“Do you make your daughter do so many extra-curricular activities because you feel guilty about taking her out of school?” asked a rather blunt acquaintance a few weeks after I began homeschooling my seven year old.
The question took me aback. For a moment I fell into anxious self-examination.
Was the woman right? Was I enrolling C(7) to every club going out of some paranoid fear that she was missing out, now that she was home-educated?
Then I remembered why C chose to be homeschooled.
Here was a child who enthusiastically threw herself at every opportunity (the more physical the better). Who at age six, looked up local judo clubs when I (concerned about our already busy schedule) dragged my heels following her request to learn it. A child so busy trying to fit in school, homework, her many sports, her artistic activities and playdates, that I barely saw her.
And when I did see her, it was as chauffeur and personal assistant to a tired and all too often grumpy little girl. Clearly, something had to go.
After some discussion, we realised that the obvious thing to let go of was school.
Without school and homework taking up the bulk of each day, C(7) was free to throw herself into her passions, see friends, enjoy plenty of downtime, have a relationship with her family and learn everything she would have at school in much less time.
“No. My daughter left school so that she would have time do all these ‘extra-curricular’ activities.” I told the blunt woman.
Looking back, I wonder if the woman (who was planning to homeschool her two pre-schoolers) was feeling insecure about how few activities her own children did.
But comparing ourselves with others is a sure path to an unfulfilling and unsuccessful homeschooling experience. Only we know the needs of our own family.
In our home, my challenge is to balance the needs of the introverts (my son and me), with those of my extremely extroverted daughter. While J(8) and I crave quiet time immersed in our interests at home, C(9) wants to be out trying new things and meeting new friends.
I would love to be one of those homeschoolers who manage to limit their outside activities to one per child. But to C(9), sharing a house with a couple of introverts, that would be torture.
Here’s what our extra-curricular schedule looks like this term:
Monday – karate
Tuesday – group guitar lesson, home-ed centre, gymnastics *
Wednesday – Cub Scouts, free swimming
Thursday – climbing
Friday – Stagecoach (3 hours of singing, drama and dance)
Sunday – rugby (September – April)
*Tuesdays also involve 2 hours driving – just don’t ask me to string a sentence together after 6pm
Tuesday – home-ed centre
Wednesday – Occupational Therapy (1-1), swimming lesson
Thursday – climbing
Balancing everyone’s needs
So how do we introverts cope?
Some of C(9)’s activities are close to home, others involve J(8) and me waiting around for her. We use waiting time to listen to audiobooks, walk in nature with our dog, read, write and meditate (me), and play iPad games (J). We have our own headphones and, frankly, while C(9) – we love her very much! – is off talking to other people, we enjoy a bit of peace!
As C(9) gets older I know her social needs are going to continue to challenge me – but I love that I get to spend so much time with my young bundle of energy.
If homeschooling her through the years to come means organising teen clubs and writing groups, art workshops and science co-ops, I’m up for it. She won’t be at home forever, and I want to make the most of every moment.
How much is too much?
How many activities should your child do? Only you and your family can answer that. If two activities a week leaves you with no energy to do what’s important to you, then two is too much, no matter how outgoing your child is.
And if someone asks why you’re “making” your child do so much, just smile and know that you’re doing what’s right for your family.
The Homeschool Help team on extra-curricular activities
This post is part of the Homeschool Help series written by six different home-educating mothers from all over the planet. I’ve been enjoying reading the series immensely, so I’m delighted to have joined the team.
The Tiger Chronicle – Any Room For Extras? A few ways to look at extra-curricular activities.
Barefoot Hippie Girl – Just A Homebody. Picking and choosing what’s best for your family and life season.
Every Bed of Roses – It’s All About A Science Of Relations. It’s not about how busy, it’s about building a memory.
Highhill Homeschool – Benefits Of Extracurricular Activities. Extracurricular activities are good for kids – mostly.
Hammock Tracks – Extra Curricular Activities And Family Goals. How do you choose when and where your children (or even you) participate in extra curricular activities?