It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In today’s digital age, an expressive picture can also communicate to thousands of minds in the blink of an eye, which makes photography exciting, fun, and a fantastic way to teach your child the art of visual communication. Going beyond the simple theme unit, photography is an extremely effective tool that not only will inspire creativity in your children but also can light the fire of discovery and exploration as they use photos to interact with the world around them. A camera allows children to interact with their surroundings in a way that no other electronic gadget can. Take advantage of the opportunity this affords, and take the leap into a new world of discovery with your child!
I remember when I was young and was given my first camera. I took photos of ants, people, landscapes—and through trial and error (and considerable expense) I learned how photography worked. Twenty-five years ago, I had to wait for days to get my photos back. I had to pay for film and processing. Not every shot was a keeper, so I became very cautious about taking photos, because I didn’t want to waste film, money, or time. Today we don’t have to worry about any of those things. Inexpensive and accessible, digital photography gives us the opportunity to use its power of communication to teach every academic subject—a perfect tool for learning.
The best part about photography is that by putting a camera into a child’s hand and letting him use it, ownership of the learning process is instantly established, and your child becomes an integral part of it, not just a passive recipient of information. Having the freedom to take photographs will give your child confidence and cause him to start looking at the world around him in a new way. Children as young as 5 years old can use a digital camera to explore the world around them, and through images share what is interesting to them. By giving children a voice through images, photography awakens the creative senses and helps develop communication skills that can later transfer to language arts proficiency.
If the idea of using a camera in home education is new to you, a good way to begin is by giving your child some brief instruction about taking photographs. This will help your child gain some confidence in using the camera, and it will give you some peace of mind as well. Once the basic functions are mastered, you can show him how to play with different photo angles, how to zoom in and out, and how to practice basic composition skills. Adapt the lesson to the age and attention span of your child; the goal is to make using a camera fun. This way your child will be excited about using it, and that enthusiasm will transfer to the subject matter being taught.
Photography is a personal tool for self-expression, and it is a skill that will be useful for your child’s entire life. Treat each photograph that your child takes with respect, and if you have to delete a photo, explain to her why, so she can learn from any mistakes that she has made. If your child shows an interest in photography as a hobby, there are several books about photography for kids that you can check out of the library. (See the post on Recommended Resources)
One of the best things about homeschooling is that we can take field trips whenever we want to. Taking a digital camera with you makes a trip anywhere a learning experience. For example, bringing a camera along turns “hanging out in the backyard” into going out “into the field.” This is an excellent way to make a child instantly feel like an explorer or a scientist.
Digital photography is a perfect gateway to introducing children to the world of computers as tools, instead of as a means of entertainment. Giving your child control of the camera takes on even greater significance as you and your child create an official folder for his photos on the hard drive of your computer. This will make your child feel that his images are important, and it will also teach him basics about file systems and directories, another useful life skill.
If you decide that you want to get serious about using photography across the curriculum, you may want to invest in some photo software, such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Photoshop Elements. Both are standard software programs and are relatively inexpensive. Gaining a working knowledge of these programs will also help your child develop software skills that she can use in the future.
In the next article, I will discuss ways to incorporate photography into the study of Social Studies and History.
Lupe Tucker and her husband, Curtis, homeschool their five children in Florida. Former classroom teachers, they publish www.HomeschoolingFlorida.com and www.Homeschool-Evaluations.com, a portfolio review & standardized testing service. They conduct academic workshops across the country with the nonprofit organization www.KidsAboardWorkshops.org. A lifelong photographer, Lupe is always on the lookout for the perfect shot and is hopelessly addicted to photo books.