Why I'm an Art Guide and Not a Teacher

I'm a graphic designer... and I've never had any formal training on how to be an educator.

But, I've been homeschooling 2 kids for 5 years, so I'm somewhat of an expert on 1:1 (or 1:2 in our case) education.

Like most new homeschool moms, I started homeschooling with images of traditional school in mind, and that's the way I introduced schoolwork. Later I learned the secret to guiding, and our homeschool transformed into something so much better.

Art Projects for Kids. How to encourage critical thinking and creativity.


Confession time... for me, teaching (in a traditional way) is so boring. Maybe it's because my kids are definitely NOT auditory learners, but when it's just me sitting there and talking about whatever subject we're studying – my kids just don't connect to the material, and they definitely don't get excited (which is always my ultimate goal).

Guiding on the other hand? This approach is fascinating! When we begin a new topic and I'm a guide, my kids are interested, engaged, and they remember what we learned about. Sure, we may not end up where a textbook might have led us, but who says textbooks have all the answers? (Another confession: I usually end up learning just as much – if not more – than the kids!)

Guiding kids rather than teaching (especially in art) produces some pretty spectacular outcomes:

  • It encourages original thought and critical thinking skills

  • It strengthens their observational skills (they see more, and differently than kids who are "taught" in a traditional way)

  • It improves communication skills (and as a byproduct, even improves relationships!)

  • It enhances creativity

  • Kids are more interested in the material

  • Kids feel respected and appreciated

  • Kids build their confidence

So how does guiding kids through an art lesson work? It's easy! Begin by shifting your mindset and your expectations, stay open to change, and be willing to go with the flow. Then:

  1. I usually start with 1-3 main concepts I want to cover. But I keep them in my back pocket until later.

  2. Introduce kids to the art. Just show it to them. Don't say anything. Give them plenty of time just to look and think. Don't rush. Start a conversation, but let your kids do 90% of the talking. (This is where kids form their initial impression of the art, and they learn how to translate those thoughts into words as you discuss the art.)

  3. Once kids have said everything they'd like to say, THEN you can hint at one of your main concepts you wanted to cover. Try to phrase it in a way where it leads your kids to make the discovery on their own.

  4. Talk about that for a while.

  5. Repeat with the next concept... but gauge your kids' interest. It's so much better to leave them wanting more, than to cover an artist's life story and completely overwhelm your kids. Less is more. You can always come back later to review and add on to what you learned.

  6. Finish up with an invitation for your kids to create something inspired by that artist. They don't need to copy it (unless they want to). They might be inspired by the artist's choice of subject matter, their technique, or their color palette. Let the art activity be open-ended so your kids are free to explore.

In this approach you'll lead and direct, but never show and tell. And, in doing so, you'll give your kids an amazing gift! The gift of allowing them to formulate their ideas and their vision before they hear all of the background and educational information. These ideas can enhance their learning later, but let them build on the initial foundation of your kids' own thoughts (rather than replacing them).

Try it out, and see what you and your kids think!

Once you've implemented these ideas, let's connect! Join our fun and friendly Facebook group to chat, and be sure to pop in and post your kids' art on instagram and tag me so I can oooh and aaaah over their masterpieces! @arthistorykids #arthistorykids

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