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Homeschool critical thinking is a popular subject, but how do you teach it with art?
What is the value of art in our society anyway?
Of course, there is the fact that art is one of the kids’ favorite activities and has been for forever. But there are some hidden advantages to teaching art, too.
Homeschool critical thinking instruction, science, and art go hand in hand. You can’t focus on science or critical thinking without including art.
If you want your kids to have strong critical thinking skills and do well in reading and writing, you can’t neglect art.
This is why I joyfully include Evan-Moor Educational Publishers’ How to Teach Art to Children in our curriculum. Jump to the bottom of the page to see a review of this astounding resource.
As I have said before, our current education system does a real disservice to our kids. For example, science curricula often focus on memorization, leaving out exploration, tinkering, planning, observing, and everything that makes art and science wonderful.
Art really takes some thought, planning, and reasoning. The process of creating art captures the active part of science beautifully. First, you must study your subject intently, then break it down into manageable parts that you can recreate.
Art has been an integral part of the process even when creation was not the driving process of science. For example, early botanists and paleontologists did not have a camera to picture their specimens. Instead, they studied art so that they could draw accurate representations of their data.
Homeschool Critical Thinking and Art: The Proof
Art is essential for teaching critical thinking skills, too. According to this study, first-graders behind math and reading either caught up or surpassed their peers after 7 months of arts and music training.
This press release from Mississippi State University (via Science Daily) reports on a 2013 study that found “when teachers reinforce academic concepts with the arts, students learn more and score higher on standardized tests.”
This study looked at several tests across grade levels and several subjects like math, reading, writing, and science, of schools participating in the arts integration program to those not participating. They found that test scores in all subjects were significantly higher in schools that participated in the arts integration program.
The great thing about art (and science) is that older kids can lead their own learning. If you are looking for some great foundational support for teaching visual art to younger kids, I am reviewing a great resource for you! Evan-Moor Educational Publisher’s How to Teach Art to Children, grades 1-6. This is an impressive and thorough resource for teaching homeschool critical thinking art.
When you purchase this book, you actually get 2 books in one. You get the How to Teach Art to Children and a free ebook of featured artists’ work to round out the experience and add some fun stuff for the kids to try to recreate. Instructions for claiming your free ebook are found on the front cover of How to Teach Art to Children.
This book is for grades 1-6 because each activity is customizable to fit the child’s ability, except for a few.
It begins with a shortlist of supplies you will need. You will not need everything on the list for each project. This master list is more of a guide for the things you need for the entire book.
Opposite the list is a short glossary. The lessons lack a vocabulary list, so mark the glossary for easy access as you teach each lesson.
It is divided into 2 parts – Learning the 7 elements of visual art and using them.
Learning the 7 Elements of Art is the first part. Before the first lesson, there is a short Resource Page with tips on enrichment activities and examples on how to talk about art in a meaningful way with kids.
Each lesson is broken up into several art projects. Each project includes a small paragraph on the point of the lesson, a materials list, step-by-step instructions, and reproducibles as needed.
Using the Elements of Art is part 2. This part also starts with a Resource page outlining how to use each of the following lessons.
Each lesson in this part revolves around an artist or type of art. There is a short background reference for each lesson, some example discussion topics, then step-by-step instructions to help kids recreate the art.
I love how this book teaches the basics of art and gives them the tools to talk about art in a meaningful way.
I really cannot stress the importance of getting kids to look at something, and decide what is important, speculate about cause and effect, and support their conclusions. This ability is the very basis of analysis and argument.
This is important because it is these skills that encourage scientific and critical thinking. We ask them to take their basic knowledge from completing the project and analyze another work. It is this ability to apply their knowledge that makes great science students.
Some of the lessons have hints to make it easier or other modifications that may help with cross-curricular activities, like adding descriptive words to rubbings while exploring texture.
Some are quite hands-on, as is the color mixing activity. Kids mix food coloring to see the effects themselves, and a reproducible encourages kids to explore mixing with 3 colors. No rules! A hint is printed on the page to use small pieces of playdough for a sensory experience.
The projects are quite varied in materials. Projects are centered around paper, clay, oil and chalk pastels, paint, making stamps, and simple books! It really provides a nice, rounded experience.
The second part, Using the Elements of Art, introduces kids to specific artists and types of art from other cultures. This section uses the accompanying ebook that I talked about before. In addition, part 2 has a partner page in the ebook that you can print or project on the wall, smart board, etc.
Each lesson is spread over 2 pages with a list of elements of art that it reinforces at the top.
I really appreciate the small paragraph with background information about the artist or genre at the beginning of each lesson. Then, a shortlist of suggestions for further reading and a small section titled “Talk about” give your class some short facts and conversation starters.
This makes setting up each lesson pretty easy. First, read one of the short suggestions. Then, look at some of the extra work from the ebook. Third, demonstrate the project and then talk about it while the children are working on it.
My biggest problem with this book is that some projects seem a little much for younger kids. I may let my oldest do the harder projects, like drawing a skyline to scale. But my younger kids would do something more hands-on, like color mixing.
Also, the projects don’t have suggested ages/grade levels, so some are hard to tell which ages are best for them.
I feel strongly that most projects will work for most ages with a little creativity, but that means it will probably take a bit of prep. For example, there is one project about contrasting colors where you glue a shape onto a square with the shapes’ color in high contrast. It’s colorful and easy, but younger kids will need the pieces precut or effortless shapes to cut out.
Last, the projects in the second section, Using the Elements of Art, seem to fit older kids better than younger ones. So I feel like you really need to complete part 1, The Elements of Art, before trying to do anything with part 2.
To learn more about How to Teach Art to Children, click here. This is the best homeschool critical thinking art curriculum, in my humble opinion.
Looking for a whole curriculum that’s actually affordable and thorough? Check out Evan-Moor Educational Publishers Homeschool Bundles here!
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