Homeschool Arts and Crafts for the Parent Who Prefers Student-led Projects

When I’m looking through homeschool blogs, I see bright, beautiful pictures of children playing with paint and making creations with macaroni and glitter. The parents and children all appear to be having a great time. But that happy scene isn’t true for every family. What do you do when you’re the parent of children who love arts and crafts, but you just don’t feel that joy from hands-on projects? Maybe your projects are usually a flop, but you know your kids crave working with their hands to express their creativity.

My Epic Arts and Crafts Fail

Here’s an example of how arts and crafts don’t work in my home. Once I decided we would have an artist study and make our own versions of Picasso paintings. I printed pictures of his masterpieces and gathered the recommended paints and supplies from a tutorial I found on Pinterest. Calling my  six children over, I taught a short art lesson, and we dove into painting. Fast-forward one hour.

  • My oldest daughter, 16 at the time, had done a very fast painting and then hied off to her room.
  • My 13-year-old was very carefully working on his 12th version of a painting. He had gotten frustrated with the first 11 paintings and had thrown them out, so he was now creating a new one, with high frustration levels.
  • My 9-year-old was doing paintings that looked nothing like what I had imagined in my head. He was just making a mess and having fun but with no real painting technique.
  • My 8-year-old had walked away over half an hour ago after not really trying.
  • My 5-year-old was crying because no matter how hard she tried, her painting wasn’t good enough.
  • The 4-year-old had gotten less paint on her paper that she got on everything else within her reach. 

I had a headache from dreading the clean-up process. I was exhausted and just wanted to go lie down. 

Why Did Our Picasso Project Fail?

There are parents who can make art projects like this work, and I really admire that ability. But I must admit I will probably never be one of them.

Our art project failed because I tried to do art in a style that doesn’t work for our family. Instead of taking a formal, parent-led approach to crafts and hands-on projects, my family does better when the activities are sparked by my children’s own interest and done at their own pace. We’re more unschoolers when it comes to arts and crafts.

Our Successful Art Projects Are Student-led

Usually I don’t plan art at all. I simply provide art supplies, and my children are allowed to create in their free time. For some families, this strewing method would result in disaster, but it works for us.  

How We Set Up Our Art Station

For our at-home art station, I divide materials into two large plastic tubs and a book stack.

Tub #1: Non-messy Art Supplies

  • crayons
  • markers
  • papers of assorted styles
  • feathers
  • pom poms
  • googly eyes in all sizes
  • fabric
  • ribbons

Tub #2 Messy Art Supplies

  • paint and paintbrushes
  • the dreaded glitter
  • assorted beads
  • permanent markers

Book Stack for Inspiration

Rules for Getting Crafty

Children who are older and prove responsible can use either art box at any time. Less responsible or younger children can use the second box only under the direct supervision of a parent or older sibling .

Whenever a child wants to do art, they can rummage for the supplies they want, and then they create! When they are done, they put the supplies away and clean up. If they run out of something, they put it on my shopping list, and when I have the time and money, I replace it. 


Sonlight’s Hands-On History Project Kits by InquisiKids

Sonlight is now offering extra activity packs that children can do on their own with little parental help (via InquisiKids). They schedule a project every couple of weeks that expands on the history lessons, providing a depth that goes beyond your reading and discussing 

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