Ruth, from Ruth Bailey, artist, left a comment on one of my posts, a while back, and I again have been able to catch that big “click” the moment it happened, this time for my 3400th comment.
I know, it’s been a while coming. Ruth is a great watercolorist and was in the middle of an amazing commission, that busied her until recently.
I am so glad she is back!
Since Ruth is no stranger to home educating, I asked her if there were anything she might like to write for us about art in the home school.
She has graciously provided us with some great tips I really wish I’d had 20 years ago.
Read, enjoy, and learn! And please go look at her gentle but brilliant art!
Why Teach Your Child to Draw?
I believe that teaching a child to draw should be a part of every home-school curriculum.
Drawing is well suited to the home-school curriculum since it can be taught inexpensively, in short or long time segments, requires few extra materials, and the skills can be learned by anyone with enough dexterity to write their name. Drawing uses and develops the brain in ways that reading, writing, math, social studies, and science do not. Drawing uses non-verbal thinking skills and spatial relationships, while encouraging creativity, alternative problem solving strategies, and intuitive responses. Drawing also aids in teaching math skills since it involves the complex mathematical concepts of angles, measurements, graphing, and ratios. Drawing gives children and adults another language in which to express themselves and is pleasurable and fulfilling in itself.
Typically, young children start learning to draw by experimentation. They scribble on paper, enjoying the power of making marks. After a while they begin to assign meaning to scribbles, saying that this mark is “the dog,” or “daddy,” or “a birthday cake.” As their dexterity increases, they often adopt a symbol system, drawing stick figures, which get more complex as the child gets older. Sometimes these symbols are mimics of drawings by adults (who insist that their own drawing skills are inadequate). As children learn verbal language by example, experimentation and encouragement before learning any of the “rules,” they can learn the language of drawing in the same manner. This means giving them exposure to a variety of materials and time to explore. Paper and pencils, pens, crayons, markers, simple (non-toxic) paints, cotton swabs and food coloring, glue and bits of colored eggshells, etc. are typical household items that can be used. If a child expresses frustration or a desire to go further with drawing, I suggest enrolling the child in a class or trying out Mona Brooke’s book Drawing With Children to learn some formal drawing techniques.
Sometime around age 10 (fourth or fifth grade), a child’s brain goes through a “growth spurt” with an increased integration across the right and left hemispheres. This growth often leads to dissatisfaction with the difference between what is observed and the symbols used in drawings. Some children break through their established symbol system and are able to create realistic drawings at this time with little or no instruction. These are the children who are labeled “gifted artistically” or “talented.” Unfortunately for the others, this is the time when a child will give up on drawing, frustrated with his inability to make the drawing look like he wants it to, and calling his own efforts “stupid.” However, realistic drawing skills can be taught, and learned (by adults as well as children). There are many classes available to teach non-drawers to draw, and many books written on the subject. One of my favorites is Betty Edward’s The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Although the exercises in this book are not difficult for a child, children in elementary school would be helped by having an adult supervise and explain the material. Going through the material together is an ideal home-school activity.
With the foundation of being able to draw realistically, a child (or an adult) can then continue the exploration and experimentation process, drawing from reality, memory, or fantasy.
I wish you many satisfying hours, teaching your child to draw, and learning to draw, yourself!
Ruth Bailey is a home-school mom who, now that her children have all graduated from high school, fills her days with painting watercolors, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, and traveling with her husband.
You will love it at Ruth’s! Go there!
And check out one of my favorites of her many posts here!