A Review of “The Artful Parent”

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I have come to believe that art is not the “extra” we were taught it to be in public school. Educators today assign great significance to the “three R’s,” science, and social studies, relegating art, music, and P.E. to a Netherland of optional study. For example, in the state in which we used to live in, parents prove they are providing instruction in the five “core” subjects and no mention is made of art or music. Foundationally, it is a godless system of learning that values “utilitarian” subjects over creative endeavors. Yet, in which disciplines do we most display the image of God? I believe in creating art and music we best reflect our Creator.

In the OH curriculum, you see our love of art in our continual use of well-illustrated picture books and our study of historic artists. We encourage children to explore art supplies and methods. We value the efficiency of homeschooling which allows for more unstructured time to explore and learn independently. Even the layout of our daily lesson plans displays our love of beauty and order. We believe art is very important to our children.

There are many reasons to make art a priority in your family. Art:

  • Promotes active learning
  • Introduces real-life experiences and materials
  • Includes many disciplines (Activities such as science experiments, nature walks, baking, hospitality, and more all include artful elements.)
  • Provides a foundation for other subjects (Jean Van’t Hul says, “Educators tell us that art encourages fine motor skills, neural development, and problem-solving abilities and that it can be used effectively to teach and understand other key subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science.” I would add history and social studies to this list.)
  • Fuels other active learning activities (Consider sorting and counting dyed pasta, creating relief maps from playdough, practicing math problems with sidewalk chalk, etc.)

In this vein, Jean Van’t Hul’s The Artful Parent stuck a deep chord in me. The Artful Parent promotes an exploratory approach to art, not step-by-step craft activities. It is more than a collection of art activity ideas, although Van’t Hul includes those. It exemplifies a philosophy, an approach to parenting and learning that puts relationship at the center, the parent’s relationship with the child, child with parent, child to the world around him, and child to himself.

It is the best collection of practical “how to’s” I have seen so it makes a thorough, useful resource to keep close at hand. I appreciated the practical tips and sidebar information sprinkled throughout. As you might expect (although this is not always true of art-with-children books), the book is a visual feast, especially if you enjoy seeing children in action doing art. It avoids the pitfall of waxing eloquently and theoretically, yet the book has a great deal of substance on the importance of art. It is also the work of a busy mom with small children, so it is realistic and practical on mess making and cleanup and what to do with completed art work.

Removing art from the center of the curriculum removes much of the joy of learning. Living an artful life is embracing a life “full of art, beauty, and creativity.”

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