Homeschooling is a little more than having a lot of books at your disposal. Not much more, mind you, because books can answer all life’s questions – but still there’s a little bit more.
Our version of more involves a lot of art supplies. I wait for great sales, sometimes I even buy used canvases for next to nothing at Goodwill and garage sales and whitewash them, I’ve even been known to pull canvases out of trash cans. I’m that mom. One way or another I want to get art supplies into my daughter’s hands, and not the “kid” versions – I want her to have real paint, real brushes, and real canvases to work with.
At Christmas we requested that in lieu of toys and other items that will end up donated when she outgrows them or trashed when they are obliterated from use, to gift her art supplies instead. We’re not depriving her for the sake of enrichment, I assure you. I believe free play is essential and important. The girl gets tons of toys on her birthday and throughout the year and has mountains of them. Does she need mountains of them? No. Will we use the art supplies? Oh yes.
Thus began our friends and family slowly jumping on board with how we handle our week, our budget, and our holiday requests. As my daughter started to produce piece after piece (some not shown as they were gifted away prior to me thinking out documenting them)…
She chooses her own colors, even mixes them if she has to and decides which brush she wants to use at any given moment. Each piece is entirely her own and we even discuss what she wants to name each one.
Pursuing art in this fashion is a daily exercise in understanding the scientific side of color (what it takes to make a color), as in the beginning we started only with primary colors, though we have been gifted additional ones. She is learning about texture, movement, and how to convey emotion.
In addition to that, she understands saving and budgeting for things she wants. How to prioritize certain desires: sometimes she uses birthday money for books, sometimes for toys, and sometimes for her own art supplies. (Even more often, she opts to put it in the piggy bank or fund an extra trip to Chick-fila.)
It also brings the books we study to life.
Since birth, I have made a point to introduce her to as many of the Getting to Know the World’s Artists as we can get our hands on. Kiddo has studied Raphael, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and more. She had a board book as a baby of artwork from Rosseau and another from Renoir. We also love reading “Nature’s Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery of Art & Verse” by Patrick Thomas and Craig Orback, helping kids to see the world through different art media – ink, pastel, watercolor, oil, etc.
We read through The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Monet’s Impressions: Words and Pictures by Claude Monet” all the time. She seems to like the Impressionists a lot.
Which kick started our trips to the lake, taking paints and canvases to paint outdoors like they discuss in one of our favorite art books:
Picture This! “Activities and Adventures in Impressionism,” an Art Explorers book by Joyce Raimondo. The book is an excellent way to help kids understand art history and how art movements begin. It introduces real paintings and real painters, and inspires kids to do their own projects.
We also have a book on Frida, called “Frida Maria: A Story of the Old Southwest” by Deborah Nourse Lattimore, because all art forms are welcome in our house, as well as every bit of history we can find.
Which is why we also picked up a copy of “Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer” by Robert Byrd at the library. We’ve been reading a few pages of that every day and I could not be more pleased with a picture book.
More than anything in this adventure through motherhood and homeschooling, I’m realizing that so much of ‘homeschooling’ has very little to do with what I know or what I can teach – it’s about granting access to where the knowledge is. It’s about handing her the tools and giving her the freedom to figure it out, to learn, and discover. So many times people argue that homeschooling stunts children to only learn what their parents know, when in reality it is quite the opposite. When they have so much free time, under a little nudge here and some pointers there, children are much more likely to learn to learn for themselves. A parent’s job, a teacher’s job, is to provide the tools for them to do that.
I didn’t think these things from the get go. I merely picked up books that caught my attention. I got her the art supplies initially because I had taken art in high school and my sister has always had natural talent with a sketchbook. I wanted my kid to get these things in her hands sooner rather than later because I had a lot of anxiety regarding art supplies – I was afraid to be freely creative because I feared being wasteful with something considered semi-precious. But over the last year and a half of actively putting these supplies in my kid’s hands, I have shaped a philosophy.
Here is a canvas, here is a paintbrush, here are some paints, here are a few books that show you the glorious nature of art throughout history – suddenly, you have a child who is beginning to understand history, humanity, science, and the world at large. Imagine the implications when I give her the tools to language and math. The sky is the limit and the list of people who learned to think through information on their own become the inspiration: Einstein, Curie, Alcott, Da Vinci…