Why art is important
Art is rarely given the importance it deserves, either in traditional classrooms or in homeschool programs. It is crowded out in public schools by the emphasis on standardized testing, and parents and educators often see it as less relevant to success in the job market than other subjects.
We believe this view is outdated. As over ever more logic-based tasks are automated, creativity and a sense of aesthetics will increasingly take precedence over technical skills. Whether working for a company or as entrepreneurs or freelancers, professionals are expected to add value by creating beauty and innovation within their chosen field.
The skills of observation, creativity and artistic appreciation that are developed through a systematic study of art also enrich life outside of work. Most students will not grow up to be professional painters, but a thorough grounding in art will cause them to see the world and experience life differently.
Finally, most children look forward to art, and including plenty of time for it will enhance their enjoyment of education.
A skills-based approach
Many of us think that art is a talent-dependent endeavor, that some people are naturally "artistic" and others are not. A related misconception is that since art is a form of self-expression, students should be given art supplies and left to their own devices with minimal formal instruction.
The truth is that art, like any other subject, is a skill that must be learned through instruction and practice. With systematic instruction and practice, any student will become capable of drawing and painting realistically.
The first art book in our curriculum, Drawing With Children, is based on this insight and includes many impressive works by children and adults who initially believed that they lacked artistic talent.
The visual art curriculum
Our curriculum uses the Artistic Pursuits course series for elementary and middle-school art. The elementary grade courses are organized around a chronological survey of art history, combined with art projects inspired by the historical works of art studied. The middle grade courses focus on the technical aspects of one type of visual art, such as pencil drawing, painting and sculpture.
Each lesson includes a brief video, an art history reading and a project. We recommend allowing plenty of time for the art project. Creative work is best done in longer stretches, and the hour allocated to art classes by traditional school schedules is not enough, at least for older children who wish to do more in-depth work. Rather than many short sessions, we suggest setting aside one or two half-days each week for art projects.