Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back to Homeschool Week

Randi at I Have to Say is hosting "Back to Homeschool Week." She's picked topics for each day, and since I really do need to come out of denial and face the coming school year...I'm making myself think about today's topic.

It's "Getting Out There--Extra-curricular activities, community involvement, volunteering, sports teams, music lessons, making sure your kids have opportunities to be social, co-ops, etc., etc., etc..."

In some parts of the country--or of the world--it may be challenging to find activities for our homeschooled kids, but for many of us, the issue is not finding venues for "socialization," but choosing and limiting them!

Over our ten years of homeschooling, we've been involved in:

field trips (to zoos, museums, historical sites, facilities like the fire station, police station and recycling company)
park days
PE classes
Spanish classes
Art classes
one-day classical "school" that covered science, history, performing arts and visual arts
co-ops with other homeschooling families
soccer, basketball, tee ball, baseball and gymnastics
Pioneer Clubs (similar to Awana)
Vacation Bible School
Cub Scouts
church activities
homeschool choir
private school band
piano lessons
nursing home visits
Christian children's theater

So--how to pick and choose?

My simple answer is: Less is more. Don't get so overinvolved with good things that you can't do the most important things! When you're homeschooling, you need to spend a certain minimum amount of time at home. It's easy to feel guilty for not offering your kids all these wonderful opportunities, but the basics of reading, writing and math require time and mental space, especially as they get older.

So, the time for lots of field trips and introductory classes is in the early elementary grades! At that stage, less academics and more wide exposure is ideal. There's plenty of time later to narrow down their interests--and you'll have to, as you'll feel more pressure to get serious about academics.

A couple more tips to simplify your choices are to try to steer your kids toward activities that several or all of them are interested in, and whenever possible, to choose options that are close to home over those that require more driving. One fall we had three kids in soccer--all on different teams--but all of their practices and games were within bike-riding distance, so all we had to do was keep track of the schedule and make an appearance at their games. It wasn't a big commitment at all, while when we had just one son in basketball who had to be driven to all his practices, we couldn't wait for the season to end.

Examples of activities that multiple ages can enroll in are: some co-ops, music lessons, children's choir or band, community theater, Awana or Pioneer Clubs, park days and field trips. And if you're lucky, you'll hit on something that your whole family loves doing together, like Civil War re-enacting or nursing home visitation or camping or sports.

For us, it's Christian children's theater and community theater. In the last production, 6 of us--including me and my husband--were cast in the show, one of us worked on tech crew, and the 2-year-old was the unofficial cast mascot. We've whittled away many of our other activities in order to focus on theater, and though in some ways we're busier than ever, it feels less so to me because we're all headed in the same direction!

Randi has some other good thoughts on choosing your kids' friends by choosing their activities here. And there are a whole bunch of other links to posts on this topic there too. Enjoy--and consider joining in tomorrow!


Sheri said...

"Less is more" is so what works for our family. I listed some things we do, then thought 'Gosh, that just doesn't seem like enough'...when the facts are, it's perfect for US at this time.

DebD said...

I really like the "less is more" concept.. very good advice. How wonderful for your whole family to be involved with the theater.

Dana said...

"less is more..."

Definitely. It is tempting to over-schedule. But it is very important to allow kids time to just be kids, play outside and have unstructured down time.

Thank you for your thoughts!

At A Hen's Pace said...

Thank you all for your comments!