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How to Get Fine Arts Credits for your Homeschooled Teen – even when they aren’t musical

Overview: Use the following ideas to give your teen those high school fine arts credits that some colleges are looking for. Includes a curriculum recommendation! Note: This post was sponsored by Music In Our Homeschool and contains referral links. All opinions are my own.

The sounds coming from the piano were painful to hear. And I’m not just talking about the song, LOL.

The tweenager was loudly emoting her own significant frustration between erratically-spaced melody notes and dissonant chords. Ka chug (pause), ka chuggle (longer pause with a loud sigh thrown in), ka chuggity chuggle chug (now we’re getting somewhere?) … … (imagine one of those blinking blank faces right here) … … The entire household waited breathlessly for the next attempt, only to be greeted after a long, silent minute by the timer signaling the end of the half hour. “FINALLY!” and the next sounds were the piano lid slamming down and footsteps running quickly away.

After years of this same struggle, day after day with not much more success or progress, it was mutually agreed that this particular kid would NOT continue with a musical instrument of any kind, in order to protect everyone’s sanity. Phew!

Do you have one like that? 

Use these ideas to give your teen those high school fine arts credits that some colleges are looking for. Includes a curriculum recommendation!

We go into parenting with all the best intentions, including making sure our kid gets music lessons through eternity, or at least until they become the next Rachmaninov or Paganini or Van Halen (because we’re not snooty, right?).

But there is possibly at least one in every family: the kid who can’t hold a tune in a bucket, whose attempts at music create not melodic joy but cacophonic tension.

And it’s not a big deal; every kid has their gifts, and this kid may be athletic or have an engineering mind or be a whiz at whatever else. Or not, and that’s OK, too.

There’s just one problem: the high school fine arts credits that some, if not many, colleges require for acceptance.

If your kid plays an instrument, fine arts credits are easy to put on the transcript. Weekly music lessons, daily practice, and the occasional recital add up to lotsa hours. Even if your kid is just enjoying it for a hobby, the college fine arts requirement is usually quite doable.

But for that kid who is NOT musical those fine arts credits can be more of a challenge to figure out—unless you’re reading this blog post, that is! Having been there done that with not one but TWO kids who did not continue their piano lessons past the age of 12 (and by then we had all lost a couple years off our lives), I’ve found some alternative ways to make fine arts happen for even your non-musical kid.

Use these ideas to give your teen those high school fine arts credits that some colleges are looking for. Includes a curriculum recommendation!

Alternative Ideas for High School Fine Arts Credits

1. ART, y’all.

This can often take the place of music, and many kids have at least SOME ability to create something that looks passably like something else. And hey, call it modern art and then it doesn’t even have to resemble anything!

You could conceivably just log their time doodling or slapping paints on a canvas, but if you want more structure, a great homeschool curriculum for this is ARTistic Pursuits. Two of my kids used it and pronounced it worthwhile. They even have books specifically for high school, which I have reviewed here. Or you can enroll your teen in classes at your local community center or Michael’s.

2. THEATER, ditto above for replacing music.

Many teens would love a chance to get on stage—let’s channel that drama somewhere else than around the house, hello—and it’s not all musicals out there (i.e. they don’t necessarily have to be able to sing). Look into your local theater groups for chances to audition for a role or even to work on sets or lighting.

3. DANCE is also considered “fine arts.”

If your kid is into tap or ballet or even hip-hop, maybe it’s time to start calling it fine arts credit rather than PE. Most colleges don’t actually care about PE, anyway!

4. An easier instrument

Some kids who can’t (or won’t) play a more complex instrument will be more interested and/or able to play something simpler like the ukelele, which is actually an “in” thing to do right now (whoda thunk?). They can probably teach themselves via YouTube videos or a course like this one: How to Play the Ukelele – for the complete ignoramus. (That title sounds promising, doesn’t it? LOL.)

5. Field trips

Visits to museums or concert attendance are a form of fine arts instruction that is more passive but still valuable. Your kid doesn’t have to DO fine arts, they can STUDY fine arts, instead. Expose them to whatever you’ve got in your local community, be it an art museum or symphony concerts or off-Broadway plays. Who knows, maybe your teen who loves to write could become a theater critic, all because you exposed them to great (or not-so-great) plays during high school!

6. Projects

Along the lines of studying rather than performing, your teen can do research projects relating to fine arts, such as papers or presentations about specific composers or artists or performers. Add these to those museum or concert field trips to build in an evaluation component, so you can give a grade with some objective data behind it.

7. Music or Art Appreciation Courses

All of the above options may just sound like too much work for YOU. If so, then look for a music or art appreciation course that has already been created. These will provide structure to help your teen learn the important things about eras of music and art, specific pieces and composers/artists—you know, all that good stuff that you have no clue about—while you don’t have to lift much of a finger.

And of course, I have one to recommend!

Fine Arts Done for You with Music in Our Homeschool

Take a look at Music in Our Homeschool for online music appreciation and fine arts courses for high school that are reasonably priced and get the job done WELL.

Currently Music in Our Homeschool offers FIVE courses that provide the content and activities to give your teen either .5 credit or 1 credit (depending on the course and/or how much time the student spends) in the valuable fine arts category. Three are music appreciation courses; one is about music AND art AND poetry; and there is even an Intro to Shakespeare course! And there are more courses still being developed.

Each course contains some combination of listening (and/or viewing), observation, instruction, notebooking pages, and even quizzes. There are required tasks and optional supplementary activities; essentially you can design your own rigor level and time commitment with the resources provided. There is no need for YOU to go searching for what to listen to or study; all of that is done for you! Love it!

I was able to immerse myself in the 20th Century Music Appreciation for High School course—and I’ll confess I lost myself in there for a little bit. Such a fun trail of links to listen to, and before I knew it an hour had gone by. (When you WANT your kid to spend time on Youtube, LOL.) The course is not only about classical music; there are lessons on jazz, rock & roll (this is where I got sucked in!), and even musical theater—in addition to lots of famous composers from Debussy (a huge fave of mine!) to Copland to John Williams (the composer for Star Wars and about a gazillion other movies) and more.

Use these ideas to give your teen those high school fine arts credits that some colleges are looking for. Includes a curriculum recommendation!

I also enjoyed spending time in the Charlotte Mason Inspired High School Fine Arts course, which covers not only music but art and poetry as well. It’s a gentle exploration of truth, goodness, and beauty that is consistent with Charlotte Mason methods—but anyone can enjoy and learn from it.

Check out the entire course list here: Music in Our Homeschool courses.

These courses do not present a firehose of information that must. get. done. to the point of creating frustration or forcing a check-the-box mentality with no real depth of understanding; instead there is time to savor and re-listen and discover more each time.

Doesn’t your kid need at least one subject each day that is a slower pace, a more relaxed learning, a chance to breathe in the content rather than have it shoved down their throat? Music in Our Homeschool provides that non-stressed learning experience that may be all the more effective due to the lack of pressure. 

There is also a brand new Fine Arts membership program due to start September 1, 2020, in which you pay a monthly fee and get access to all of the high school courses plus many other courses that are suitable for the entire family. AND there will be a new music theory course that will be added to the membership resources as the course is developed, one unit at a time.

8. Music Theory

Speaking of music theory, BTW, it could actually be #8 on our list—have your teen learn music theory rather than to play music itself. Music theory is an academic exercise that requires no musical skill, just the ability to listen and count. That doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes quite complicated, so don’t assume that it is too easy; it is definitely another option for any kid who prefers pencil and paper to strings or keys for obtaining those high school fine arts credits.

Music In Our Homeschool is a solid—and don’t forget the reasonably-priced part!—option for high school fine arts credits for your non-musical teen. Or add it to the coursework for your musical teen, to give background and depth to their knowledge of their instrument and the music they are playing!

In addition to these amazing courses, Music in Our Homeschool is dedicated to providing resources, tips, freebies, and reviews to help every homeschool mom include music in her homeschool, all of which you can find on their main website at MusicInOurHomeschool.com.  You can also follow Music in Our Homeschool on Facebook and Instagram.

Whether you find a performance art that your kid enjoys, or you go the music-and/or-art study route in any form that may take, or you purchase a prepared course such as those offered by Music in Our Homeschool, there are many options for obtaining high school fine arts credit to put on the transcript. Don’t let this requirement intimidate you; think of it as a way to broaden your teen’s understanding of the world and their place in it. Music and art present new perspectives that are worth exploring, even if playing an instrument is not your kid’s forte (haha see what I did there?).

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About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 20+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. 

Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning and Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School: Practical Principles for a Firm Foundation. She also founded the popular Facebook group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School, which now has over 27K members; and recently she started the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School Podcast.

She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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