique to homeschoolers, either. As budgets tighten in public and private schools, often the arts are the first things cut.
That is unfortunate, because from both an educational and spiritual standpoint, art instruction brings many benefits to the table. I could list quite a few, but here are five key reasons why I believe art should be given a place of priority in any homeschool curriculum:
- Art Instruction Helps Improve Observational Skills – When students begin to draw and paint, they learn how to observe. When I began painting landscapes, I didn’t realize that I was honing my observational skills. As a matter of fact, I thought I was doing it to relax. But one day I was outside and saw a distant stand of trees. For the first time I observed that the trees weren’t merely “green” but that there were several different shades of green visible in that one group of trees. It was as if a light switched on inside my head. From that point forward, I began to notice the details of the world around me.
- Art Instruction Develops Creative Problem-Solving Abilities – Many of our educational efforts are directed toward the logical and analytical sides of our children. We train them in mathematics, science, history, worldview, etc., because we see these as essential for their future in the world. However, art instruction cultivates creative and problem-solving abilities. As I wrestle with a composition or try to figure out how to portray a scene on canvas, I am engaging in problem-solving. It’s very easy to become frustrated with a drawing or painting and want to quit, but I’ve discovered that I learn much more by finishing a project than I will by abandoning it. Teaching our children to draw encourages them to cultivate the discipline and ability to solve problems, a skill that will be useful throughout their lives.
- Appreciation of Creation – Art instruction encourages a child to explore and appreciate God’s creation. God is the supreme artist. As He observes his creation, he stands back, as it were, and says, “It is very good.” Likewise, when we teach art, we’re teaching our children to look at what God has done and say, “It is very good.” There is no better way to develop a sense of wonder in your child than to get them involved in drawing or painting the world around them. As they slow down to look at creation (a necessity if you’re going to draw it), they can’t help but be awestruck at the beauty that they see.
- Develops the Whole Person – God created us in His image. That image includes creativity. Instruction in the arts in general and art in particular encourages the expression of the imago dei (image of God), in our children. Whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpture, writing, or music, when we encourage our children to become involved in creative activity, we are helping them to develop into whole, well-rounded individuals.
- Connect with God – The two previous points combined produce a third. By using art to encourage your children to appreciate God’s creation and to be creative, you are giving them two powerful tools for connecting with God. We are told to worship the Lord in the “beauty of holiness”. In cultivating an appreciation of beauty and aesthetics, we are giving our children the means to cultivate hearts that worship Him.
There are many other reasons why art should have a place of priority in your homeschool curriculum. The reasons above focus on the “big picture”. As you plan your school schedule, be sure to keep the big picture in mind and include art, even if it’s only one day a week.
You’ll be glad you did.
James H. Pence (www.jamespence.com) is a former homeschooling dad, and the author or co-author of nine books. He is also a performance chalk artist and blogs twice weekly for See the Light (www.seethelightshine.com), producers of the DVD-based “Art Class” series.