Children who learn at home have a unique opportunity to enjoy the creative process for as long as they wish. Parents ask, "How can I inspire my kids' artistic inclinations?" Armed with crayons, markers, paint, clay, beads, fabric, and various discarded items (I hesitate to use the word "trash"), there is no way to stop your kids from being creative! Place newspapers or other protective covering on the floor or table and allow for some serious mess-making. You'll be rewarded with an endless flow of artwork to adorn your walls, windowsills, and of course, refrigerator!
The best way for kids to understand and appreciate art is for them to observe art. It's never too early to start visiting galleries and talking about what you see. Before we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my kids spent a few months looking at art books, focusing on a different artist each week. We borrowed books from the library and purchased several others from the "Getting to Know the World's Great Artists Series" (ages 5 to 9) by Venezia.
Auditory learners will enjoy "Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought)" by Kathleen Krull. From Da Vinci to Warhol, this collection of miniature biographies of the great artists will keep kids entertained while they learn about art history. (Two 2-hour audiocassettes)
When you visit a gallery or museum, suggest that your family ask themselves, "How do I feel about this artwork? What do I like or dislike about it?" Of course, there are no right or wrong answers, and it's fun to observe each other's preferences. To find museums in your region or take a virtual tour from the comfort of your own home. How about a visit to the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa?
When your visit to the museum is over, Culture Smart! by Susan Rodriguez will keep the creative juices flowing. This colorful book features 120 art projects complete with materials list and step-by-step directions. A good way for your kids to create a few masterpieces of their own!
Art Book for Younger Kids
The Oxford First Book of Art by Gillian Wolfe contains an eclectic collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and textiles. For parents who want their younger kids to appreciate art, but prefer a book with no nudity, the Oxford book fits the bill. You'll find beautifully reproduced artwork as well as activities, quizzes, and facts about both well-known and unknown artists.
Drawing for the Artistically Challenged
Would you love to be able to draw? Better yet, draw and be able to teach your children how to draw? Most parents believe they suffer from lack of artistic talent and could never learn this skill. Drawing with Children author Mona Brookes disagrees. She believes that the Monart method, outlined in her book, can help everyone learn to draw. Skeptical, I decided to give it a try.
After reading and re-reading Drawing with Children (the revised and expanded tenth anniversary edition) I made the appropriate copies of pages to be used as practice sheets, bought the recommended supplies, gathered my kids, and began the program. I watched in amazement as my daughters went from drawing scribbled stick people to making lovely, colorful birds and lions, surrounded by identifiable palm trees on a beautiful shoreline. Their now-framed and proudly hung artwork often elicits comments from visitors who tell me how "talented" they are! My drawings? Well, I haven't progressed as rapidly as they have but enough that I secretly say, "Hey, that's pretty good!"
Producing beautiful artwork isn't the only benefit. According to Brookes, "Schools are reporting up to a 20 percent increase in reading, writing, math, and language skills for students who are exposed to the Monart program." Creative expression appears to aid and foster critical thinking skills. Once you have mastered the lessons in Drawing with Children, you can continue with Brookes' Drawing for Older Children and Teens. This book covers perspective, shading, and the different styles of drawing. (You can also start with the Drawing for Older Children... book; one is not a prerequisite for the other.)
Child Art Therapy: Understanding and Helping Children Grow Through Art by Rubin is a very comprehensive guide for all special needs teachers and homeschooling parents. Though rather costly (about $75), parents working with their special-needs kids will find the book invaluable.