As a homeschool mom, it is a dream when I hear that I can schedule an activity or outing during the day – anything we can do to guard those precious evening hours together as a family is very important to us! Then again, it’s also nice to have an extra pair of hands and feet available to help with the taxiing of children to multiple places. Whether or not we choose to schedule extra curricular activities during the day or in the evening, it’s very easy to overdo it and sacrifice our time – either time needed during the day to focus on core subjects, or time together as a family.
So how do we juggle homeschool extracurricular activities?
This is the time to turn to the experts! IE not me :D I polled a number of my homeschooling friends as to how they handle scheduling extracurricular activities (such as music, art, sports, etc.) and are working to find a and guard a balance:
Dianna (The Kennedy Adventures), homeschooling (and working!) mom of 5: My husband’s rule is that things must be CLOSE by. Riding lessons are 10min away, running is 5 min, soccer practice is 10min, games are 20, etc.
Andrea, homeschooling mom of 3: When the kids were younger I tried to find ways that they could all do their activities at the same time, which is tricky when they are different ages. I also try to give more weight to activities that you might still do as an adult, such as swimming, instead of things that are usually only done as a kid, such as gymnastics or figure skating. That way I am building a healthy lifestyle that they can take into adulthood.
Colleen (Raising Lifelong Learners), homeschooling mom of 4: We’ve overcommitted ourselves between September and December. We’ll be scaling WAY back again in January. Sometimes it takes overcommitting a couple times to realize you simply can’t and shouldn’t do it!
Jennifer, homeschooling mom of 5: Covering the essentials is very important, then we choose extras like music, art, and church activities and classes – these have always been a higher priority for our family than say sports – we encourage the kids to use the gifts they’ve been given so that they may bless others with them as well.
As far as scheduling, if we add things it’s usually slowly, one or two changes a year and everyone’s schedule needs to work together. If classes or lessons are taught somewhere else at specific times then we work the rest of our schedules around those.
No two families are the same in their focus or struggle, but we can certainly learn a lot from the wisdom of others. Each year will definitely look different, but if you can set your priorities in advance and stick to them, you’ll be able to find and keep a balance. In other words, don’t just sign up for a program because everyone in Junior’s neighbourhood is going and the very last day is tonight and if you don’t do it now he/she will NEVER be connected with the neighbour friends! ;0)
Prioritize – Decide what’s important to YOU and your family. Swimming lessons are an absolute MUST for us. They HAVE to know how to be safe in the water and have fun.
It doesn’t matter if the Joneses’ kids are in every activity under the sun and it works for them. That might not be what’s best for you as a family. Go with your children’s interests (not their peer influenced ones :D) and gifts and help them to develop skills and talents they can continue to use throughout their lives.
Plan in advance and stick to the plan – We tend to pick one extra curricular activity per child per season, and if they start it, they have to finish. This works well for the schedule and the budget! No surprises and unplanned decisions.
Combine activities – Art is incorporated into our homeschool co-op so for us it doesn’t count as an extra curricular, and music and swimming lessons are a given – we just make sure all the lessons happen on the same day. We do also try to plan as many activities as possible on the same nights, so though it may be a hectic evening, at least it’s happening only once or twice a week instead of 4.
Limit team sports – Team sports are where things start to get difficult. I played softball for 13 years and LOVED it, but all the practices and games between 4 kids meant at least 2 nights of the week most of us were gone.
Now, with 4 kids of my own, I’m hesitant to potentially sacrifice that many evenings as well. BUT sports are important for active, growing kids, especially for the element of learning to work together as a team (something that can be missing from homeschooled kids as they can be used to doing more things independently and individually).
Fortunately, we’ve been blessed to be a part of a great homeschool co-op group, both in our old city and new, that focuses at least an hour of our time together each week on gym. It’s not much, but it’s a start! As well, during the summer months we tend to choose sports camps and VBS programs for our kids to attend, so as to not tie up 1-2 nights every week of the summer. That way they still get opportunities to play team sports without sacrificing so much of our time.
Be active as a family – Again, yes, team sports are important and so much fun! But so is family being active as a family. This summer I got a bike (it’s been about 16 years since my last one, and at least 12 since I’ve ridden it :D), so we’ve been spending lots of time riding as a family this summer. In the winter, we ski and snowboard as a family.
We’ve far from found a fixed formula that works for every season of our lives, but we’re learning to stick to what’s important, be realistic about the time we have available to us, and not stress!