Art in the Homeschool: How to Create an Art Center

Written by Crystal, Contributing Writer

I’ve always had a goal for my homeschooled children.  I’ve always wanted them to have open and free access to a wide variety of art materials and other “stuff” that they could use for creative expression and to enhance their dramatic play.

Once upon a time when I was a public school teacher I prided myself on the beautiful art center I created for my students.  I even…dare I say it…"tsk tsked" parents who cringed when their children came home with fingers and clothes stained with marker paint. 

Why Art?

I view art as an avenue for creative development of course, but also for problem solving, and even scientific learning for children of all ages. Then of course there are all of the great fine motor skills the little ones develop. 
But then an amazing thing happened.  I had my own children and I found that allowing my children open access to paints and markers and scissors and MESSY stuff drove me batty! I was just too exhausted to clean up after their messes. So I held off for a very long time. I kept scissors hidden, paints up high, glue locked away. I became that parent that I used to "tsk!" to. Yes, we really do change after we have children!

Today my oldest is seven and the baby is now 3l  I decided it was high time that I brought everything out of hiding and taught my kids how to cleanup after themselves! They are highly capable. I believe if I trust them with a little, then eventually I can trust them with a lot. I took a deep breath and took the plunge.

What is in Our Art Cabinet?

I began with a simple cabinet from Target and some plastic bins my mother handed down to me. In went white paper, construction paper, card stock, sketch pads, water color paints, washable paints, pastels, water color crayons, and drawing pencils of every sort.  Then I put out white glue, glue sticks, and every kind of tape imaginable. Finally, I gave them scissors. Yes, they have access to scissors!  I admit I’m convinced it is only a matter of time before someone cuts my daughter’s hair. I figure I’ll deal with that when the time come because isn’t it sort of a right of passage?
You’ll also find an array of art books, books that inspire, and books that instruct.  My 7 year old has begun to collect these. He seems most drawn to the art. On the floor nearby there is a cardboard box that we’ve begun filling with recyclables. We have lots of toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, and other tubs and containers we no longer need. 

Just to the side of our cabinet is a folding table and a couple of chairs.  I try to encourage them to keep the mess contained to this space.  Sometimes they need more space and migrate to the kitchen table. I hung a clothes line across the wall so anything they make can be displayed. Periodically I ask them to take down 3-5 projects to make room for new ones. We call this our art gallery.

How Does This Work?

They can use anything they want, whenever they want, however they want, so long as they are respecting the materials. 
I have to tell you, this was HARD!  Watching my five year old nearly unravel an entire roll of tape as he figured out how the dispenser worked nearly killed me.  Placing 100 stickers on one sheet of paper made me cringe.  Mixing nearly every color together in the paints made my hair stand on edge.  However…I kept tight lipped.

I knew I needed to let them live and explore.  I figured that after a week or two of freedom and exploration, things would settle down.  When they learned Mommy was seriously going to let them do as they pleased, then they’d be less zealous with the materials. I was right. Their projects are still completely care free but they have learned on their own they don’t need 30 staples to hold something together. It took every bit of willpower I could muster to keep my hands off and my mouth closed during this exploring time.

What are the Rules?

Our rules are simple…I generally ask the children to check in with me before they start a new project. This is simply to avoid having them drag out a bunch of paints or other materials 15 minutes before we have to leave for an appointment.  They must treat the materials with care. I won’t tolerate them jamming markers into the table or purposefully breaking crayons. Most importantly, they must clean up properly after themselves. If I find the art table a disaster than they loose the privilege of using it for a while. If they destroy something specific then that thing is off limits until they can prove to me they can be more responsible. 
I keep cleaning supplies in the cabinet and I’ve taught them how to clean up anything they use. There are no excuses. If they want access to these fun things than they take care of them. In the few months since we began, I think I remember one child loosing art for a few days because they didn’t put away the water color paints right.  That was it. A lesson was learned! I do have to remind them how to put things back into the cabinet the right way. They tend to CRAM stuff anywhere, whereas I like it a bit more neat. Call it the Mommy in me.

What Do They Make?

For a while they were busy creating 3-D structures.  They just loved rolling paper and holding it together with tape or staples. Occasionally they’ll make tickets for entrance to their “show”. They’ve made plenty of signs to accompany their various play activities.  We have new props to go along with their Lego creations too. My 7 year old is very passionate about horses. We picked up a book on how to draw them…now we have lots of horse drawings and paintings just about everywhere we look!

Overall, it is a great relief to me to have this in our home. It’s brought their learning a bit closer to my vision. It’s also taught all of us that my children can be trusted. It’s taught me how to lean back and :live and let live!"  Messes happen.  Messes can be cleaned.  It’ll all be alright. Or should I say...I will be alright?

I’d love to hear about art in your house?  Have you ever tried anything like this before?  What does it look like your home? 
Crystal is a former special education teacher who decided to stay home after her first child was born. Staying home was a completely foreign idea to Crystal. However, she followed the Lord's leading and is happily homeschooling her three children while also running a photography business.

Crystal blogs about life, homeschooling, photography and more at Crystal Starr.

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Jaime said...

This is really great! My kids are still too little for homeschooling, but I'm collecting ideas and trying to prepare now. I love art (I even taught it), so I really want to include that in their lives!

becky@purposefulhomemaking.com said...

Good for you Jaime! Art is not my strong point so it's definitely an area I need to work on with our kids. :) They love it though!

Felicia May @PhD by Publication said...

I think that art is one of the most important parts of a child’s education. It helps our kids learn and explore culture. I think it is great that you have figured out a wonderful way to incorporate that into the homeschool curriculum.


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