Helping Your Homeschooled Teen Express Themselves Through Drawing

By Leigh Marcos

A recent study showed that the way teenagers feel their emotions can be far more complex than in adults. Researchers from Harvard University found that adolescents often have difficulty pinpointing their feelings and then can often get overwhelmed, particularly with negative emotions, such as sadness, anger or fear. This makes it difficult to deal productively with these feelings and some teenagers get the urge to lash out, or get upset in a way that they can’t control. Drawing can really help this – studies have shown that it helps us to reduce stress and anxiety, creating a feeling of calm.

Expressing yourself creatively

Researchers Stephen Robbins and Chloe Bell undertook a randomized trial involving 50 subjects. They participants were asked to make lists of their most pressing worries and concerns before the trial started. Their mood and levels of anxiety were measured at this stage. The participants were then split into groups. Half of them spent time drawing using a variety of mediums, including charcoal, chalks, pen and ink and pencils. They were encouraged to get involved in creative expression. The group that had been drawing, found that they had a significant reduction in anxiety and negative mood. They felt happier and more able to cope with what life threw at them.

Start with the basics

In your homeschool art lessons, concentrate first on being able to form simple shapes, such as circles, squares and triangles. Spend time observing how so many real life subjects can be translated into these shapes. For instance, if you are drawing the face of a cat, you can use a series of triangles and circles to outline the basic image, before filling in the detail. Drawing animals in particular can be really inspiring for teenagers. They can also be interpreted in terms of feelings – are you a lion, or a cat? Are you a wild wolf, or a harvest mouse? You don’t have to be an expert artist yourself in order to encourage your teenager to draw. In fact, it can be an enjoyable experience simply sitting down and experimenting with shapes and colors together.

Provide a private art journal

Give your teenager a private art journal. They can use this in the same way that they can use a diary – it is simply a place to set free emotions, but in the form of drawings and markings. It can often be very productive to let them use their art journal for ten minutes before concentrating on mentally taxing subject such as math or science.

Include art in your regular timetable

In your homeschooling timetable, you should make time not only for regular structured art curriculum – for which your students can get academic credit – but also for some free, expressive drawing. It means that there is always a regular opportunity to pick up a pencil and do something creative and unstructured for extra credit. You can also incorporate a certain amount of art history, taking a more holistic approach in your teaching methods. For instance, looking at Van Gogh’s iconic image Starry Night can lead to some interesting conversations. You can then try replicating the techniques that Van Gogh used to create the painting.

Spending time drawing can be an extremely important part of your homeschooling day. It allows your teenager to express their emotions, helping them to grow into a happy, well-balanced adult.

What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!

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