How to Teach Art to Different Ages at the Same Time

Art is an expression of the image of God in our lives. It is also a way of connecting with God. Through art, our children learn to observe the world around them, and in doing so they become aware of God—the Ultimate Artist—and His creativity. For this reason, if for no other, art should be a core element in every home school curriculum.

Art is one of the easiest subjects to teach to different ages at the same time. Unlike some other subjects (e.g., math, reading, etc.) in which the material must be tailored to the age/grade level of the student, it is possible to teach both art appreciation and art technique concurrently. The key is in allowing each child to interact with the material on his or her own level.

For example, suppose you are conducting an art appreciation class and studying Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. You might show the children a photo of the painting and perhaps read a few paragraphs about the artist, his troubled life, and so on. You could also read something about that particular painting and its history. Then ask your children for their feedback about the painting. You might ask younger children to comment on the colors. You could ask middle-school-age children to respond to Van Gogh’s painting style. Older teens could reflect on what the artist was trying to say in that particular painting and how his style might have been influenced by the problems in his life.

Art appreciation can be taught in a number of ways, and it is a great way to engage the entire family. The following are a few tips for building art appreciation into your daily or weekly home school routine:

Invest in a good art history book, preferably one that has color pictures. Work your way through that book week by week by selecting artists, paintings, and sculptures and showcasing an “artwork of the day.” Let each of your children tell what he does and does not like about the selected painting or sculpture. Take a minute or two to read a little about the artist. Keep the sessions brief. Fifteen to twenty minutes should be enough.

Using your art history book as a guide, search websites for more specific information on a particular artist or artistic style. You might select an artist of the week or artist of the month. Take a few minutes each day to look closely at one piece of work by that artist.
If you live near an art museum, make at least one field trip there near the end of your school year. Seek out works of art by some of the artists you have studied during the year.

In addition to art appreciation, a well-rounded art curriculum will include drawing, painting, and other creative activities, things that are also easy to do with multiple age groups. Simply allow the children to work at their own skill levels. If you are teaching sketching, for example, all of your children can draw the same object.

Begin by giving the children a simple object to draw, such as a coffee mug, instructing everyone to draw the same object at the same time. Surprisingly, in some cases younger children may draw better pictures than their older siblings. Avoid making negative comparisons between the various sketches. Challenge each child to improve on his own work.

The following are some tips for incorporating drawing lessons into your art program:

Set aside ten to fifteen minutes every day for drawing. Choose household objects with simple shapes and have the children practice drawing each object.

When the weather is nice, take sketching field trips. Give each child a sketchbook and a pencil, and go outside to find something to draw. Look for interesting trees, rocks, buildings, or anything that sparks the child’s interest.

Experiment with various media. Colored pencils, watercolors, and pastels are inexpensive media with which to encourage your children’s creativity. Arrange some fruit or other simple objects on a table, and have the children paint them.

The key is for children to enjoy the process. Drawing or painting soon becomes frustrating if expectations are set too high. By teaching children to observe and paint the world around them, you will cultivate an appreciation of not just art, but of the Creator who made art possible.