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No. 1

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Due to space constraints, Doc’s Digest did not appear in the January/February 2010 issue. Doc’s Digest will resume publication on a new rotating schedule beginning in the March/April issue.
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by Kati Graupner with Kaylyn Carlson
- disclaimer -
Diving into the Fine Arts

Here for You

HSLDA members may contact our high school coordinators, Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer, for advice on teaching teens. Call 540-338-5600 or visit www.hslda.org/contactstaff.

Check out www.hslda.org/highschool for more helpful information on teaching teens.

If you’re contemplating adding the fine arts to your high schooler’s education and feel a little out of your depth—take heart! You and your student can navigate the arts with a little guidance and some creativity.

Culture commentator, author, and English professor Gene Edward Veith comments on how fine arts play an important role in developing a student as an individual: “Properly considered, the arts are inestimable gifts of God. They can enrich our lives. They have a spiritual dimension and can enhance our relationship to God and to our neighbors.”1

Homeschool graduate and ballet dancer Aubrey Myers of Maryland has found this true. “Ballet has enriched my life by giving me a focus outside of social and academic pursuits,” she says. “Dancers never really master dance—it involves a constant progress, and I love that because it means I am challenged every day in class.

… I love performing because it gives me the opportunity to share the idea or story of a piece of choreography with the audience.”

The fine arts include performing arts (music, drama, and dance) and visual arts (painting, drawing, photography, and film). Your student can’t learn to swim unless he is willing to get wet. He can best experience the arts only by diving into them himself. So how does a young artist make the plunge?

Resources for the Arts

These web resources, along with your local homeschooling community, can help you begin your search for opportunities in your area.

Look before you leap

First of all, including the arts in your homeschooling program requires understanding your state law. You should know whether your state has specific diving instructions that may impact how or when you jump in. Home School Legal Defense Association High School Coordinator Diane Kummer explains, “Some states (Maryland, among others) require homeschoolers to include music and art in their homeschooling programs.”

Second, know how pursuing or neglecting fine arts can impact your student’s future: “Fine arts courses not only look good on a transcript,” says Kummer, “but some colleges actually require a certain number of fine arts credits for admission purposes.” If your student has specific colleges in mind, check their websites for admission application requirements or call the admissions offices. Even if your student does not currently intend to go to college, taking fine art classes now will leave more options open in the future.

Setting up the approach

When your student is ready to jump in, how does he or she find the best place to dive off? Help your student identify a specific area of interest in either the performing arts or visual arts.

The performing arts

Performing Arts

The arts, by their nature, usually involve multiple people—teacher, a team, an audience, or some combination of all three. If your student is interested in performing arts—such as dance, drama, or music—you may wish to start with private lessons. You can find a teacher through other homeschoolers, your local homeschool group, homeschool newsletter, or related email list. If group classes, choirs, or orchestras interest your student, you can check with churches, co-ops, and community colleges in your area. Once your student has more experience and wants a challenge, community theaters, professional orchestras, dance schools, and regional competitions offer exciting opportunities. Aubrey Myers said she attended a ballet school, participated in youth ballet competitions, and used her talent to win multiple scholarships.


Your student’s choice of instrument or discipline may open doors for performance. Homeschool student Molly Wyer of California found that she actually had more performance opportunities as a harpist than as a pianist: “I have been able to participate in orchestra and choir concerts with my church… . I played with a community college orchestra … in a couple of weddings and for several events… . I think the harp opens a lot more doors though, simply by virtue of the fact that fewer people play that instrument.”

Consider looking for less common performance venues, too. Many homeschoolers, such as violinist Natalie Harris of South Carolina, have found an eager audience in local nursing homes. “I was able to play in a regional orchestra once and in the South Carolina All-State orchestra twice, once as a first violin,” says Natalie. “I’ve also been able to play with praise and worship teams and in nursing homes. Nursing homes have probably been the most rewarding experience.”

Your diving off point: home

Without the easy access of public education art programs, financial resources, or local opportunities, you and your student may need to explore some creative solutions. For example, if your family already has a background in music, consider organizing volunteer or benefit concerts. If your student has no background in the arts, ask an artistic friend to be a mentor. Some churches with youth choirs are willing to help students at any skill level to improve their abilities. Many performing arts schools offer scholarships for more talented, but financially challenged students. Aubrey Myers particularly appreciated how the flexibility of homeschooling allowed her to create more practice time and even find a part-time job that would pay for classes.

Homeschooling gave me freedom to work my academic schedule around dance … I was able to take private coaching sessions for ballet competitions during the mornings or afternoons, whereas most other dancers had to tack coaching sessions onto the end of an already late-night rehearsal schedule… . Because I was homeschooled, I had finished most of my high school requirements fairly early. That freed up my schedule during senior year so that I could work enough to fund ballet classes.

With creativity, you can use the uniqueness of homeschooling to turn your challenges into advantages.

The visual arts

What about the visual arts? Homeschoolers may pursue painting, drawing, photography, and film through co-ops, community college classes, art shops, correspondence courses, contests, art schools, special seminars, and mentor relationships. Local businesses may provide additional opportunities for your student. Juli Schuttger from Texas recalls taking her first art classes at a local art shop as an 8- or 9-year-old.

Ask acquaintances with artistic skill to suggest educational art opportunities in your area. Perhaps one of these acquaintances may even be willing to mentor your student in art. Joseph Baum, a homeschooler from Pennsylvania, won a scholarship to Art Instruction Schools’ correspondence program and recommends it to other students interested in drawing.

Breezy Brookshire of Indiana—a repeat winner of the Home School Foundation’s art contests—eventually audited a college art class, but she began her study of the arts with library resources: “From the time I was just a little girl, we have visited the library weekly, and nearly every time I could be found in the children’s arts and crafts section, poring through the books, gathering ideas and tips on drawing and other crafts I enjoyed.”

In Breezy’s case, those early library trips came full circle. “This past June, after I finished my formal studies, I had an art exhibit at our local library, the same library I’ve gone to since I was a little girl. Over 20 pieces from the past two years were displayed, and I received a very positive response from my community, as well as family and friends.”

Diving into the creative challenge

Visual Arts

As in the performing arts, your visual arts student might have to be creative in order to find opportunities and equipment, especially in a field such as filmmaking. Sarah Pride, a homeschool graduate who writes and produces films in Virginia, suggests that students rent a camera for a weekend if they want to use better equipment than they can afford to purchase. Homeschool graduate and filmmaker Daniel Silver of the District of Columbia area encourages homeschoolers to find a mentor who would be willing to advise them. “People who are established filmmakers want to help students who are just starting out. The best thing students can do is find established filmmakers in their area and ask them for advice on how to make short films.”

Often the homeschooling community can help you to meet your goals. Chad Burns, an Illinois homeschool graduate whose film Pendragon has won awards nationwide, says, “The homeschooling community at large was key in completing Pendragon. We met many new friends and volunteers through the homeschool communities in our area.”

Keeping a map of the waters

How do you document your student’s participation in the arts? Diane Kummer explains that these courses can be listed as electives and recorded in a transcript by specific titles (such as Instrumental Music, Band, or Choir), or by a general title covering several areas (Fine Arts). She says that because “most elective courses, such as the ones that you list, do not use a standard high school text book, most parents will need to log hours in order to determine the credit to be given to a course. In general, 120 hours equals 1 credit, 60 hours equals 1/2 credit, and 30 hours equals 1/4 credit.”

Students can use a variety of methods to document their work. According to Kummer, “Documentation would include keeping track of hours spent on the course, name of instructor, course title, description of course work and materials used, concepts covered, grade earned, etc. In a portfolio, pictures of art work and other projects could be taken, an instructor’s assessment of the student’s skills could be recorded in a few paragraphs, etc. For the serious fine arts student, demo CDs could be made of the student’s musical abilities. Other documentation could include copies of programs/tickets if the student participates in recitals or plays.”

Jump in!

You might be surprised at the number of opportunities in your area to dive into the arts! Mastery of an art can give a student great satisfaction.

Juli Schuttger reflects on why art interests her: “My inmost being has rejoiced in beautiful things ever since I was old enough to recognize them. Art is my way of participating in beautiful things. It enriches my life in an ultimate sense because art is an imitation of God and I love to do it well (though depending on the medium, art can be just plain fun).”

“I love expressing myself through music making something beautiful,” says Natalie Harris. “It has given me a small way to contribute to others, and it’s a wonderful way to praise God.”

Joseph Baum adds, “Take art seriously, and it will take you far. But talent is never enough; in every project, seek to honor God, and He will fulfill you in your pursuit.”


1Gene Edward Veith, Jr., State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books-Good News Publishers, 1991), xvi.