Art Outside the Box

Posted on June 1, 2014

When we found out we were relocating to a new state we sold our over 3,000 sq ft home and decided to downsize to a condo so that I would be able to continue ministry and mission work with my degrees but focus full time on the home preschool needs of our own children. To be near the beach we decided it was worth it to sacrifice space for the priorities we believe in our family.

It has fostered a family spirit of thinking outside the box. We figure new ways of storing items. New ways of organizing toys. New ways of taking turns in the bathrooms or office 🙂

For home school of our “littles” as  I call them, ages 4 & 1, there still is no limit to our  adventures when we think outside the box.

Today the weather was BEAUTIFUL. We were already planning on doing an art lesson today. I had just drawn up plans to build these focus boxes earlier in the week. I had the idea to use them for setting up props for a specific activity, like having different shells, branches, or metals to explore with a magnifying glass, and then give them the freedom to expand that activity during a lesson. My mind was spinning on all the ways I could use this box to do home school outside the box. This was the PERFECT day to use my new focus boxes. (You can make these for next to nothing!)

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I filled the focus box with cups holding sketch charcoals, paint brushes, blunt chisels, chalk and water. I set out the paint tubes in a tray re-purposed from our invention box (another post). I set out some paper and called my little one for art time. She ran to the kitchen table.

Not today, I said, art lesson is outside!

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She was thrilled!!! It was simple carrying my focus box to a grassy common field outside the condo. I was also thrilled!! She jumped right in. But this time — she did not sit looking at a paper wondering what to make. She instantly looked up and saw the palm trees, purple flowers, a humming bird, and got right to work. She was in joy!!

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The lighting was of course beautiful, she could look at the objects and observe their natural qualities in nature, she had the freedom to choose what to paint and soon all the sheets of paper were filled up.

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I have never seen her so engaged in an art lesson. It quickly became a science lesson as she asked why the palm tree had the different sections of light and darkness on the trunk, or why the purple flowers all had white shoots coming from their centers. Just like as a nurse I dissected and identified all the parts of human cadavers before truly appreciating the beauty of the human anatomy and physiology, so did she gain a new understanding and appreciation for the pictures she painted as she understood the science behind them. 

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But what happened next really surprised me..

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She laid out her artwork to dry in the sun. With the warm grass tickling our toes I watched as she took pride in what she created.

A neighbor, and then another neighbor walked out to the grass and looked at her art….smiling and watching her paint.

Then yet another neighbor with her children came down and they all asked my little about her paintings. With a new maturity, she confidently explained what she learned about the plants and how she painted them.

So…….the “art lesson”, turned “science lesson”, turned “art gallery presentation and public speaking experience”. Now, if that isn’t  homeschool outside the box I don’t know what is!

Space or resources do not contain creativity. If anything, they fuel its passion. Our next focus box adventure will be ………. sculpting at the BEACH. Enjoy!!






Author Joy Brownlee. Written and Photography copyrights
to Joy Brownlee @ for the photos bearing Joy's watermark.

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