It doesn’t seem like that long ago when my children were finishing up their schoolwork and looking forward to a change of routine in the summer. I remember preparing for our time off of “regular” school—trying to find a balance between planned activities and down time for our summer break. I did this for my kids, but I also did it for me. I needed some time to unwind and clear my mind in preparation for the school year ahead.
One summer I had the idea of asking neighborhood moms and kids if they would like to come over once a week for art. When I initially relayed this to my children, I think it was met with some eye rolls and something like, “Mom, they will not want to do that.” Our neighborhood has twenty-one houses in it. It was a mixed bag of schooling choices at the time with several families participating in public school, two in different private schools, and us—the sole homeschoolers.
To the shock of my kids, most of the families we asked said they would love to participate. I think that we typically had ten children and four moms participate.
The library has a large selection of books about art for kids. There are also free art lessons available online. I really enjoy “20 Art Projects for Kids” here at It’s Always Autumn – creative tutorials for everyday life and “36 Elementary Art Lessons” at Happiness is Homemade.
Even with all of the amazing resources, we ended up using the same materials that my kids had used over the years for their art classes in homeschooling. We had run across a curriculum called Atelier that had various levels. Most of the projects were very vibrant and interesting—and things that my kids didn’t mind repeating. Permanent black pens, large white construction paper, paintbrushes, and tempera paint were the common items needed for the completion of most lessons.
Our gathering spot was either our kitchen/dining area or outside on a picnic table in the shade. After I explained the lesson and showed examples, the kids quickly went to work. I often laughed to myself thinking I was glad I was not an art teacher. The kid, including my own, often created work that was completely different from the lesson.
It was also commonplace for the children to only use a tiny section of their paper for their drawings or to press too hard with their pencils making erasing next to impossible if needed—two big no-no’s in a typical art class. I could see where this would have been a headache if someone had to assign grades. The plus for me is that I didn’t have to assign grades. My only requirements were for the kids to just be kind and help clean up when we ended.
I gave them tips and suggestions before and while working and let them create at their comfort level. Moms often participated too. Not only were we completing art projects, but we were laughing and talking with each other along the way. I think the social time was a blessing for kids and for moms. I know it was for me.
At the request of the neighborhood kids, what started out as a single summer art class became an annual event. Over the years, our artwork improved, and we all managed to produce a few frame-worthy pieces. Most importantly, our time gave us the opportunity for friendships to grow and pleasant, relaxing summertime memories to be made.