When I was in seventh grade, we were all assigned a different country to learn about and present back to the class. The presentation itself required more than just a standard book report. It required us to combine art and academics. We had to create a salt dough map, and then use the map to guide the class around our assigned country.  I was given Italy and spent days preparing for my presentation and painting that map. Twenty years later, I still know more about Italian geography than any other country in the world outside my own.

I share this example, because my guess is, you likely have one too from your own school experience. The diorama, the science fair presentation, or that one cool teacher who let you create a project instead of submitting a written report – when we think of them now, we smile, and we actually remember what we learned

This illustrates perfectly the power of using art to aid academic learning.

Why Combine Art and Academics?

Adding art to a more formal learning assignment has two essential benefits for learners.

  1. It creates a multi-sensory experience.
  2. Creativity leads to ownership.
You Are An Artist combines art and academics with lessons designed to foster creativity and a multi-sensory approach for effective learning. 

Art and Academics with Multi-sensory Learning

Multi-sensory learning is typically defined as an approach to learning that uses more than one sense (seeing, hearing, touching, doing).

Research has repeatedly shown that this type of learning is far more successful, because it allows the child to access the information in different ways.

“… when we engage in creative activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain in ways that a drug can change the neurochemistry of our brain.” Kelly Lambert,  neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.

This is one of the reasons why I Drew It and Then I Knew It lessons work so well for my son. 

The audio of Nana’s instruction, the visual input from the computer screen and from the colors as my child paints, as well as the obvious tactile experience of holding the chalk and blurring the lines on the page – all work together to create a seamless, multi-sensory experience for my son. This type of multisensory learning leads to greater comprehension and retention for all children, and especially those who have learning differences.

Creativity Increases Ownership

When we create something, anything, it requires a certain level of commitment from us. The same is true of our children. It forms a much more personal relationship to what is being learned and goes far beyond what a simple worksheet or quiz can provide.

This increased ownership is another contributor to the increased retention and comprehension we see when we add art to academic learning. It’s one of the reasons why we all remember what we learned from those more creative assignments back in school.

Adding Art To Academics in Our Homeschool

As homeschoolers, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create these types of learning experiences all the time. Rather than just the one or two projects I remember from my school days, I am excited to incorporate this type of approach into our learning as much as possible.

Here is a recent example from my own home:

  1. My son saw a hummingbird outside and we decided to learn more.
  2. We read a book together about birds.
  3. We watched a  video online about hummingbirds.
  4. We added an element of creativity with You Are An Artist Chalk Pastel Bird Study,
  5. As my son created his picture, we listened to Nana talking about hummingbirds and we reviewed what we’d learned.

It may seem simple, and I guess it is. But the truth is, my son has comprehended and retained this learning far more than had we just completed the chapter in his science book.

You Are An Artist is an easy and incredibly effective way to combine art and academics in our homes. The lessons are designed to foster the ownership creativity brings, along with the multi-sensory approach that stimulates more effective learning. 

What a wonderful and seamless way to incorporate art into our academic learning.

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Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned writer, speaker and consultant. She is also a homeschooling mom of two brilliant boys with differences and special needs.  Shawna has written four books for parents – Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos and her latest, Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. She helps parents of children with learning differences, behavioral challenges and special needs every day at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.

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