Incorporating Drawing into Learning

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into learning

When I first started homeschooling my kids, I began with the homeschool style I identified with best (classical). It wasn’t a bad start. At five years old, my son had not shown a clear learning style yet, and I didn’t know his strengths or weaknesses. I had to start with what I did know. But over the years, I’ve shifted my style slightly. We are still predominantly classical, but it’s not easy to have a hard-core classical, literature-rich homeschool with all the ADHD we have going on!

I’m learning that the key to making our homeschool method work well is working within my kids’ learning styles and strengths, adding activities that they enjoy or that keep them active. For instance, my son LOVES to draw, so I’m incorporating drawing into more of his homeschool. Drawing is more than just art. For both of my kids, drawing focuses their attention on the details that their active minds and bodies would otherwise not notice. Drawing slows my ADHD kiddos down enough to catch the details.

Because I’ve already mentioned how we’ve been using some drawing and sketching to help my daughter through some of her dyslexia struggles, I wanted to let you behind the scenes to see how my 5th grade son has been incorporating drawing into his subjects.

Incorporating Drawing into Science

We are putting together our own science curriculum this year with an encyclopedia we love and some experiment kits. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been covering sound, which had him learning about the ear and how it works. The encyclopedia we use had a cool diagram. While I knew I could find some free worksheet somewhere for him to label, I also knew—my son LOVES to draw.

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into science

So I had him draw the ear and label it. Honestly, I wasn’t positive how this would turn out when I first assigned it, and my son’s reaction was not instant enthusiasm. But once he started this project, he was eagerly asking for more. And he did an awesome job! Also, the attention to detail that the drawing required helped him to notice more than simply labeling an ear would have.

Okay, so this won’t work for just any boy. But because drawing is his strength, incorporating drawing in this way was a serious win for us.

Incorporating Drawing into Geography

There’s lots out there about drawing maps from scratch as a way to learn geography, but because he was already drawing an ear I wanted to change it up a bit. My mom got us a light table for Christmas, and it has been a huge hit. We use it for everything, except school. I hadn’t tried that yet. So when I suggested he used the light table to trace his map of ancient Phoenicia, he was stoked!

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into geography

Have you heard how ADHD kids can hyper-focus and have a rough time breaking away from something they enjoy? Yes, my son was so tuned into this assignment that he finished the entire week’s map assignment in a single day (we didn’t get math or language finished, but you know— you win some, you lose some). Hyper-focused is understating it.

The next week, when I gave him his new map, he immediately asked if he could use the light table again. Of course, I defined some terms of use this time.

Incorporating Drawing into Writing

My son loves writing as much as he loves drawing. In his spare time, my son is writing novels. But he doesn’t just love to write. He loves to draw and illustrate. If I give him a writing assignment, he’s on board. And if I ask him to illustrate his paper, draw a comic strip, or create a map for the setting of the story—he’s ecstatic!

hands-on learning | ADHD | incorporating drawing into writing

incorporating drawing | story writing | story settings

It’s hard to say if incorporating drawing into our homeschool is such a hit strictly because of their personalities or if it’s successful because it focuses some of that energy into a kinesthetic activity that helps them to slow down and pay attention to those tedious details. I honestly don’t care why or how it’s working, only that it is! And while I know not everyone’s kids love drawing in the same way my kids do, I’d love to encourage you to incorporate your child’s strengths (whatever they are) into your homeschool (whatever your homeschool style may be).

It’s not just about classical vs. delight-directed, it’s about using everything to our kid’s learning advantage.

4 thoughts on “Incorporating Drawing into Learning

  1. Thanks for this post. Even though I don’t have children and I no longer teach, I appreciate that you take the pressure off homeschooling parents and encourage them to find the individual strengths that will help their child achieve the ultimate objective: to learn! I was homeschooled for my entire education, and I know how true it is that each child has individual learning strengths. My three other siblings definitely learned differently from me.

    I think what you’re doing by allowing your son to draw and write as he studies is fantastic. There’s no telling where he’ll end up–not necessarily because of what he learned but because he is learning to love learning. 🙂

    • Post Author Tracy

      Yes, Sarah! Every child learns so differently, and it is a little scary to embrace that sometimes. Thanks so much for the encouraging words and for stopping by!

  2. Thank you for this. I have just changed curriculum (now I handpick the books and subjects myself instead of buying a structured boxed curriculum) and in my new routine I am also including Art (specifically drawing) and Music, as I believe they are important for a child’s brain. And they’re fun too.

    My kids have some developmental delays, so I am hoping to stimulate their brains with these subjects. Amazing article by the way. Thank you.

    • Post Author Tracy

      What an exciting switch for you both! It’s a little scary to start something from scratch, but it’s so worth it to see them connect with learning in their own way. Let me know if you have any questions as you get started!

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