Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A word about extra-curriculars

If you've been homeschooling for any amount of time, you may have noticed a trend: overscheduled homeschool students.

It happens quite innocently. Little Johnny or Mary has more time in the day because they're homeschooled so Mommy determines to fill some gaps with outside activities.

Or, Mommy has confused proper socialization with busyness and the family runs hither and yon to varied activities trying to make sure the kiddies have friends.

If your child has a particular hobby they enjoy and both your school schedule and pocketbook can handle it, I see nothing wrong with adding that in.

In my house, we give careful consideration to the extras we allow in our schedule. I freelance from home, so time is just as valuable as money to me. The fact that my husband works nights and I'm automatically the chauffer is also factored in.

How do we decide what to go for and what to exclude? A number of ways.

First, if the activity is a passion, something that each girl will likely carry into adulthood, it's a go. Beth has been taking dance lessons since the age of four, first at our local community center where the cost was drastically lower than dance schools. She's doing some teaching now and plans to dance professionally.

Next, if the activity is a favorite and is used in ministry now, it's allowed.

Grace began playing violin two years ago. She occasionally plays at our church and at a nursing home ministry we have with a group of friends. We tested the waters (both financially and practically) by hiring a homeschool grad who is a college music major as her initial teacher. Grace is  part of the worship band at our weekly co-op and we're considering allowing her to attend another co-op that specializes in music when she begins high school. She's in 7th grade.

Grace playing at a local nursing home

Grace (in the middle) playing at the Norfolk Zoo at her summer strings camp recital

We've had a few extras that we stopped.

Girl Scouts was one. Grace became concerned with some of the policies at the national level and I felt our local troops were all but ignored by higher-ups until Girl Scout cookie season.

We got into GS because Grace enjoys community service projects and I was eager for her to make friends.  Volunteering at a local soup kitchen every week and joining my husband on our church's sick and shut-in team met Grace's service project need.  I then encouraged my shy daughter to connect with girls she's sees regularly at our church and co-op. Once that happened the reasons we joined the GS in the first place no longer existed so we left.

Another activity we dropped: soccer. Yipes.  Someone should have told me that would eat up a major part of my schedule, with the twice-weekly practices and back to back games.  Since we were in a homeschool league, we had to travel half an hour each way. Did you know they play in rain and snow?  Double yipes. We dropped that after one year.

Keep evaluating why you're in a certain activity and make adjustments as needed. You could save yourself time, money and peace of mind in the long run.

One final thought: this rush to connect our children with other children is, in my opinion, a bit backward. I feel it's important for our kids to obey their parents and get along with their siblings before we should expect friendships. My girls hear it all the time: 'Inside before outside'. That goes for our home and their behavior/character.

I also believe every effort should be made to ensure the kids are connecting with children already in there sphere-- i.e. church, neighborhood, etc., before branching out, so to speak.

Oh, and don't fall into the 'activity by guilt' trap: so concerned about the dreaded 'homeschool socialization'  that you sign your kids up for a gang of hobbies. It will backfire. You'll be tired, stressed and broke, and once the activities eat into your teaching time (and they will) you'll be frustrated. Don't go there.

Our rules: passion, adulthood, ministry, time and budget. Just a few of my thoughts on the subject. Would love to hear yours.

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