So often in our homeschool, art and art history become an afterthought. We’ll get to it once we finish math and edit the writing assignment. We tell ourselves art rarely pays the bills, and they need to focus on a STEM field. We believe art history for kids is suitable only as an extra.
But perhaps we need to adjust our thinking and realize that life isn’t an either/or premise. Maybe our child could be a scientist AND an artist. Isn’t this one of the reasons Leonardo da Vinci is so revered?
The true purpose of arts education is not necessarily to create more professional dancers or artists. It’s to create more complete human beings who are critical thinkers, who have curious minds, who can lead productive lives. ~Kelly Pollack
Our efforts to infuse our homeschools with art history isn’t necessarily with the belief that our children will be professional artists. Perhaps it’s to show them how every subject is intertwined. When we study art and its history, with our children we’re showing them how art can lead to history, culture, geography, and even math and science.
This is a sponsored post by Art History Kids. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view. This post also contains affiliate links, you can find my Disclosure Policy here.
10 Ways to Introduce Art History to Your Kids
1 | Art History Kids
I don’t have a degree in art, finance actually, and I have a contentious relationship with art education based on my own experience in school. Luckily, I have grown to love art as an adult and marvel at its crucial role in history that our utilitarian culture often ignores.
Luckily, there are programs like Art History Kids that allow even this business major mom to include art history in her homeschool.
Art History Kids Studio is a subscription covering a different art history topic each month. Every month you are given the tools to make art history fun and simple. Open-ended questions and projects encourage creativity and curiosity, while also connecting art to history and culture.
Our most recent unit introduced us to Vassily Kandinsky, an artist about which I previously knew nothing. I’ve never been a fan of modern art, but Kandinsky may convert me. I enjoyed being introduced to his work through Art History Kids.
A membership to Art History Kids Studio includes several benefits, such as:
- Lessons plans you can print or view on a device (or even cast to your TV)
- Access to the previous six months of lessons
- Planning pages and a printable calendar
- Private Facebook community
- Code to unlock a previous bundle every month
- 25% discount on other Art History Kids products
You can also sign up for their free helpful planner to organize your art activities for the upcoming year. Lack of preparation is often one of the biggest obstacles when attempting to include art in our homeschools. Take advantage of the free guide and do a little planning, so you have the materials and books on hand.
2 | Visit Museums
Another way to introduce art history for kids is to visit museums. Now I know what you’re thinking, your child would never want to go to an art museum. Call me crazy, but I think they’ll enjoy it more than you think.
Visiting museums is one of my favorite things to do, especially when traveling. We’ve visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe and the Barnes Foundation in Philidelphia. We’ve toured the National Gallery of Art and the High Museum in Atlanta.
Check your local museums and see what temporary exhibits they may have scheduled. We went to the High Museum when they were holding an Eric Carle exhibit. The familiar picture book artist was the perfect excuse to take my six children to the museum and not have any complaints.
However, I realize not everyone lives near or can travel to a museum, and we certainly can’t travel to all the notable museums of the world. Fortunately, technology allows us to see many museums and famous works from the comfort of our home.
3 | Around the World Stories
Around the World Stories are fun and interesting for the whole family. Their famous artist collection features six stories about:
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Claude Monet
- Pablo Picasso
- Georiga O’Keefe
- Vassily Kandinsky
With these original audio stories, you will learn who they were and what inspired their work. Around the World Stories also has many informative links, book recommendations, and learning ideas to go with each artist.
4 | Display Art in Your Home
Another way to introduce art history to your kids is to display art in your home for them to discover and enjoy. Art doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, and you can have a revolving exhibit in your home for very little investment.
Every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination . . . At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold. ~ Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 43
With this idea in mind, think of different ways you can add those great masters in your child’s imagination. With the resources we have today, this is more easily done than ever before.
- Buy calendars featuring artwork and trim the pages for display
- Find old coffee table books at the thrift store and use the photos
- Search CreativeCommons.org for images in the public domain and print
- Use postcards to display or for art study
- Create a PowerPoint for the artist you’re studying and cast it to your television for the entire family
- Add artwork as your computer’s screen saver
Whatever method you use, make a point of introducing your child to famous works. They might not remember them by name, but they will become familiar with artists in a way that will serve them throughout life.
5 | Create an Art History Timeline
You can create a timeline for anything, from inventions to world history, so why not create a timeline specifically for art history? Don’t know where to start? The “dummies” website has a good, basic timeline that will provide a starting point.
I also love the inclusion of chief artists, major works, and historical events for each period. I’ve searched and searched for an art history timeline game, and it looks like I need to get on it because there is a definite void in this area.
Luckily, we’re homeschoolers and adept at DIY! Make your own:
- Create a label for each period on the timeline and then sort your artwork into its respective period.
- You could also pull out 10-20 postcards and see if you line them up chronologically.
- Create your timeline with my art history pack.
6 | Art History Lessons with a Twist
Another option for diving deep into Art History with your kids is the amazing Mixing the Master’s courses from Masterpiece Society.
Mixing the Masters is a two-volume course that will give you and your kids a fun, hands-on way to connect with the old masters and some of their most famous works.
Each volume contains lessons on 6 artists with 3 art challenges each for a total of 18 projects.
- Leonardo da Vinci – High Renaissance
- Rembrandt van Rijn – Baroque
- Claude Monet – Impressionism
- Vincent van Gogh – Post-Impressionism
- Pablo Picasso – Cubism
- Georgia O’Keeffe – American Modernism
- Albrecht Durer – High Renaissance
- Johannes Vermeer – Baroque
- Edgar Degas – Realism & Impressionism
- Mary Cassatt – Impressionism
- Paul Cezanne – Post-Impressionism
- Henri Matisse – Fauvism
But the Mixing the Master’s course includes more than art instruction. Each course includes a short biographical video on each artist, a PDF study guide, printable patterns and templates, inspirational quotes by each artist, and suggested books, videos, and websites for further learning.
7 | Use Video and Open Courses Online
Another easy way to bring art into your homeschool is using something you already have at your fingertips, the internet. Videos and open courses online are available for virtually any art topic you can imagine.
Older kids and mom could get lost watching videos on the Smarthistory YouTube channel. If you prefer a more scheduled, chronological study of art history, Khan Academy offers a free course utilizing Smarthistory videos that would be great for a high schooler.
If you’d like to pursue a little “awesome adulting,” this article lists ten free, online courses in art history ranging from Roman art and architecture to fashion as design.
A quick search will yield endless videos and courses to explore in your art studies.
8 | Visit the Library
The number of fantastic picture books covering art history for kids is astounding. There is no shortage of fun and thoughtful books to bring the world of art to life in your homeschool.
A longstanding favorite with my children is the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists,” by Mike Venezia. We love the comic-inspired illustrations and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue.
However, these are just the beginning. My newest addition is Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories by Michael Bird, which is a marvelous book specifically about art history for kids. It begins with cave paintings and ends with contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. It also features a world map and timeline.
You can also find picture books about specific artists such as Through Georgia’s Eyes, Action Jackson, and Linnea in Monet’s Garden. Whatever period or artist you are studying, there is sure to be an interesting book to choose.
9 | Play an Art Game or Puzzle
I didn’t find a timeline game, but other games make a great addition to art history study.
And if you’re looking for a family board game to include in your art history studies, there are a couple of beauties. In the game Fresco, players are Renaissance painters hired to restore a cathedral ceiling. History and art! Philanthropist also sounds fascinating and provides an interesting and fun way to learn about famous works.
Puzzles can also be a fun addition to art appreciation with a wide range of difficulty for the entire family. This Brainwright Puzzle Blox contains 130 cubes that will configure six different paintings. Pomegranate is my favorite puzzle maker and they have several art puzzles by:
10 | Prioritize Art Appreciation
The secret to success incorporating art history into your homeschool is your mindset. Is it a priority and is it something you consider valuable?
Art doesn’t have to be an “extra-curricular” you add on after all the “real work” of homeschooling is done. It is an integral part of a well-rounded education and expands the knowledge a person can draw upon throughout their life.
Art History for Kids Doesn’t Have to Be Boring
Art history is anything but boring! It’s full of mystery, political upheaval, and mythology.
Why is it believed to be boring by so many? Because it has been made into a game of memorization and fill-in-the-blank tests.
However, when we live a life of learning with our children, art becomes so much more. It isn’t just a stuffy topic for a chosen few, it’s for all of us to consider and enjoy.