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Unexpected Gifts

By Maryann Turner
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #20, 1997.

How to help your children gain a love for art and music and an eye and an ear for beauty.
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Maryann Turner

Stop! Look! Listen! God surrounded Himself - and us - with beauty. After the miracle of Creation, He said, "It is good." In appreciation for the many gifts we have been given, I feel that enjoying those gifts is the most gratifying act we can do in honor of the vast beauty of it all.

Sometimes we get so mired down in the "ugly" that we fail to take the extra steps necessary to teach our children to soak in the wonders of creation . . . the sights . . . the sounds. Obviously, we are not all classical musicians or talented artists, but we all have been given the gift of wonder. We can wonder at the vastness of the world in front of us. We can wonder at the miraculous depth of every single creation. We can wonder at the design of even the smallest detail. That wonder should be instilled in our children. We should teach them to look, hear, and celebrate life.

Growing Your Gifts

Art and music are gifts that can be nurtured in our children, so that they flourish and grow. First we need to reflect upon our own choices of how we choose to use the talents God has given us. To encourage our children to enjoy music or learn to play an instrument, we need to show them the importance of music in our lives. The same thing can be said about art. If they see us enjoy the artistic beauty around us - whether it's musical, on a canvas or simply the colors of the sky on an autumn day - they will come to appreciate the liveliness of what they hear and see. Imitation is a great teacher!

Once the interest is sparked, homeschooling gives us many opportunities to arrange lessons for a child with interests in art or music. There are a variety of ways to accomplish the feat of teaching art and music, but first the desire has to be there. For us, private music lessons have been a great outlet for our children's musical talents. There are many self-teaching music programs and videos available, but our children like the one-on-one, personalized instruction they get from their piano teacher. Of course, some parents are very capable of teaching their own children to play a variety of instruments.

And let's not leave out singing and choir! Many churches have choir available for our youngsters, and in most areas there are organized choir classes for homeschoolers. The opportunities for a variety of music experiences are usually at our fingertips.

But the love of music should start when they are babies! Sing, laugh, play, and enjoy music with them when they are small; and they will always remember the joy associated with the sound. You don't have to possess a wonderful voice to impress your child . . . in fact, many giggles can be brought forth with a voice like mine!

Art and music fit in the same mold. Children should first see the beauty around them, and learn to appreciate it. Charlotte Mason gave wonderful advice. Let them draw what they see! Encourage them to express their feelings in sketches, watercolors, pastels, and all the other avenues available to them. Let art become personal to them before you try to teach them about the art of the past.

Artful Miss Sharon

We were so blessed by a very special lady that lived in our community. She was a wonderfully talented artist. She was battling cancer and unable to continue her very busy schedule, so she offered to teach our children art. Yet she taught them so much more than art! She took them into the fields to sketch what they saw. She brought the wonders of nature inside for them to watercolor. She talked about creation and God's design, and she taught them to respect life and God's plan. She told them of the things she had experienced in her lifetime. She took them places with her wonderful stories. Places that they had never been before. She even taught them to rescue box turtles from the middle of the road.

She was very special and unique, and I feel God brought her into our lives for many reasons. They learned things about art that I never could have taught them. But more importantly, they learned lessons about life, and unfortunately death, that only Miss Sharon could have told them in her own words. We lost Miss Sharon a few months ago, and it was a very sad experience for our children; but the lessons she taught the children will last a lifetime.

I share this with you to encourage you to look at all the possibilities for bringing fresh ideas into your homeschool, because God does bless us in unexpected ways. Now when we read about great artists or see a reproduction of a great painting, the children smile and remember their dear friend. Their appreciation and respect for all of God's gifts grew enormously with this experience in their lives.

The best way to teach art and music is to live it. Immerse your life in it instead of making it a separate subject. Enjoy it! It's contagious! After all, you can look all around you to see God's canvas, and just listen to the birds to hear God's composition! As Miss Sharon would say, "You have to feel the color. You have to be part of your picture."

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