Sunday, September 14, 2008

Heart of the Matter - Extra Activities: Helping or Hindering?

Welcome to the Heart of the Matter Online meme: Extra Activities, Helping or Hindering?

What is your weekly extra-curricular routine? Do your kids take music lessons? Sports? Are they involved in church activities? How much time does this leave for family time? Are you over-scheduled or relaxed in your outside programs? Share with us your thoughts on this!

This is an interesting survey idea. Extracurricular activities abound for home-educated children, although I know that was not necessarily the case a few years ago. Lots of options means choosing wisely. Here is how our family has decided:

MUSIC - I notice that a lot of homeschoolers do participate in weekly music lessons, but we do not. We tried piano for Emily and guitar for David at our homeschool co-op a couple years ago. Neither one showed a great aptitude for it, and we didn't continue past that year.

We do sing as a family several times a week (as part of our family worship time), usually a capella, so they do study music at least a little. We own a piano and I bought Piano for Quitters for my husband this year. I have considered having my children go through that at their own pace. My husband has not yet attempted it. I took piano lessons briefly as a child and always wished I had learned to play more proficiently. I did play flute in school band for 8 years. The money involved in private music lessons is more than I'd like to invest.

SPORTS - All of my kids have played fall and spring soccer. The younger two are playing this year - James is in his fourth year, and Suzy in her third year. Emily played for six years and David played for eight years. This year David is helping me coach Suzy's team and also unofficially referreeing her games. We have not been involved in any other sports; AYSO soccer meets all the criteria I have for sports.

Soccer involves 1 or 2 practices every week and 1 game (sometimes 2) each week from August-October and April-May. We play on a local league so everything happens within 15 minutes of our home - with the exception of David playing on a travel team last year. THAT was definitely a lot more driving, thus more commitment.

CHURCH - Church activities also play a big part in our lives. We regularly attend Sunday School and Sunday morning worship. During the school year, our elementary age children participate in a Wednesday night program. We mainly allow them to participate in this program for the social aspect, since they don't tend to learn a lot of Bible content or memory in this program. The stories tend to be the same ones over and over from year to year, in our experience.

Our teenage son participates in youth group, and this has been a topic of much discussion - is it a worthy use of time? Will it draw him closer to the Lord or closer to our culture? For now, we have decided to participate. It meets on Sunday nights, which we like in some ways and in some ways we do not. Our 6th grade daughter is "old enough" according to the church, but we are not allowing her to participate until she is 13 (or maybe 12-1/2). She is only 11 now.

We also would like to be involved in a small group at church, but we have yet to find one that matches our priorities (children welcome) and also meets at a convenient time. It might be "one thing too many". My husband has been involved in a weekly men's group that met on a weeknight throughout the past year and it has been VERY MUCH worthwhile. The kids went along because I had to work those nights.

OTHER ACTIVITIES - We do tend to participate in a lot of field trips. Our group has Park Days and Beach Days during the warm months and we make these a priority.

Art class is held once a month for 3 hours and my older 3 will participate this year. Drawing is something I cannot teach and I think these are important skills. The teacher is a godly man and his testimony alone is worth the time investment.

Chess Club is something we did for a while, mostly for relationship purposes. However, we discontinued it when gas prices began to rise and when our schedule became busier. None of the children was highly committed to chess as an activity, so no one really complained.

Co-op is one of our most enjoyed extracurricular activities and one of the biggest commitments. I won't say much about it here, since I posted about it recently. Co-op meets every other Friday from 9:30-2:30 during September-November and January-April. This is our fifth year participating in co-op and it is very rewarding!

Keepers At Home - My girls are involved in a twice-a-month Keepers At Home group that two friends of mine started. To be honest, I am wishing I hadn't committed to it. It's 25 minutes away and it's in the evening, which is something I try to avoid - evening commitments for the kids. However, I really think it'll be a valuable group and it will allow Emily to strengthen some friendships and make new ones, as well as learn more about being a godly young woman.[END OF ADDITION]

I think that's about it for extracurricular activities. I find that if we write our activities on our calendar and plan our lessons accordingly, we accomplish a lot and still get to participate in many activities. Gas prices have made a difference in some of our choices, and if the cost continues to rise, we may opt out of a few more things.

Family time is important to us too, especially considering my recent experience with working full time. We do like to have family movie night, family walks, and play games together as a family. We try to eat meals together whenever possible.


Carletta said...

You have some fun activities going! I really wanted to sign my oldest up for chess club this year so he could play with other kids, but our schedule didn't allow for it so we're back to playing as a family.

Lisa said...

We participate in a lot of the same activities that your family does. For the last year or so, my husband held a weekly chess club for our boys and other boys in our church. It was a fun time for them to get together, play chess, and then play a game in the gym.

Henry Cate said...

"We try to eat meals together whenever possible."

According to The Surprising Power of Family Meals families which eat dinner together have children which have an easier time learning to read.

Reading has several stages, recoginzing the letters, figuring out what words the letters make up, and then putting together the meaning. Children who eat dinner with their families have a much larger vocabulary, so stage two isn't a big deal, they know the words. For children with a smaller vocabulary, they may recognize the letters, and correctly put them together, but get lost because they don't know the words.