Marketing expert Seth Godin once made this observation about motivation: “If it’s work, we try to figure out how to do less; if it’s art, we try to figure out how to do more.”
This concept can be beautifully applied to many areas of life, including homeschool. In fact, if we think of much of the drudgery or busy work that we might associate with school—like comprehension questions, multiple-choice tests, watered-down textbook synopses of otherwise great literature—we can see that those things feel like work. The same (or better) learning objectives can be achieved with an approach that feels more like art.
When homeschool feels like art, the student is more engaged, their curiosity is sparked, their talents and skills are employed, and their motivation to dive deeper and go further arises, leading to true learning that lasts a lifetime.
Making your homeschool an artistic endeavor means more focus, more joy, and more actual education. Here are a few simple and practical ways to make homeschool work more like art.
Choose Your Own Report
In school, a teacher may have students write out answers to “reading comprehension” questions to prove that they’ve read and understood, say, a book. In homeschool, it may be more enjoyable to have the student write a book report. To make it even more like art, however, why not share your objective with your child: “I want you to communicate what the book was about to the rest of the family so that we understand.” Then allow them to choose the way in which they present that to you. They might paint a picture, create an infographic, record a song, create a video, or have their favorite stuffed animals reenact the main ideas of the plot. A medium of their choosing will motivate them to make it great and have fun while doing so.
Maintain a Scrapbook
As part of regular homeschool practice, maintain an ongoing scrapbook of the things you’ve studied and places you’ve been. Not only will you create a treasured childhood keepsake, you’ll encourage a creative way to summarize the education that’s taking place.
Travel Down the Rabbit Hole
While curriculum and structure can be helpful in homeschool, so too can loosening the reins and allowing ample time to explore and tinker with different areas of genuine interest. A luxury homeschoolers can uniquely enjoy is the freedom to dive deep into topics that a student genuinely wishes to explore. Whether that's birdwatching or oil painting, cars or calligraphy, Legos or ballet, the ability to take the time and space to understand and even master a concept or skill is priceless. It’s in doing so that time stands still and the student can experience being “in the zone.” It feels very much like art, and it’s where true learning and development happen.
Create an Art Gallery
Encourage creativity by displaying creations prominently and keeping art supplies of all kinds within reach. The impetus to doodle while listening to a story read aloud, the inspiration to trace and label a map of newly discovered places, and the wish to dabble in watercolors, pastels, clay, or other media can all be encouraged and supported fully in homeschool. A willingness on the part of the parent to toss aside plans to make way for such inspiration to bloom is key. Though so many adults lose sight of it, everyone has an artist inside waiting to come out.
Hold on to the importance of play even as your kids get older. Incorporating games into your homeschool is a simple way to do that and enhances the creative mind. What’s more, you can get everyone outside to engage in a sport or simple game of, say, kickball just for fun. Younger children will need little encouragement to play and should be given the space and opportunity needed to do so daily. A key element to fostering a sense of free, creative play that engages the mind and imagination is reducing the amount of time spent on screens as much as possible.
Rather than fully prescribed writing assignments at all times, ensure that your children are free to write and doodle whatever they wish regularly. One way to do this is to encourage regular engagement with a personal journal. Encourage kids to make it all their own and allow them to put whatever they want in there. Stickers, fun pens, and other art supplies can further encourage creativity and engagement. Establishing the habit of journaling is something that can be of benefit for a lifetime.
Let Freedom Ring
Ultimately, when your children display the motivation to create or to dive deep, let them. Remember why you’ve chosen this path and maintain the wisdom to recognize the educational benefits of tinkering, exploring, playing, doodling, making, creating, and sometimes what looks like goofing around. You’ll continually grow in wisdom about where to draw the line between fostering helpful structure and personal responsibility while allowing the freedom to let that beautiful spirit inside your child to dream, dawdle, think, and become.