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Teaching Fine Arts Stage by Stage

With our busy school days, it can be easy to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic and let subjects like art, music, and drama fall by the wayside, especially if those are subjects that we as parents don’t have a natural bent for. But teaching fine arts is important for a number of reasons, such as inspiring creativity, building confidence, developing focus and motor skills, and improving academic performance. Yes, the arts can be messy or loud. Yes, they take a great deal of time for practice. But in the end, the benefits are well worth it. So, how can you go about adding fine arts to your daily schedule? Here are some tips for each stage of learning:

Starting Out

PreK - 1st Grade

You don’t need formal lessons in preschool and kindergarten. This age is all about experimenting. Offer a wide variety of art mediums and music and drama experiences to give your child an idea of what these subjects are all about. While many children at this age will throw themselves into each experience with reckless abandon, don’t worry if your child doesn’t like to get messy, hates the noise, or is shy in front of people. Just keep offering the opportunities.

Things are probably going to get messy and loud. If it is all too much, try moving art and music time outside to the patio. Here are some other ideas:

– Purchase large vinyl tablecloths to lay on the ground to contain most of the mess. Save Dad’s old t-shirts or dress shirts or buy plastic art aprons. Consider investing in an art easel if you have the money and the space.
– Purchase a simple set of children’s musical instruments, such as a tambourine, triangle, and mini cymbals. Let your child experiment with them, including attempting to find the beat as you listen to song recordings.
– Point out the beauty of God’s creation to your child as you go throughout the day. Take in the gorgeous sunset, listen to the delightful bird song, etc.
– Take your child to age-appropriate concerts and plays.
– Listen to a wide variety of music at home and in the car. Find recordings of various instruments and composers to share with your child.
– Read books about famous artists and composers.
– Consider enrolling in Kindermusik.

Getting Excited

2nd - 4th Grade

While experimentation is still an important part of teaching fine arts in this stage, you might consider starting formal lessons in a subject that your child has shown an interest in, especially as he approaches third or fourth grade. Some music teachers will work with very young students, but others require students to be able to read fairly well before beginning. Here are some other suggestions:

– Collect and offer a variety of materials for your student to use for art projects. Even non-art materials such wrapping paper tubes and cardboard boxes can be useful for creating art.
– Encourage, but don’t fluff. Your student knows whether his drawing is amazing or if the song was played perfectly or not. Look for and praise improvement.
– Teach skills separately from creativity.
– Incorporate creative writing by helping your child write a script based on a favorite book or history lesson, then perform it as a family.
– Purchase a recorder and instruction books as an introduction to playing musical instruments. If the budget allows, consider purchasing other instruments, such as a harpsichord, boom sticks, a bell set, or simple keyboard, along with music books.
– Do Charlotte-Mason style picture and composer studies. Experience a work of art or piece of music, then ask questions about them to get your child to think about what they are seeing or listening to.
– Play quiet instrumental music by a variety of composers during study time.
– Attend local plays and concerts.
– Tie fine arts experiences into other subjects. For example, listen to music from different countries as you study geography or copy art styles as you study the corresponding period in history.

Beginning to Understand

5th - 8th Grade

If your child has never had fine arts lessons, consider trying some when she reaches the middle school years. The arts open up a world of opportunities for careers, as well as enjoyment. Students at this age should be held responsible for practicing and taking care of any equipment, scripts, or musical instruments that they have been given.

– Ask your child to create a personal song, skit, or work of art.
– Your public school might allow students to attend just for orchestra or vocal music. Some cities and larger towns have public band, orchestra, or drama groups that your child can be a part of.
– Assign your child a fine arts project to go along with core curriculum subjects. Create a commercial jingle to advertise a literature book, make a poster that shows an important event in history, or dramatize a scientific discovery.
– Plan time and opportunity for fine arts practice.
– Check out your local university or community college to find instructors for fine arts you aren’t comfortable teaching. Sometimes upper level students give lessons as a way to make money for college.
– Attend a Broadway musical in your city or one nearby.
– Purchase a variety of drawing and painting books. Invest in “real” art supplies, such as canvas, drawing pencils, and oil paints.
– Participate in homeschool and church programs and music events.
– Include visits to museums and galleries in your homeschool field trips.

Learning to Reason

9th - 12th Grade

Many states require a fine arts credit or two for graduation, and colleges may require or strongly recommend one for admission. At the same time, your teen is likely to have strong opinions on what types of fine arts lessons he is interested in.

– Encourage your teen to step out of the box and try new things. If he has had years of piano lessons, now might be the time to try another instrument. Encourage him to try an art or drama class if he hasn’t before.
– Try to find an outdoor Shakespeare performance in your area. These performances are a not-to-be-missed spectacle.
– Create a credit-worthy fine arts class by adding projects and activities to lessons and practices. Keep a record of time spent. About 60 hours counts as a half credit, 120 for a full credit.
– If your student is not particularly creative and doesn’t care for music or art lessons, consider having him take an art or music history or appreciation course instead.
– If your teen has had years of music lessons, now might be the time to step out in this area. Perhaps she can help with music at your church or join a band or orchestra in your city.
– Many towns and cities have community theater opportunities, or have your child volunteer to work in your church’s drama program if you have one.
– Some colleges allow students to take classes as soon as they turn sixteen. Consider an early or dual enrollment option to allow your student to enjoy art, music, or drama lessons while also obtaining college credit.

With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.

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