art for the faint of heart: my heart is like a zoo

This is a topic I'd like to try to keep reaching for. You can click here to read my first post about doing art at home with your kids, Art for the faint of heart: how to paint with your kids and not lose your mind.

I think every homeschooler must worry that their ability (and availability) to teach their kids everything is questionable. I know I do. English? OK. Reading? Yep. Math? Gulp, here we go. Foreign Language? And we're gonna need some back-up.

And then there's art. Art is one of those things that everybody acts like kids should do but no one really wants to do, right? It takes time and messes and planning and supplies...and that's before the whole things starts! But even before all that is the little voice in the back of your head that questions your ability to teach art. Really, you Becky? You are going to teach art?

But shoosh that little voice for a moment and let me tell you this: You are qualified to teach art because you are a human being that is capable of creativity. And art, my friends, art is not a mystical talent that few of us have. 

A few of my own "deals" about art time with the kids:

  • Accept that fact that it will be messy. Then you will never be disappointed. 
  • Pick a time that isn't rushed: nothing like "Hurry- we only have ten minutes!" to squelch creativity.
  • remove yourself from the results. How awesome (or weird or undecipherable) your  kid's projects turn out is not a reflection of you. It's not about you. If it were about you, you would go to Starbucks with a book. You would not be choosing to do this art thing. So get over yourself. (that's what I say in my head)
  • The goal is INSPIRATION not IMITATION. 
I've said before that I like to use books for inspiration. Last time we used When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant as we looked for inspiration with watercolors. Today's art project was more something we stumbled upon as we found a new book and enjoyed the pictures.

Michael Hall's My Heart is Like a Zoo (there is great trailer on his site for the book, by the way) is one of those books that is simple and fabulous. Though the words are great, it was the pictures that captured my kids' attention. 

My house is like a zoo, so I can relate, Mr. Hall.

I'm tempted to show you every picture in the whole book because they are so creative. All the animals are made from hearts- stacked, cut, striped, layered. The effect is so fun and whimsical and clever! Tessa's favorite page is the hippos drinking apple juice, of course!

So for an art project, I decided to cut out a bunch of hearts and let the kids make their own animals. 

Supplies: Scissors, construction paper, glue sticks

I think pre-cutting the hearts is key. Even if your kids are older, having all the hearts at their fingertips allows them to start experimenting and playing with the shapes. 

Drew (8) was excited for the project. He really got the hang of it and created most of the pictures that we ended up with. 

The kids did a mixture of their own animals or trying to imitate animals from the book. I think either is fine! The imitating phase gave them confidence to try their own. 

Ella (4)  was enthusiastic as well. 

Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was doing pilates while I snapped these. Not true. 

She studied the book carefully to create a bunny that she liked.

Tessa (2) was also enthusiastic, mainly because there were glue sticks at her disposal. (Have I told you about her glue-stick-confusion? It's similar to nipple confusion in babies. Except that toddlers actually confuse chapstick with anything else in stick form that has a dial on the bottom that makes it come up. Oh yeah. There was a lot of glue around that girl's mouth, which is not near as gross as when I catch her with someone's deodorant. Yep... you can guess how that goes...)

Tessa, true to her bug phase, picked these.

Obviously, a collaboration. Me on design, Tessa on glue.
She supervised this one as well. Have I mentioned she LOVES spiders?

Isaac (who I did not manage to get a picture of) made a rabbit.

The yellow heart is the sun, blue hearts are clouds, the rest is a rabbit.
I liked that he made a bit of scenery on his. And even though there was a rabbit in the book, he didn't want to look at it. Which is fine! Again- the goal is inspiration and not imitation.

Side note: Isaac was fidgety this day and ready to be outdoors. He glued a few hearts and yelled "I'm done!" I urged him to sit down, take a little more time, and finish one picture well. "We finish what we start" has become a mantra for me to use with him. And then he really focused and gave it a go. I was proud of him. I could have forced him to do multiple animals, but it would have been for me not for him. Completing the one picture well was definitely him giving his best effort, and that's what I want.

So there you have it. Grab this book and enjoy. Personally, I am always touched by the page that says my heart is like "a hopeful heron fishing for a snack".

Hopeful...isn't that an excellent word to describe a heart? 

In the end, here was our kitchen wall...

...and we love it.

A few other random thoughts on art with kids...
  • I find that doing art makes them grateful and fills their tank a bit, so to speak. So one art project makes up for a few days of pushing hard in school. 
  • Don't compare. Avoid "best" and "better" and other language that implies a ranking. 
  • Celebrate effort. Celebrate individuality. Celebrate the creative spirit.  
On a side note, I've been reading Mona Brookes' Drawing with Children, and it's a goldmine, friends. In particular, I appreciate her explanation about the stages of art with kids (how kids move from abstract/symbolic to realistic), her tone of encouragement, and the way she modifies each concept to different levels so you can implement it with all ages. I'd highly recommend it on the early end of your homeschool journey because you could mine that for the rest of your life. And it will completely reshape the way you see yourself and your children as artists. 

On another side note, we don't do these things every day, or even every week. My goal is every other Friday for a project like this, with lots of drawing time available in between. So if you are homeschooling and this isn't coming together for you- that's OK. Let it be. It doesn't mean you aren't getting to good things. It doesn't mean you aren't developing your kids' creativity. It's just an idea, just a "Hey- try this!". Don't let it be anything more.

Well, I guess that's it for art around here. Catch you later!


Teresa said...

This is so great, Becky, and you are also implementing another good strategy for art and art-type activities: what to do with all that stuff we create!

An effective and easy answer is to take a picture of it. That way you can always look at it and you don't have to keep it.

It is especially fun when one of my children's art projects pops up on the monitor of our screensaver, and a big smile crosses their face when they remember making it. Also works great for whiteboard artists.

Thanks for sharing!

Nicole @ she-laughs said...

The girls LOVED seeing these!

Becky said...

Teresa- I like that idea of taking pictures. I usually only take a picture if I'm going to blog about it. But wouldn't it be so fun to make a coffee table book of all their art? The wheels are turning...

Nicole- Your little family would love this book. So glad they enjoyed the post.