EPISODE 147 SEASON 4 | Art is subjective, right? So how can you teach someone what art is? It’s often a subject homeschoolers shy away from because it can be intimidating! Embracing art’s subjectivity allows everyone to appreciate something different AND gives space for creativity. Deciding what medium should be used or what color should go where, stretches the brain to reach for new ideas and to view the ordinary differently. This is artistry!
Join Janna, and her guest, Karen Barge, as they discuss why you should teach art in homeschool and how art can grow students’ executive function through the practice of decision-making.
ABOUT OUR GUEST | Karen Barge is a professional illustrator and artist who now teaches online art classes at Sunny Art Academy. Over 20 years, she taught various art classes for ages 5 to 85. She created her own curriculum for five years for the Vista Art Foundation's Gallery 204, including summer camps for kids like Alice in Wonderland and Art Around The World. Then Karen held teaching positions at several Montessori and Catholic schools for another six years. Her years of teaching included how to draw, paint parties, acrylic, watercolor, and oil painting to teens and adults. In the summer of 2023, Karen combined her children's, teen, and adult video art classes into one website, Sunny Art Academy. Karen has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from The University of North Texas and a degree in Computer Graphics in Multimedia.
Link to 7 Reasons Why Homeschooling Parents Need to Teach Art https://www.sunnyartacademy.com/pages/7-reasons
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Janna 00:01 Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Janna Koch and BookSharks Community Manager. Today I'm joined by Karen Barge, she is a professional illustrator and now teaches online classes at Sunny Art Academy. We're going to be talking about why homeschool parents need to teach art. And I'm super excited to jump in and introduce Karen to you today. Hi, Karen.
Karen 00:23 Hey, how are you guys?
Janna 00:25 We're so happy that you're here. I know that electives are one of those things that homeschool parents love to talk about, but find it sometimes very hard to implement. So why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell us exactly what Sunny Art Academy is.
Karen 00:45 I understand completely how they feel. And I've met too many parents who go, you know, oh my gosh, I don't know a thing about art and don't know how to even get started. And that's why there is a Sunny Art Academy. Because I've been an art teacher for over 30 years, I've taught people from kindergarten or preschool, all the way up to adults that were 85 years old. And I love teaching. And that's where I come in, and all the videos come in, I can just pop into your living room or kitchen wherever y'all want to do art. And you turn me on. And if I go too fast, then you can pause the video and keep going. I also offer Zoom classes where I get together and answer lots of questions. And I start from the beginning and start. And I have a whole series of art curricula starting with lines and shapes and all the rest.
Janna 01:47 And so for those who don't know, these are classes that you offer online. It's a curriculum that you created from your years of experience, not only being a professional illustrator but also an art teacher. What are the things that you created and blogged about? These are the reasons why homeschooling parents need to teach art. So to me, I'm like, Okay, I know, I probably should teach art, but don't want to teach art. So I really am excited to just kind of get your ideas behind this need. Because I just feel like it's one of those subjects that gets pushed to the side for a lot of homeschoolers.
Karen 02:29 So the neat part is, you know, when you're writing, you can be creative with writing. With math, when it comes, there's not a lot of creativity with math, it's, you know, you have your multiplication tables, and they don't change. But I believe that you know, art gives your child a way to express themselves. And also to expand their mind to more than just, I don't know, just one plus one equals two. And I, you know, I know reading can help that which is great. But art allows a child well, even in a parent to have confidence and learn about, you know, that boosts their confidence about other things. And it's fun, it's just downright fun to go and to paint and draw, and create. That's the that's really fun to create. I even had a class where we created a story. And then we illustrated the story as a book. And so that's something I was all camp, it was a week-long camp, and we had this incredible, everybody had books at the end of it. And the art expresses what you're trying to say in the words of your, you know, whatever it is that you're writing. So I think it's very important.
Janna 03:58 I don't think anyone would argue with you that art definitely helps creativity and in a world where there is just so many opportunities for us to be creative. As a parent who is uncomfortable with art, explain to me how decision-making can be improved. If I teach, if I take the time to teach my ideal child's art.
Karen 04:22 Well, decision-making and problem-solving is so critical for every aspect of your life. You know, a child is going to decide whether they're going to cross the street or not. A child is going to decide whether they are going to play with a friend down the street or not. Um, decision-making and problem-solving are very critical for every aspect. Decision-making in art is you get to decide, does this color go with that color does this drawing need color or not? You know, one of the classes that I teach is how to create geometric shapes, how to create a robot. And I give examples of stuff like Iron Man, he's all made up of geometric shapes. But nobody really thinks about that until you break it all down. And the decision-making is so important. Putting the shapes together to create something greater than what a square is, or a circle is. So that's one of the classes that I think is very important in learning how to make decisions to create more than what you already have, in the very beginning.
Janna 05:38 And it sounds like it's a great space for safe decision-making, right? So like, I have teenage girls that are thinking about college, and you want to talk about some major decisions that need to be made as they're entering their senior year of high school, here is a space where if you choose to use a circle, it's not it doesn't have lasting consequences. I just switched it out for a square, right? I mean, it gets them comfortable with the idea that once you make a decision, things can be changed. It has a different outcome. But it's not the type of decision that has lifelong implications.
Karen 06:16 You're exactly right. And you know what, when you're talking about the decision-making, you know, in college, if you haven't already gone through basic decision-making, when you get to the college decision-making, you can get completely frozen, your child can be completely frozen, and can't make a decision. I think that's something we know I had my daughter just got out of college. And that was one of the things that a lot of her a lot of her friends. They just did what their parents told them to do. And now they regret it, you know? So because I couldn't make a decision they couldn't, they didn't feel confident enough to make a decision. And if you make the wrong decision, you try to correct the decision before you get too far in the college world. Because of the cost of college these days, right?
Janna 07:13 Yeah, I think that it's not only college students, but I see that even in my children when they were younger, it was like they, they froze, it's like they didn't know it was like, Okay, well, I just asked you what you wanted for dinner. I mean, and as a parent who does the majority of the cooking, that's a great example of like, okay, I don't care what your answer is, but I need a decision. And he and as an adult, like I get decision fatigue, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I have to think if I have to make one more decision. So finally, when I sit down at a restaurant, and I get to make a decision that solely effects me, I don't even know what to do. I'm like somebody just pick my dinner for me, I'm done. So art is, you're saying art is a great way to help exercise that in a safe environment so that they can build that muscle for later on when it's going to have lasting applications.
Karen 08:04 Absolutely. And that's what's nice about home school and making decisions at home, versus being in a classroom. Because then if you're in a classroom, you have an ad and I taught classes with 40 kids, and find out that the kids copy other kids instead of making their own decisions, which you know, sometimes it's good to copy. Because, you know, you learn from copying, but I think it's better for a child to be able to make their own decisions for themselves, I think you grow better, I think it's better, you know, you know, across the board to to be able to not be influenced by everybody around, you know, I mean, you know, especially if it's abandoned. You don't want that to happen, either.
Janna 09:00 So I was talking, I was just talking with some coworkers about online interaction. And we were saying that when you're not 100% Confident, you're not gonna make a comment on a post. Typically, I mean, I'll speak for myself, I'm not gonna make a comment on a post, if I am not 100% sure about what I'm saying. So I can see how that could relate in the art world. If I'm not competent in what I'm doing. I'm not gonna go do a sip and paint I never have, I'd love to do it one day, but I don't feel comfortable. I feel like I don't know what I'm doing. It's gonna look ridiculous. And compared to everybody else, I'm gonna, I'm gonna look like I'm a failure at art.
Karen 09:44 We'll see. And that's another thing that I teach in all my classes and my adult classes because I've done paint parties out the wazoo. And what I try to explain to everybody is when I go to when I have a paint party, just like I do with all my kids, lasses, as I give a lot of examples, so then you don't have to do exactly what I do, you get to do whatever you want to do, you get to choose the colors you want to choose, if something doesn't work out, that's why I'm there, I'm going to help you work it all out. And so that's another thing that I, I, I thrive on is trying to give enough examples of everything, whether it's at a paint party, instead of we're doing these exact paint flowers, you can't do anything other than that. And it's the base has to look Nana, I usually have three or four different colors of flowers. And I teach how to put those colors together, different bases different, whatever it is. So then that way you can make your own decision, and you can be happy with your decision. And if it doesn't work out, you know, in my classes, I usually have that black. What is it, chalkboard paint, if you don't like what you're doing, you don't want it, we'll just chalkboard over it, then you can use a chalkboard, you know, at home or whatever.
Janna 11:13 So what I hear you saying: art, there is no wrong,
Karen 11:15 There isn't oh my gosh, and anybody can learn. That's the other thing that I have found that has been so exciting about doing these art classes is the parents are doing the art with the children. And so the parents get the benefit of doing all that also, they get the benefit of being creative, doing something with the children, not just an activity with children, but they get to do their own art, their own painting their own, boosting their own confidence. And it's relaxing, and incredible. I mean, I used to work in commercial art full time, we'd be stressed out when I got home, my kid would like you know, want to sit down and do art, and we would do art together and it just made it Oh, okay, I'm all relaxed. Now I painted with my kid and, and sometimes we did crazy stuff because I'm a crazy art person. And sometimes we didn't, we just did watercolor was very simple, you know, castles or whatever. But it really changes your attitude and, your whole being it's, it's so amazing to enhance your brain function and relax you. And I don't know, we're back to the whole, you know, manual, dexterity and everything for an adult or a child.
Janna 12:48 So explain that a little bit more for maybe someone who doesn't quite know what that term means. How can art help with manual dexterity?
Karen 12:58 So you're using your hands. And you're and you're using your hands with a pencil or a pen. You know, a lot of times when you're writing you're writing like this. And that's all you do, as you read like this? Well, I also teach you can use the pencil in a different way. And also for Kids Children, they need to learn how to draw and paint and use their fingers. So the manual dexterity also has to do with that like cutting up paper, one of my classes is all about cutting up paper and doing collage. But we can have all kinds of little bitty pieces of paper. And that's so good for a child to learn to cut and use their fingers. And then and then we're gluing it all together where you're using something completely different. You're having this blob of glue and you're putting on this little bitty piece of paper. And then you're putting it on your page. And all of that is part of manual dexterity, all part of that is the dexterity of your hands and holding the paintbrush, and then sculpture if you want to go to the next level, the 3D stuff, you know motion around in clay or, I mean our favorite was Plato, Allah Plato. We also you know, slime when we were all into slime, too. We made slime. And all of this is part of using your hands, using your brain, all of it connecting. And when it all connects, then you're a better person. And then you're just everything about your body and mind all connect. And that's all part of growing up also, you know, and I know a lot of adults that they know how to write with a pen or a pencil, but when they pick up a brush, it's like they try to write with their brush and that's a completely different tool. Just like scissors are completely different than a pin, you know. So you have to learn how to use each type of tool, just like a fork or a knife when you eat. That's all manual dexterity.
Janna 15:15 I don't think I'm the only one who homeschools their children who probably doesn't think about these other aspects of learning. Because I'm so focused on reading and math and or, you know, the writing aspect of it that these are other important details and functions that our children really do need to be encouraged in the home to be working at. And as a parent who does not like messes and feels like life is messy enough. I'm sure I was very I micromanaged my children's crafts in a way that they, you know, probably, could have done so much more had I let loose a little bit. So let's talk about another aspect of what art does for homeschool families you had mentioned before risk-taking. So how does that fall into this need to teach art at home?
Karen 16:12 Well, the whole risk-taking part is when you think about it, you think about creating electricity. You know, if there wasn't any risk-taking, then we would not have electricity today. And the same thing with computers, if there weren't risks, putting stuff together and seeing if it works, there would be no computers today, we wouldn't be on a podcast if it weren't if there weren't risk taking. So if you can't learn as a child, how to take risks and small risks, and I'm not talking about, you know, a child, you know, being five years old and driving a car, that's not what I mean, but taking risks as a child, and then building on that each time you build more and more and more. When you're talking about risk-taking with paint. And you're you're putting you know, two colors together. And what does it what happens when you put them together? Ooh, that didn't work out. So you don't ever do that again. But you risked a little bit of time to create something. And so that's all part of creativity and learning is taking risk.
Janna 17:23 When we're talking about risk-taking, it really reminded me of this idea of a growth mindset. Because this is a great place for parents and students alike to really help grow out of a fixed mindset, because I'm going to be honest, I am not an artist, my daughter can paint beautiful pictures by just looking at a photo and then she can put it on canvas. My husband's brother is an artist, we have his art throughout the house. And I always say I can barely draw stick figures. So in my mind, I don't even want to attempt it. Because I don't have what I perceive as a natural ability to art like I see in other family members. But that really is an example of a fixed mindset. And so in risk-taking with art, I am getting this idea of really a growth mindset that, yeah, it's not going to look like a Picasso or a Rembrandt the first time I do it, but I have permission and safety, to start doing this with my children as teaching it and learning myself so that I can kind of break out of my own fixed mindset, which I don't want my children to have. So I need to be in a living example of that for them to.
Karen 18:41 Yes. And so something to add to that when you talk about these other artists, and you talk about your daughter's painting, and oh my gosh, it's incredible. How many times did she draw or paint before she painted something that was gorgeous? That's what I really emphasize more than anything else in the whole world is that if you don't think that you can paint or draw, but if you want to, you start with a sketchbook and you fill-up the sketchbook you draw a little bit, you know, 1520 minutes every single day. And it doesn't matter if you did it. It doesn't matter if you think that you don't have any talent, because art isn't all talent. It's practice, practice, practice. I mean, you have and the other thing about it is you have to want it is a passion. And if you don't, you know, if you don't want it, you're not going to practice and you're not going to be a Rembrandt. But I think about Rembrandt and you go, have you ever seen the hundreds of 1000s of sketches that he did before he painted that painting? And then you understand it's practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. It's just like, you know, and you got to practice every day just like you brush your teeth. So I do believe that it's very important to get that mindset also, you know, and that's part of the growth mindset. If you want it, you can do it. Anybody can. I'm completely convinced if I can draw and paint, after going to college, getting out of college not being able to get a job, because I wasn't any good. And had to start over. Anybody can. Absolutely anybody can. So something I learned when I first came to California, I worked for a company and I was part of a video game design company. And I went in and ask these guys, oh, my gosh, they were amazing. Oh, my gosh, the stuff that they did was just off the hook. And they go, how did you learn this? And so a couple of them came in and brought stuff to show me. Well, Karen, how many times do you draw every day? Well, I don't know that all they do is draw every day all day long. And they were obsessed with it. And they showed me some of their books from you know, 15 years before till today. And it's like, oh, so I'm where you were 15 years ago. And if I did what I what you did I can be you. And that's literally the way it is. It's growing and learning and practicing every day. So that's just very important. And sometimes we will go well, I don't know what to draw. I don't you know, I go oh, I don't I don't know what to draw. I don't know where to start. So what I do is I have a list of ideas, like a summer list, draw popsicle an ice cream cone, you can tell I'm hot and I want some ice cream. That's all I'm thinking about right now. But um, yeah, so that's very important. And I didn't realize how important it was either until one of the guys that I worked with, who is this phenomenal illustrator, worked on Toy Story, and went on to work on Toy Story. He gave me a list of ideas of just drawing all this every day drawing one of these, and it was a list of a palm tree and, a gingerbread man I want what does the gingerbread man look like? I don't know. But that completely transformed me as an artist to be the professional illustrator I am today. And it's that drawing every day, risk-taking. If you don't like it, turn the page, scribble it out, ooh, that's terrible, tear it out and throw it away. You know, it was that's really that's the way you become an artist practice every day.
Janna 22:46 I'm glad that we are dispelling this common misconception or myth about art. And I've talked before with music and different things that we kind of classify as either you have it or you don't, right. Like you have children who struggle with math, but we don't say, well, that's okay. You don't you don't need to work on that. Because that's just not your strength. It's like no, we encourage our children to work on the things that they need to build the end. I think that as, as an adult, it's harder to remember, because I kind of gravitate toward the things that I'm good at now. And I don't really have to stretch myself if I don't want to anymore. But I think teaching art in the home is one of those ways that our students and children can see that we are open to learning something new and they see us failing, which is really just a first attempt at learning, right? And so we can fail and show them that look, This doesn't even look what I thought I set out to draw a horse and it looks like a blob melting. Right? But showing our kids that risk-taking is like I'm not good at it. But the only way to get good at something is to keep doing it instead of telling you know, our kids just think oh, well, mom's good at this. But like you said they didn't see it the years that I had to build up to be good at that. And so art is just a great way for that to be cultivated in the home for kids to see that we aren't perfect at everything. And while my children will tell you I have three teenage girls, they will tell you immediately all the things that I am not perfect at, and not only is it humbling, but it also keeps me more in that growth mindset that's like you know what, you're right, I could definitely do better at that. I need to practice and be in that a little bit more. So I'm excited just to be talking about this and giving this idea to homeschool parents that here is a subject that maybe you don't feel like it's required, but it has so many more implications for the growth of your children and yourself and your family culture than simply just being able to paint it.
Karen 24:50 Yes. And you know, it helps you relax and it helps your kids to relax. You know, I know for me, math was not a struggle. On suit for me, I had dyslexia and couldn't read. So I was all stressed out. And I found that when I went and did art, I was able to go back and go to those, you know, developmental classes that I had to go through to learn that I will have dyslexia. And what do I need to do to compensate for learning to read, which was very difficult? And so you know, it was the art that got me there. So that's another thing that's great about art. Because you know, you don't have to be a famous artist to play with paint. So fun.
Janna 25:44 Well, I was just thinking about back to meals, obviously, I am hungry, I keep thinking about food. But as an adult who is responsible for feeding not only myself but my family, I am no five-star chef. But every day, I need to prepare a meal or meals for my family. And now I happen to enjoy it. And so I do branch out and take risks with different recipes. And sometimes they're a huge fail, and as a family, we just go okay, we won't do that again. But this is another great example of you know, just doing things in with repetition. Maybe it's not something that, you know, your family needs to survive like food, but maybe we do need to look at it a little bit more as a need because it is an outlet that really touches all parts of education.
Karen 26:35 Yes, well, you're talking about food, you know, if you work on your art skills, then your Christmas cookies are gonna be dynamite. They are going to be off the hook and people are going to want to buy them from you.
Janna 26:50 Well, I will let you know if that was a fail or not as we get closer to that season. But before we go, Karen, do you have a hack that you can share with our listeners?
Karen 27:00 Well, I believe that you know if you paint a painting, and oh my gosh, it just turned out awful. So you get out your hairdryer. If this is like an acrylic painting, you get out your hairdryer, you dry it really, really good. And you go and get I don't know if you've ever seen it. It's black paint. It's called it's for chalkboards, and so I've taken paintings that I absolutely hate, and I have black dome out, dry them off. And we use them as a chalkboard in our kitchen, you know, notes to families, or, you know, we just hang it on the wall, it's hanging on the wall right over there. And so that's what I do. That's a little hack that I do. And I did them in some of my paint parties, like, I would bring it with me. And if somebody just absolutely hated their painting, and didn't even want to go home. I've had people in tears like, Okay, well, we could start over if you want, or I can block it out. And you can check the box of chalk with you. And that's what we ended up doing.
Janna 28:05 Well, that gives some great relief to those of us who are apparently going to have a lot of chalkboards around our house is an adventure into this, this subject of art where we're not incredibly comfortable. here before we go, Where is the best place for our listeners to find you?
Karen 28:23 It's called SunnyArtAcademy.com. And Sunny is the S-U-N-N-Y, art academy.com. And you can find me there and I'm at Karen, if you want my email, it's Karen@sunnyartacademy.com. If you want to email me, I'd love to hear from you guys. I really want to know what you guys want to learn. And I would love to come into your home and help teach your family through video. I am available for all of that. So please reach out.
Janna 29:05 The other thing that Karen has available to our listeners is a PDF. We only talked about three of the reasons why homeschooling parents need to teach art, but she actually has seven reasons why. So if you want to get the rest of those reasons, we will put a link in the show notes for you to be able to get that PDF from Karen at Sunny Art Academy. Karen, thank you so much for being here today.
Karen 29:29 Thank you for having me here. I think this is awesome. It was really great talking to you and it was wonderful to know a little more about you too. That's awesome.
Janna 29:40 All right, you guys. Well Until next time, goodbye.