Heather’s note: Although this post is a couple of years old, I constantly have homeschooling families emailing me about art resources on a budget, so I have updated this post and added new links. Summer is the perfect time to spend extra time on subjects like art and music. Enjoy! ~~Heather
I teach art each week through our local USO. My classes have kids ages 6-12, and every lesson includes art appreciation and learning to look at art, art history, and techniques.
Each class is structured in about the same way. First, I show the kids a work of art and give them a chance to look at it. We talk about the picture and the things they noticed about it. Then, we talk about the Artist and their life, as well as the style of art.
We never talk for very long though, because the kids are always excited to dig right into the project. We never replicate the artist’s work exactly, but we do use it for inspiration and do something in the same style of the artist.
I don’t use a curriculum to come up with lesson plans for this classes. Homeschool Art programs are some of the most expensive homeschool products on the market, but you don’t have to have any of them to teach art, and teach it well.
These are some of my favorite resources for teaching art, and none of them cost more than 20 dollars:
Inspiration and Pictures to Study
When planning an art lesson, I always start with the work of art I want to focus on. Having a beautiful painting or sculpture helps inspire me to come up with lessons. I normally pick whatever sings to me that day. If we are studying a particular time period, or region, I may start looking there. I find my art in these places:
Google and Bing Images Search– You can search images for “famous artists” or something more specific like “art from the roman empire” or “French art”. Be careful here (some interesting, non-related pics may pop up) and have safe search on!
Art Authority App– This app is the coolest thing, and worth every penny I paid for it. You can explore the “museum” by time period, artist or style. You can also search by location, so if you live near a museum, the app can pull up works of art from your home museum. I found this really useful in prepping for field trips, because I could focus on learning about art I knew my kids would see, which made our field trip much more interesting!
Once I find the Art I am going to use for the lesson, I print off a copy of it on card stock using the largest version I can find with the best print setting my printer can do. I often print images from Wikipedia for our picture study. Many images have a creative common license or are open source so you can use them in your own homeschool. (some images are not legal to use- read fine print before saving them to your computer- I am not encouraging you to pirate images 🙂 )
Making Art Fun: this website has kid friendly artist bios, and some extras like project ideas and coloring sheets of famous works. I always check here first for artist information.
Biography.com this site has biographies for the lesser known artists, it is written to adults, not children, but can still be used to teach the kiddos. This one I pre-read and paraphrase the kid-appropriate stuff for my art class kids.
Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: This is a college level art history text. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s comprehensive and well written. It has lovely full color images, and is easy to read. The best part is, you can find used copies in great condition for a good price. I paid 10 dollars for mine shipped on Amazon, and it’s the resource I get the most use out of. The index is good, so I can look up a style, artist, and sometimes even a specific work to learn more about it. If you have a high schooler, I can’t recommend this text enough (I have the 2004 edition).
The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern: If Gardner’s isn’t your speed, this smaller, easier to read book is a good choice. The sections are small and quick to read, but it still covers everything from ancient to modern art.
I use these books to help me decide what it is I want to focus on for the lesson. It helps me see what is special about the artist or art movement, so I know what the kids should be focusing on. With older kids, I would have them read the selection for whatever artist/art movement you are studying. With younger kids, I do the reading, and then use that information to help me teach them more.
How to Teach Art to Children, Grades 1-6: This book is great for elementary age kids- I’d say 1-4th grade. It talks about the elements of art, like line, color, value and composition, and then gives you projects to reinforce that concept.
DK Art School: An Introduction to Art Techniques (DK Art School): For kids older than 4th grade, this book covers SO much. There are chapters for Drawing, Perspective, Watercolor, Pastels, Oil Painting, Acrylics, and Mixed Media. It covers the materials, how to use them, and gives ideas for projects. If you are only going to get ONE art book for all of school, this is the one I would recommend. It’s insanely inexpensive for what you get and will inspire and teach your child a huge amount.
Draw Write Now, Book 1-8: These How to Draw books are a huge hit with all my elementary art class kids. The books are themed for habitats, animals and history. They also include copy work sections so this would serve as art and handwriting practice.
(Ok, yes, the set costs more than 20, but ONE book is 10 bucks, so it still counts as cheap!)
I have posted a small amount of lessons we have done to see how I incorporate the above information into a lesson. I have so many more lessons than I have shared here, I really need to get on posting more of them!
Just Make Art
Even if you don’t want to dig into any of the above, you can still “do” art in your homeschool. All you need is some paper and supplies. Your child will learn and improve with experience, even without instruction. That’s the beautiful thing about art- there is no right and wrong. Some of the most loved artists became famous because they did something new and different. You can’t teach that!
Hand your child some supplies and stand back, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Do you like these ideas? Follow me on Pinterest for more Art and Homeschooling ideas!