This is a 3 part series on extracurricular activities for homeschoolers. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.
Ah the age old question, “how many extracurricular activities homeschoolers should be doing” Are we doing too much? Not enough? Are my kids missing out?
We’ve all been there at some point. And as much as I’d like to be able to tell you… “Five. The answer is five.” There really is no one right answer here. This is another one of those areas where you will ultimately have to go with what works best for your family. All I am going to attempt to do is give you some ideas and things to think about.
For part 1 we’re going to focus on the why. Why should you have your kids in extracurricular activities? Or why do you want your kids in extracurricular activities?
Notice I asked why should you and not why you should. I don’t believe this is a should for every single family. Some families never participate in extracurricular activities or participate very little and their kids turn out just fine.
Here are a series of questions to ask yourself to help determine your need for extracurricular activities as part of you daily or weekly schedule:
- Are there skills you believe to be important for you kids to learn that you cannot teach?
- Is your child very social and needing to be around other kids?
- Is your child very unsocial and needing to find at least a small group of comfortable friends?
- Does your child seem to have a knack for something that you want to foster and encourage? (music, sports, drawing, etc.)
- How well does your child focus and follow directions?
Are there skills you believe to be important for you kids to learn that you cannot teach?
Remember, you homeschool, you’re kids don’t have to go to someone else to learn stuff. Sometimes though they need to learn something that is outside of our ability to teach. For example, it’s important to me for my kids to have some form of artistic expression (music, drawing, pottery, etc.). Well I’m not good enough at any of those to be able to teach them beyond the very basics, so they take classes.
Is your child very social and needing to be around other kids?
This can be a tough one. A well-rounded person is both autonomous and connected. We want our kids to be comfortable talking to people and making friends. But we should also want them to feel comfortable being alone and appreciate quiet time, which can help them focus and reflect.
So obviously for the outgoing, extrovert child, a more rigorous social life will be necessary to meet their needs. But be careful of overdoing it. They still need to make schoolwork a priority. And quiet time is necessary to help them self-reflect – check out this article for more on why quiet time is important.
Is your child very unsocial and needing to find at least a small group of comfortable friends?
If you have a shy/introvert child you may find that extracurricular activities are a source of stress and anxiety. This can be especially true if your child isn’t particularly good at something and they frequently get the spotlight.
That doesn’t mean you should just let them stay home all day and never participate. You will just need to be a little more selective with the activities you sign them up for.
The two biggest things you’ll want to look out for are: Are they at least somewhat good at the activity? And are there not too many other kids? Being around large groups can be very stressful for the introvert and make it difficult to socialize at all. And if your child is good at the activity that will help them feel more confident and not get embarrassed by being singled out.
Does your child seem to have a knack for something that you want to foster and encourage?
This might seem obvious. But sometimes we overlook our children’s talents by assuming all children are like that. Or we might not give them the chance to explore and experience different things. For example, my son turned out to be a very good ice skater. I would never have known if we hadn’t happened to live in a small town in Wyoming where there really wasn’t much else to do in the winter. I grew up in a warm climate where ice-skating was not in our vocabulary, so I would never have thought to let him try it.
On the flip side of that, sometimes we push them to be good at something because we like it regardless of their ability. You know who I’m talking about, the dad who always wanted to be in the major league and now makes his son practice until he’s sick of it. It can be hard to discover our children are not our clones. They are unique and wonderful. They might share our passions, but if not, we need to do our best to help them find and foster theirs.
How well does your child focus and follow directions?
This is one that may or may not change with time. Very young children, especially boys, can be prone to hyperactive tendencies. Sometimes that’s why we chose to homeschool in the first place, they just weren’t ready for the structured environment.
If that’s the case we need to be selective about what activities we put them in. Trying to put them in something too structured or requiring a lot of focus can be disastrous. It can really hurt a child’s self-esteem to be in an environment where they’re always getting in trouble. It can also make us get frustrated because we are paying good money for this and they’re probably not getting much out of it. Sometimes it’s best to wait a couple years and give your child time to mature.
But sometimes there are activities that can help them focus and encourage maturity. Do some digging and see if there is something that will work for your child.
Part 2 of this series will dig into the ‘what’ of extracurricular activities. I’ll try to help you figure out which activities will be a good fit for your child and your family. In order to do this effectively you’ll need to have some answers to these questions from part 1. So my challenge to you is to spend some time thinking about these questions and try to come up with some solid answers. Your kids will thank you.
PS leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas. And let me know if you think I missed anything.