Guest post by Master Artist Pat Knepley
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
I’m sure you’ve heard that adage, probably many times. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. In today’s highly visual culture, the importance of the visual arts in the total human experience cannot be overstated. Integrating art into the standard academic curriculum isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.
But how do you make art (or the arts) an integral part of your homeschool curriculum?
It is fairly common to think of the visual arts as paintings or drawings we might see hung on a museum wall. But an appreciation of art is so much more. We are surrounded by shapes, space, texture, and color.
For example, everything in the average American home has an art element to it: the pattern in the wallpaper or curtain fabric; or the shape of the lamp, the candlestick, even the tea kettle. And of course, there are objects on the walls: photos in frames, paintings or prints, perhaps even a piece of sculpture. In fact, many people spend quite a lot of money on the design of their home and its interior.
Although our tastes in design will vary widely, we all appreciate the beauty of a well-designed object. Who doesn’t like the classic lines of the 1965 Ford Mustang? Pure art.
So then the question becomes why should the home educator include art as part of the core classical curriculum? Parents often say, “My son or daughter just isn’t interested in drawing or painting, and we need the time to spend on the more important elements of our children’s education: math, history, science, and so on.”
But when parents say this, they are failing to recognize that the arts are already an integral part of our daily lives. Through the ages, people have used the arts to tell stories about every aspect of their lives, cultures, nations, history, and beliefs. Thus, arts education isn’t only a matter of teaching a child to draw a picture or play music or do a sculpture. In fact, you can make art a part of your curriculum without ever having your children pick up a brush (not that I recommend that, but it’s possible). A general understanding of what is involved in the arts is probably more valuable to the homeschooler than any artistic talent.
So how do you incorporate arts instruction into your curriculum? Consider the approach suggested by Discipline-Based Arts Education (DBAE).
What is DBAE?
According to an entry in Wikipedia, “Discipline-based art education (DBAE) is an educational program formulated by the J. Paul Getty Trust in the early 1980s. DBAE supports a diminished emphasis on studio instruction, and instead promotes education across four disciplines within the arts: aesthetics, art criticism, art history and art production.” [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_education_in_the_United_States]
There are four components to a well-thought-out art program as described in the Discipline-Based Arts Education These components are Art History, Art Criticism, Art Production, and Aesthetics. The home educator should consider all of these components equally valuable when they think of teaching art, as intimidating as that might be.
The best way to explain how to encompass all four components is to use a piece of art as an example that most people will be familiar with. Next week we will look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco, The Last Supper.
Author’s Note: The area of art education that makes people, if not nervous, perhaps hesitant . . . is the art-making process: art production. But drawing is a skill like any other skill. I believe it can be taught (like how to swing a tennis racquet can be taught) with age-appropriate instruction. I recommend the DVD-based drawing instruction that I host: Art Class from See the Light for ages 6 to 10. With this fun, foundational, skill-building series, kids of all ages will feel successful when learning to draw