3 Easy Ways to Teach the Arts with HistoryEmily Copeland
As homeschool parents, we often find ourselves so caught up in covering core subjects that we neglect to include the arts into our days. We mean well and would love to include a rich array of art-related offerings, but sometimes we run out of time and energy before our days even get going. That’s why it’s tempting to skip areas like art and music altogether.
Fortunately it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to choose between core subjects or arts. It’s easier than you may think to include the arts into your lessons from All American History or The Mystery of History. Here are a few ways to consider.
3 Easy Ways to Teach the Arts with History
1. Use the Arts to Study History
Study a time period and area through the lens of the art or music that came from it. In many ways, this allows you to step back in time and experience life through the eyes of someone who was living then and there. You can gain a lot of perspective this way because both art and music reflect the culture, political climate, and religious beliefs of a region and era.
To get a feel for these things through music, research the music of the time and place you are studying in history. Listen to the music you find and pay attention to the mood, movements, and tempo of the piece. When lyrics are available, discuss the feelings and perspective expressed through the songs. For documentation purposes, summarize these discussions on notebooking pages or create a playlist that can be accessed and referenced as needed throughout your homeschool year.
For art, research movements and popular artwork from the region and time period. Once your children have studied artwork from your chosen place and time, have them document their art observations in notebooks or on notebooking pages.
Need some help getting started? These posts about the art of America are a great example of researching artwork and artists from specific periods and listening to the stories they tell:
- First Nations People
- Colonial Art
- The Hudson River School
- The Civil War & Reconstruction
- The Gilded Age & American Impressionism
- The Early Twentieth Century – Cubism
- The Early Twentieth Century – Precisionism
- The Art of the Great Depression
- The Art of the Mid-Twentieth Century – Abstract Expressionism
- The Art of the Cold War Years
2. Use the Arts to Document History Lessons
What if you need to move beyond studying the arts and your children are primarily longing to get creative? In addition to or in lieu of copywork or notebooking pages at the end of each history lesson, have your students document what they’ve learned in a mixed media journal.
These journals can contain elaborate artwork or simple drawings that reflect your history lessons. Whether using chalk pastels, watercolors, or pencils, we’ve found this to be an easy way to make time for art without forfeiting core subjects like history. Just be sure to have your children include the date and lesson title somewhere on each page in the art journal. Keep in mind that the blank notebooking pages for The Mystery of History also work well for this.
You can also use WonderMaps to draw maps and do map art to help link history and geographical context. You can see how we’ve done that in this Watercolor Map Tutorial, but regardless of how you choose to include map art into your history lessons, you’ll find that the creative process leaves a lasting impression of the area you’re studying.
As for using music to document history lessons, you can approach this a couple of ways. One way is to have your child to write a song that summarizes your history lesson.
Another thought is to use the playlist idea mentioned earlier to create a set of songs that reflect the main point of the history lesson. You could also ask your children to select one song instead of an entire playlist. Either way, you’ll want to discuss their choices and encourage your students to document this music in notebooking pages or a notebook.
3. Do Artist and Composer Studies
Artist and composer studies are another easy way to include the arts with history because they help associate a name and legacy with specific points in history. There are lots of ways to approach this, but unit studies, living books, and documentaries work best in our homeschool.
If you find yourself unsure of how to get started with this, see my Claude Monet Unit Study and reading suggestions for learning about Monet. Both of these give an idea of how we approach artist study. Additionally, if you need help with composer studies, consider the Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers.
I hope you are able to see how easy it can be to incorporate the arts into history lessons. If you have other ideas for combining these in your homeschool, share them in the comments below. We would be grateful to learn from your experiences.