Evaluating Extracurriculars

With so many amazing extracurricular options available, how do you choose the ones that are right for your family?

As homeschool families, we have so many options to choose from when deciding which activities to participate in. As much as we try to ignore the criticism, we do feel pressure sometimes that our children are missing social interaction by not being in school. What are some of the options, and how should we decide what types—and how many—activities we join?

Extracurricular activities available to homeschool families are vast. Choir, band, music lessons, dance, and art classes are just a few in the fine arts arena. Of course, sports teams are available through city or private leagues. Some public school systems even allow homeschool students to participate. You can even find physical fitness classes that aren’t a team sport such as karate or gymnastics.

Supplemental educational groups are also a great avenue for involvement. Co-ops allow families to pool their resources with each other and share some of the teaching responsibilities. Some homeschool groups offer academic classes, while others offer strictly extracurricular activities or field trips.

We recently found a local group that plans field trips and a monthly game time and potluck lunch. The great thing about this group is one can attend the events they want to with no overall commitment.

Cooking or sewing classes might be great not just for educational credit, but for life skills as well. We’ve even found horseback riding lessons significantly discounted on Groupon. Sometimes we need to admit that our children’s interests are our weakness, and it’s okay to let someone else teach them a skill.

Library activities or clubs offer some fun interaction with others in our community and encourage book loving. Better yet, most are free! One summer, we participated in our library’s garden club. How fun for our daughter to see the flowers she helped plant throughout the summer when we drove by! For preschool or early elementary age students, story time is such a fun outing. And, don’t forget the summer reading program!

Theater events through local clubs or organizations will give your drama king or queen an outlet. Perhaps a play they work on all semester or just a weeklong theater camp to give them a taste. Some theater companies even have events that students can just sign up to get a minor part. This is also good exposure, allowing children to build confidence for an audition the next time. Some plays are for all ages, so whole families can be involved!

Factors to consider while deciding what to add to our family calendar:

  • Budget. Clearly, we cannot overextend our family finances just because our children want to play a sport or take a class.
  • Family schedule. We must remember that activities don’t only affect the child who’s actually participating. Siblings need to be entertained during practices. Meal times might shift. Parents have extra driving and so much more.
  • Full Commitment. Many sports or classes have additional fees or time commitments. Does a class or co-op have extra volunteer commitments? What do the costumes for the skating or dance recital cost? Are there tournaments?
  • Family values. We have to be careful to guard the family environment that is important to us. We must make sure that the additional activities we engage in support our family values and goals. Some activities might offer an environment contradictory to family guidelines. More than that, activities on the calendar might start to push our priorities off balance a bit.
  • Season of life. Have you added a new sibling recently? Are school classes very stressful right now? Are parents having to work extra hours and are not as available for family time or shuttling to events? Health challenges can also be something to keep in mind when adding extra commitments. Sometimes a commitment is an excellent opportunity—just not right now. Perhaps something you’ve been committed to for years needs to be let go for a season.

While looking at how we decide about extracurricular activities, we should also consider how not to decide. We must be sure that we are not joining teams or clubs out of guilt—guilt that our children are missing out. We also cannot choose in order to keep up with what others are doing. “Saving face” or satisfying others’ expectations will only fill our calendars and feed our pride.

Consider what time and financial commitment your family has to offer. Be sure to set boundaries for non-negotiable obligations you already have. Don’t let your children dictate your schedule and run you into the ground. Be wise and purposeful in what you commit to.

Extracurricular activities are valuable. They offer an opportunity for struggling students to excel in a non-academic way. Many life skills or character traits are taught as they learn a game, interact with others, and learn to win or lose gracefully. Students develop leadership skills and discover interests. Community clubs and events allow us to develop relationships with our neighbors, which often can lead to gospel witnessing interactions. All these are huge benefits, protecting us from living in a vacuum.

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the freedom to choose what we do or do not participate in. Sometimes that becomes one of the greatest pressures as a homeschool parent. Don’t be overwhelmed. Look around locally and prayerfully consider your family calendar. Your family will find the balance that works for you!

Sarah Andrews

Sarah Andrews has been homeschooling for eight years. She is honored to be mom to three girls and is an avid adoption and pro-life advocate. Her hobbies are reading (when she gets a chance!) and drinking coffee.

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