If you start with the premise that self-directed learning is best, then we have to assume you have a kid who is interested in looking at new things.
So you get excited, and want to show your kid Starry Night, probably, because every school across America is having grade schoolers reproduce Starry Night (with something that does not resemble the heavy oil paints that make the masterpiece what it is.)
But here’s a way to think about getting kids excited about exploring ideas. If your kid wants to read, do you start with books written 200 years ago? That would be pretty tough going for a new reader, wouldn’t it?
If you have a kid who loves to dance, do you play a waltz? Probably not. A waltz is not nearly as accessible as contemporary music. Because our contemporaries use the vernacular that we use. Don’t tell me it’s a cop-out. The Beastie Boys have music that is as complicated as a waltz—maybe more complicated, actually. So it’s not that your kid can’t understand complicated. It’s that your kid can’t understand old English, and a waltz is the audio equivalent.
Art teacher and homeschool consultant Marilynn Williams sent me a rant against the common core idea of teaching art and she suggested the following list of contemporary artists who will use the language today’s kids connect with, and it’s an appropriate on-ramp to self-directed learning about visual arts:
Ai We Wei (pictured above)
Xu Bing (below)
And you know what? Just finding all those links was such a joy. Each artist is different and each time I found the link I also clicked a bit, because self-directed learning never has to end.