Arts in Education ~ What I’ve Learned Over 10+ Years as a Homeschooler

By Linda Chido

March 2, 2021

Originally written for Inspired Minds Art Center for their "Artist As Experts" blog series.

A quick search on Google will give you 960,000,000 results on the benefits of the arts in education. There is a huge body of knowledge that has proven repeatedly that arts education impacts the academic, social, and emotional lives of students. And even though national surveys show an overwhelming majority of the public agrees that the arts are a necessary part of a well-rounded education, students receiving arts education has shrunk drastically over the last few decades.

As an artist myself, the thought of my children not having exposure to the arts in their education was a painful one. Which is why I decided, before my first born could walk, that I would homeschool and include the arts in every aspect of our schooling. Over the last 15+ years, my children and I have learned a lot together. And the one thing that consistently looms large in our home is that art permeates everything. Inspired Minds Art Center has asked if I would share with you what I have learned incorporating the arts into all aspects of our homeschooling.

Having a hands-on art component attached to any lesson increases knowledge retention. I have witnessed meaning and memory making in my kids when they can associate the information I want to impart with the things they create. My children remember an unbelievable amount of information from lessons we did years ago because they have a deep connection with the subject matter through the objects they have created – mosaics made during our study of Ancient Greece; a wampum belt made while studying Native Americans; designing a shadow puppet play to retell the story of the Chinese New Year; writing poetry while studying Shakespeare; compass making while studying the great world explorers; a hand-made nature journal made over weeks of studying botany; making paper polyhedrons to better understand math concepts; and the list goes on and on. I have lots of examples and my children remember most of them.

Arts projects that accompany curriculum help children become more compassionate and collaborative. I have four children with 5 years between them. My children also span the spectrum from gifted to cognitively disabled. It’s always been a joy to assign a project and then step back and watch as my children discuss problems and ideas, experiment to come up with solutions, and assist each other in completing their projects. Their compassion for those who learn differently from them and their collaborative spirit extends well beyond the classroom.

Participation in the arts promotes pride. As an artist myself, there is nothing more satisfying than finishing a painting and having it turn out exactly how I saw it in my mind. I have witnessed that pride in my children too. What child doesn’t want to show a beautiful painting that they have made? Or play a new song on the guitar that took them weeks to learn? Or share a story they repeatedly rewrote until the words expressed exactly what they were thinking? Or perform a dance they choreographed and practiced with their friends? Or invite everyone they know to the play they are in? Kids want to share the stories of their creations and why they are important? Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-regard are all outgrowths of any art endeavor. There is no denying the beaming pride of my children when they come to me and say, “Mom, look at what I made!”

Art making instills a growth mindset. This one is on all of the scholarly lists but it is true. Art can be hard. You can be unfamiliar with the materials, unfamiliar with the technique, and unprepared for the learning curve necessary for the completion of the project. And it is terribly frustrating when things don’t turn out the way you planned. Though with a little grit on their part, and a little encouragement on my part, I have witnessed how the adage, “try, try again”, not only applies to their artmaking but also transfers to all other areas of their life. My children understand failure is just a part of the process. Sometimes they may make a happy accident and discover something wonderful and sometimes not so much, but they will always learn something in their failures. It’s up to them to stick with it and try again because through their trying, they know, they just might end up with something spectacular.

Art appreciation instills the value of craft and is a source of inspiration. We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect”, well in our house, practice makes better. The more you practice the better results you will get. My children have experienced this concept as visual artist, musicians, and thespians themselves, and have witnessed both of their parents hone their own unique crafts. In addition to understanding the value of practice, my children have a deep appreciation of art making because they have been exposed to great works of art by some of the greatest masters throughout human history. We have explored the art forms and tools of artists across time. We have looked at master artworks, listened to symphonies, experienced opera, and have read great works of literature, together. Experiencing great works of art has given my children both, something to aspire to and a deep understanding of the level of devotion to achieve such masterworks.

Art connects you to the human spirit. One of my daughter’s favorite stories is of the musicians of the Jewish ghettos during the Nazi era. How they would meet secretly in cold and dirty basements to make music together - quietly. That even in the most extreme of conditions, art flourished. She finds this story very inspiring and connects deeply to the need to express one self. Examples of creative expression happening in spite of the harshest times abounds throughout history. In every era, in every time, and in every horrible thing humans have ever experienced, the human spirit has always found a way to express itself though art.

Those are just a few examples of the ways arts education has impacted my children. Obviously, I believe art is important but don’t just take my word for it. Ask my kids what they think, I did:

“Art has made us more creative.”

“You learn a lot more about stuff, like history, when you study art too.”

“It gives you more respect for people in history. They had to make everything themselves! I made a small fresco and it was hard. Can you imagine what Michelangelo had to go through to make the Sistine Chapel?”

“Art is like a geode – even in the harshest times, art is the diamond in the rock.”