It’s a common complaint – “We just never seem to get to art”. If something has to go in the day it’s usually Art for us too. However I’d like to share a couple of suggestions that have helped me find time for Art.
Firstly, I plan to do Art. I don’t just write “Art” into our timetable and hope to figure out the details later. I actually select a project that we’ll do. There are sooooo many great Art ideas online. Just Google an art teacher’s blog and you’ll hit the jacketpot, especially if they have a list of their favourite inspiring blogs in their sidebars. I usually spend some time over the Christmas holidays (my longest school holiday break) printing our favourite Art projects. These are slotted into plastic sleeves and put into my “Art Ideas Folder”. So when I’m selecting an Art project to do I just have to flip through my folder and make a selection or I can have the boys do it.
Secondly I trick my lazy-side into doing Art. You see the biggest hurdle for me is actually starting the project. You have to pull all of the stuff out of the cupboard, prepare everything and get started. There are a dozen points in this process where I can find an excuse not to do Art. So I bamboozle my brain. I set up the project well before we plan to start it. That way, when my brain begins to grumble (and it will), I can tell it, “We’re not doing Art yet, I’m just getting the stuff out”. Laying out all of the stuff we’ll need, for some reason, isn’t as daunting a task when that is all I have to do. Brains are bizarre things.
The bonus of laying out the Art supplies is that the children will see them and kids love Art. So now you’ve committed and there’s no backing out, even if you wanted to. The kids are now excited about Art and you’ll have to face a revolt if you cancel it. In some cases they may even hustle along in their work or chores to start Art more quickly.
Thankfully, since the supplies are all prepared, it’s not as hard to get started now, especially since the kids are laying the plastic tablecloths down for you (a gentle hint to hurry along) and sitting eagerly at the table with their smocks on.
I also find it nice to sit down with the children and do Art with them. They love when I join in and I find it easier to instruct them when I’m working on the same project with them.
Doing Art with the kids requires a little training over time to make it an enjoyable experience. They must listen to instructions and there is to be no unnecessary mess (ie. As soon as you start painting yourself or everything but the paper, Art is over!). Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine if the paint drips here and there, the water spills or tiny pieces of cut paper scatter all over the floor, but I draw the line at mess created by silliness. For Art to be enjoyable there has to be an element of control over the situation and some self-control from the children. I think it helps if messier Art happens often. It gives the children a chance to learn how to behave appropriately and helps us come up with ideas for overcoming the challenges.
If evading your lazy-side doesn’t work, try planning Art lessons with another family. Perhaps take turns presenting the lesson. When you are committed to giving an Art lesson once a week or fortnight you have no option but to get on with it. Otherwise you’ll have not only your disappointed children to content with but extras too. Plus there’s something motivating about preparing lessons for others. Keep the group small though. Ideally I would pick one other family to work with. I’m not a huge fan of large co-ops, at least not the ones I’ve experienced in Australia.
Having a well stocked Art supply cupboard also helps Art happen more regularly. There’s no bigger obstacle than not having what you need on hand and having to go to the store to hunt it down. Not everyone’s Art supply cupboard is going to contain quite as much as mine (mine’s grown from leftovers of years of teaching and also organising Art co-ops with groups) however there are ways to overcome the obstacle. You could select one type of Art project to focus on all term, perhaps watercolour painting. Then at the beginning of the term you’d just need to stock up on watercolour paper, brushes and watercolour paints (avoid the ones designed for children, they are awful!). With the vast amount of ideas on the Art blogs, I guarantee you won’t get bored with just the one medium.
Another tip to help you fit in Art is to remove it from school time. I agree that the 3Rs are more important than Art. In fact I’d put Art pretty close to the bottom of my list of priorities too. However, if it’s not competing with the important stuff, there seems to be a greater chance of it happening. I’ve thought of making Art a weekend project and I have dabbled with including Art into our holidays rather than our school term. I particularly like this idea. In two weeks of school holidays I could, conceivably, fit in more Art projects than I normal get to in a whole 10 week term. This is something I’ll be trying out more over our long end of year break.
Finally, to compensate for the times when I do get lazy, I’ve purchased Mark Kistler’s online Art lessons. They are fantastic!! And the bonus is that I don’t need to prepare anything and my boys love the lessons (so do I…of course I join in!). As we head to the computer we each collect our Art journal, a pencil and eraser and plonk ourselves in front of the screen ready for some great instruction. Obviously, you don’t have to purchase a subscription like we did, but maybe a simple backup plan will ensure that the children receive some sort of artistic outlet a couple of times in their twelve years of schooling. It’s certainly working for me.
If all else fail, encourage the children to get creative on their own. Provide a good variety of inspiring materials and permission to raid the supplies. 🙂
Where there’s a will, there’s gotta be a way.