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Kids need art class, even if you have to teach it yourself at home

Art is a crucial component of any well-rounded education. Unfortunately it’s also a common casualty when schools must pare their operating budgets. Given the fact that art literacy can positively impact a child’s performance in nearly every academic subject, what can parents do if their students receive little or no arts education?

They can provide supplementary arts education in their own homes! While this may seem like a daunting prospect, here are four easy ways to expose your child to the vast world of art.

1. Stock your home with books

Books, both fiction and nonfiction, can serve as an excellent introduction to creative writing as well as to music, performing arts and visual arts. If your student is young, consider checking out or purchasing a picture book like The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. Picture books can introduce a child to famous artists, key traits like creativity and wonderful museums. Older students can explore art through artist biographies or short texts about specific movements or techniques. In both cases, read with your child; discuss your favorite passages, clarify any misunderstandings that arise and so on.

2. Visit local art museums

While large cities like Chicago and New York boast world-famous art museums, you need not travel that far to supplement your student’s arts education. Even a small museum that is dedicated to one artist, one technique or one time period can help your child form a clearer vision of what “art” means. For example, unique museums like the Corning Museum of Glass (in Corning, New York) can prompt your student to redefine and expand her understanding of this term. Whenever possible, link your reading material to your museum visits. This way, your child can visualize (and at some museums, even touch) what she has previously encountered in print.

3. Observe artists at work

The 21st century provides us with a wealth of opportunities to watch artists at their craft. From metalsmithing demonstrations to public artist-in-residence arrangements, such opportunities can shed light on art as an occupation. For instance, if your student enjoys dance, why not open your browser to YouTube and watch a professional ballet rehearsal? Videos like those by the Royal Ballet (in London, England) also cast art as a lifelong learning pursuit. In addition, in-person opportunities to watch artists work often include a question-and-answer component. Who better to answer your child’s inquiries than the artist him- or herself?

4. Create a craft corner

Your craft corner can be as simple or elaborate as you like, depending on the space and budget available to you. Any flat surface will suffice, and the following items are all excellent objects to include: construction paper, crayons, drawing paper, fabric, modeling clay, pencils (both colored and regular), small musical instruments (e.g., tambourines) and watercolor paint. Just as you read together, you can certainly make art together, but allow your student’s craft corner to be a space where she can follow her imagination freely. Chances are, you will find her incorporating elements of your field trips and readings without outside prompting.

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