Fine Arts in the Homeschool

We planned to start school this year on the fifteenth, but I haven’t got all the lessons planned out yet, so that is definitely not going to work.  I’m making progress, but it’s slow, partly because I’m thinking as I’m planning about why and what and how we should be learning.

Let’s take art, for instance.  I’ve got two homeschool high school graduates now, but I’ve only really realized the value of art in the curriculum in the past year.  I know!  I’m crazy!  Or maybe I’m not.  Maybe it’s a general trend, even among homeschoolers, to undervalue the fine arts.

Allow me to think out loud here for a while?

Last year, I put a special emphasis on making art.  Not as much as I could have, but we made more art – together and independently – than we ever have before.  We had a Refrigerator Art Gallery and a constantly rotating collection.  We were looking at each others’ work, admiring what was beautiful, moving, interesting, unique, but also offering suggestions and critiques. (Kindly!  Because it’s very brave to put your work out there for all the world to see.)  The consequence of this is that we all grew in skill and expressiveness, but also in the way we see the world around us.  We are looking at things more like artists, at the details and the light and why it makes us feel a certain way.  I have loved watching that unfold, and it’s something I very much want to continue with and expand upon.

I used to consider art as one of those “beautiful extras” – fine if you have time for it, but not necessary.  I put Latin in that category, too.  But after the first year of studying Latin, I noticed that the children seemed to be thinking more clearly, more analytically.  They were more intelligent for just that little bit of Latin.  Even if there were no other benefits to learning this “dead” language, Latin will forever more have a permanent place in our curriculum.  But over this past year, I could see that art had a similar and complimentary effect on the children.  If Latin sort of fine tunes their brains, art expands them.  All kinds of art: music and literature, painting and theatre.  Latin and the arts are not beautiful extras; they are, or should be, the core.

If I were to consider the most important things for the children to study, I would start with those: Latin and art (and music).  Then I would add literature and writing, and finally, history and math.  Science wouldn’t even make the cut.  (We have and use religion texts, too, but I see more value (obviously) in our living relationship with God and Church and in our working out together how to practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy than in the texts.  The texts’ primary value, for me, is in opening up discussions. Which is something else I need to think through!)

But back to art.  This year, I plan to continue and expand upon the work we did last year, and I also want to add in music studies.  We’ll be using the SQUILT curriculum to get us started, and we’ll plan to see at least one orchestral performance.   Children are more than capable of sitting quietly (so as not to disturb other patrons) and enjoying a theatre or orchestra experience without any special accommodations needing to be made.  I mention this because the Louisville Orchestra has special, abbreviated performances for children and doesn’t recommend their regular shows for those under 12.  Regular performances only last about 70 minutes, though, just about as long as a Mass, and, I suspect, they’re more entertaining.  I would not expect to have any trouble with my children at a full-length performance of any kind for as long as two hours.

I want the children to learn to read music, too, and I’d like them to play an instrument, but I think piano would be as far as we could go.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if we could all play something different?

There was a time in my childhood that my mom, God bless her, regularly took my Girl Scout troop to see Broadway plays in New York City.  I saw quite a few, and remember the experience vividly.  Professional plays are a bit expensive for a family our size, but we have summer Shakespeare in the Park, and the high school productions are quite good.  We’ll make it a point to see those, too, so the children get a feel for the theatrical, as well.

I’m just kind of working out our priorities here, because there is never enough time, and I don’t want to drop a thing that’s actually very important in favor or something that’s less important but more culturally acceptable.

Art matters, in ways I never realized before.

What do you think?  Do you make art at home?  Have you noticed any particular effects on your family?  How would you prioritize the academic subjects?

3 Comment

  1. Oh, how I love this topic! I can’t wait to hear what you think about SQUILT. I haven’t plunged in and purchased it yet.

    I haven’t had one thought-out approach towards fine arts. When I only had two little learners the crafty sort of art that many mothers dislike was about all they were interested in, so we did a fair amount of that. And it just sort of grew from there. I haven’t had to plan a specific curriculum for art so far because it seems to be a regular part of our daily life. Certainly more so for one child than others, but still, even my kids who don’t share their every thought via art, still do often pick up a pencil or marker and start drawing. I honestly think it is in part because there’s not a whole lot else to do.

    We go through phases of family art time too. I have never been confident as an artist in the past, so I lean heavily on videos and tutorials that are so readily available online. Some of my children prefer doing art this way, too. My resident artist generally does her own thing when we do this.

    As far as music, I just make it a point to turn music on at some point during the day and switch up every now and then what/who we’re listening to. We do have and love a number of these CDs ( which give samples of music along with a narration of the artist’s life. I keep them in the car, and when we finish a story mid-trip, I pop one in. Or when we’re studying a specific composer with our co-op.

    Even in what we watch, I try to be discerning about how to incorporate fine arts and sometimes we watch music videos where the kids can see the musicians with their instruments (for a more contemporary version with like The Piano Guys). The Nutcracker is an obvious fine art viewing choice!

    For now, so far, just keeping fine arts on my horizon seems to ensure that we get a decent diet of it, even if it comes in tides. But I agree that it certainly does expand the heart (just like fine literature!) and everyone should have it their life in one way or another.

    I hope you share the resources you most enjoy as you come across them!

    1. I’ve got a few things that are inspiring me, and I’ll share soon! In the meanwhile, I’m one of those moms who hates crafts, but I love doing art!

  2. I have an engineering degree and I absolutely despise the trend toward STEM education – focusing on science and math and technology, usually at the expense of “less important” subjects. I really really wish more schools emphasized art and music. I definitely think math is important (I love algebra), but not at the expense of beauty. My daughter needs a credit of fine arts for high school, and I can’t wait for her to get to Italy. I’ve already told her she will do research on 12 churches/cathedrals, and we will have to go a look at them and sit and do drawings. And there can’t be little ones in tow, at least not the whole time. So maybe that will be just the two of us on a day trip. Our curriculum generally incorporates art and drawing…through 10th grade there is usually something asking for drawings. I try not to skimp out on those lessons. And going to museums. We love that.

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