I recently got a recommendation for an art teacher near us. Her prices are very reasonable, materials are included, all sound great. I couldn't swing this this year, in part because she mainly teaches school-aged kids and both my girls would have to go together.
If my girls were to be interested, would this be a good idea? They are 5 and 6.5 now. They haven't asked for them, but that wouldn't necessarily stop me from letting them know about it when the time comes.
Should I wait until they ask? Are there disadvantages to art instruction? Early art instruction? What can I look for to know whether this would be inspiring for them? Stifling? Frustrating? Should I stick with our own projects at home?
I can imagine many possibilities....
I had my eldest in an art class offered by a professional painter, art teacher and homeschooling dad in the area, back when she was about 5. This guy had a reputation for a very engaging style, was very charismatic and the kids loved him.
He did a lot of cartooning with the kids. They loved this. They worked with a variety of media. They learned to draw contours, to create perspective, draw lions and airplanes, paint in backgrounds, draw horizon lines, doodle with textures and so on. My daughter did a series of 8 classes and enjoyed them.
Then, about four years later, a local artist began offering art classes. I knew her socially and really liked her holistic philosophy. Without even really thinking about it, I registered my three older kids. They seemed keen enough.
These classes were SO AMAZING! My kids continued in them for three full years, until she stopped teaching them to pursue her own travel, educational upgrading and such. I've continued to beg her annually to start teaching again. She didn't "give art instruction." Instead she created an environment where the kids were inspired to see things differently, to experiment with the media and tools she was helping them learn to use, to develop their own ideas, their own sensibilities, to be able to talk about their thought processes, to appreciate art everywhere, to create and enact art everywhere. They were given just enough in the way of constraints that they were inspired to turn their thinking upside down and inside out and push at limits and assumptions. They were given just enough in the way of guidance and inspiration that they were able to generate their own ideas and move forward with them.
If I had it to do over again I would have kept my eldest out of that first "art instruction class." He wasn't teaching art. He was unwittingly teaching copying and emulating and conformity, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time. When you talk to "real artists" who have gone to art college and pursued careers, they talk a lot about spending time unlearning all their assumptions about how to do art, and getting back into the unconstrained creativity of childhood. I think they're talking about unlearning the sort of things this guy was teaching: how to do things right, in a way that pleases others and passes some sort of unspoken standard for prettiness and accuracy of execution, not make mistakes, not take risks.
A great art teacher is worth her weight in gold, but "how to do art" instruction is entirely the wrong approach, IMO. It can put the damper on a child's true creativity. Can you observe the classes and get a feel for how much "how-to" instruction is occuring, vs. how much supportive facilitation and inspiration?
The classes your friend offered are exactly what I would want. The other example is exactly what I'm afraid of. I would observe this class before even mentioning it to the girls. I'm excited that this lady is so close to us, as everything else is so far away, but I wouldn't go just for that reason.
I think there might be a perfect moment to introduce these kinds of classes, when or if a child starts to become unsatisfied with what they can create and might want to learn some new techniques to get them past that block. Perhaps at an older age they can see the difference between the two teachers for themselves.
I am an art facilitator, I worked with artists with disabilities for years, and that is how I did it. I facilitated, only, provided space, tools, books, media and my attention as well as backing them off and letting them discover. last winter I provided the same sort of experience for our homeschool group with fantastic results. One day I brought in found objects and they created sculptures for hours! I am now looking at providing more of these classes. Many art classes are results driven and a lot of parents and students really like this. But kids that are unschooled are used to having the freedom to explore and find their own answers. The results driven classes often cost an arm and a leg as well.
Early art is great for self determination skills, creative thought. but too much instruction can result in a child who feels cautious or stifled. But at about 9, kids get to a place where they crave more instruction, they become realists, and want to draw things right, instruction, child led is perfect beginning then.