Arts Education for Homeschoolers

Emily Gresham, Curator of Education, LCVA
Emily Gresham, Curator of Education, LCVA

If you're looking to expand or create programs for arts education for homeschoolers, the programs offered by the Longwood Center for Visual Arts may offer inspiration. Located in Farmville, Virginia, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA) offers the local community, families and home schooled children a place to explore the wide world of art. It is run under the auspices of Longwood University, part of the State University of Virginia system of higher education institutions. Although the center has only had a permanent home since 1998, its origins go back more than a century. LoveToKnow spoke with Emily Gresham, the LCVA's Curator of Education, about the center's impressive outreach programs for local students and especially home schooled students.

Arts Education for Homeschoolers

We asked Emily to describe the programs that LCVA offers to all children to enhance their education in the visual arts.

Young student at the center

How does the center provide arts education for children?

Among the core values of the LCVA is the idea that art can improve the quality of our lives. Art exemplifies beauty, hope, and the power of human imagination. We reach children both in their homes and at their schools, welcoming individuals, families, school trips and group trips of home schooled children to the center.For instance, some of our programs are targeted to families or children accompanied by adults.These programs include festival-like Free Family Workshops, which are held three times a year to celebrate the seasons and provide families a way to come together to create art. Throughout the summer, we also host a Summer Art Studio, which offers free drop-in art activities that change on a biweekly basis. Year-round, we offer a Kids' Activity Room that helps children to explore the ideas presented in our regular art exhibitions. (Some grown-ups confess that they learn a lot in the Kids' Activity Room, too!)

We also offer programs through schools, whether those are public, private, or home schools. We welcome schools of any size to come to the Longwood University campus to tour any of our art installations, whether at our galleries at the LCVA, in academic buildings, or even outside, since we have an active outdoor sculpture program. Kids who come on field trips typically experience a traditional tour, plus hands-on art activities.We also have specific programs about China targeted to schools that's when the field trip goes to the students, instead of vice versa.

How do home schooled children use the center?

I have conducted tours of art collections or outdoor sculpture installations for home school groups. We often see them visit our drop-in programs such as our Kids' Activity Room or our Summer Art Studio. In addition, home schooled young artists are always represented in our Annual Area Youth Art Exhibition, which presents the best art created by young artists in ten counties.

Students in the outdoor sculpture gallery

How does this work foster arts appreciation?

We believe it's important to introduce children to art at a young age. Giving children a chance to enjoy art, to talk about art, and to make art, gets them past the intimidation that many grown-ups feel when they think about museums or art exhibitions.One of the LCVA's core commitments is that art should be part of everyday life. Our hope is that kids coming to the LCVA will be more aware of the art around them at home, at their schools, and in public spaces. I also hope that kids leaving the LCVA with their arms full of creations - drawings, mosaics, weavings, sculptures - will have the joy of making art be part of their everyday lives. I have to believe that many of these lovely creations end up in their homes, up on the refrigerator door, displayed on bookshelves, or hanging on a wall in the frame.

Connecting Home Schooled Families and University Arts Programs

Next, we asked Emily for some ideas about how LCVA connects with home schooling families. Some of these ideas may be useful for other institutions seeking to develop outreach programs for home schooled children and for home schooling parents to find local programs.

How do you connect with home schooling families in the community?

Home schooled families can be a bit of a publicity challenge. We promote our events in the local newspaper and on the local radio station, but I know that many of our participants learn about our events through flyers that we send home through "backpack mail" at the local schools and child-care centers. We're aware that this potentially misses our home schooling community. Thankfully, we do have a number of home schooling families on our regular mailing lists who receive our newsletter and other materials. Also, we're appreciative that our "regulars" enthusiastically promote the LCVA to one another. I've also noticed that when a family comes to one event at the LCVA, they are quick to request information about our upcoming events, requesting flyers or checking our web site or calling our main telephone number to learn more.

Ideas for Home Schooling Families

What ideas can you offer home schooling families for visual arts education?

The home schooling families in our area do a lovely job of encouraging their kids to appreciate and create art. I'm always excited to see what projects come in for our Annual Area Youth Art Exhibition.I think part of what they do so well is to take advantage of free local resources such as the LCVA. In any community, there are bound to be art exhibitions at universities, libraries, community centers, and more, and most times, whoever organized the exhibition will be delighted to offer a tour of the offerings.

I know sometimes that as we get older, grown-ups become timid about creating or discussing art and don't feel equipped to teach art to their own kids. Some of my favorite moments at the LCVA, however, are times when kids forsake the instructions and create their own projects. I think kids first learn art by doing and exploring. So for parents who are worried about "not knowing enough" about art, I'd encourage them to both relax and to seek out the opportunities in their area for art education.

What advice can you give other organizations seeking to connect with home schooling families?

I strongly suspect that other organizations are like us in that home-schooled families are encouraged to participate in the full range of art offerings. The trick is how to get the word out to a decentralized system?

Thankfully, we've had success in working with home school co-ops, and we've found that even when families don't participate in co-ops, they are often in communication with other home-school families through their churches, their neighborhoods, or via the internet. Even if museums just find one or two home-schooling families who participate in their programs, if those families have a positive experience, I believe that the word will spread.

More About the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts

LoveToKnow wishes to thank Emily Gresham and the staff at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. For more information, including hours, directions, collections, exhibits and programs, please visit the LCVA website.

Arts Education for Homeschoolers