5 Things to Consider When Choosing Extracurricular Activities
We are a homeschooling family. But that doesn’t mean that all the learning and lessons of our kids happen at home only. We also look for opportunities outside our home where they can learn or develop their skills and talents and to get them to meet new friends.
Homeschoolers like us actually can accommodate more extracurricular activities, considering that our homeschool schedule is usually shorter than that of kids enrolled in brick and mortar schools. But there are factors that I consider before signing up my kids in these kinds of activities.
Let me share some of what I often consider before we make an investment of our time, money and energy.
CHILD’S READINESS & PASSION
One of the important considerations in deciding if we will let any of our children join an activity is our child’s readiness for the activity and the amount of interest that our child has for that particular topic or activity. For example, if our child shows he is interested; but we are not sure if he can sustain that interest in that topic, we simply look for one-time activities for that child just to let him experience more about that area of interest. It can be a workshop for a few hours or a half day. It depends on the child’s age. Our eldest son can already attend workshops as long as a half day even if there is no parent with him in the room or workshop. Our second son, however, is not yet ready for activities that are this long. The most that he can attend are probably activities that last for 1.5 or 2 hours at the most. That was the case with his theater workshop last summer. (You may read about this here in my previous post.) It was for 1.5 hours three times a week. We chose to enroll him in a workshop that was not a one-time learning event because he showed passion for theater and the performing arts. It’s not a passing or a new interest. So, we believed that we can invest more time in it. The same is true with our eldest son whom we enrolled in piano lessons. When he was just starting, he started with a twice a week one-hour schedules. Then, as his teacher saw his potential and passion for learning the piano, his teacher suggested that they have their lessons thrice a week. They did this for at least a month and my eldest son enjoyed his lessons very much. He also showed big progress. My eldest son also wanted to learn how to play the violin. He has been telling me this in the past years. Recently, after I found some potential schools and teachers, I asked him if he really wanted to study violin this year while also spending time developing his piano skills. I was surprised with his answer. He said that he’ll just study violin next year. Good thing I asked him first before enrolling him. He used to be so eager to study violin while studying the piano also. He would even tell me that Amadeus Mozart did the same thing when he was small.
Another important factor that I consider in choosing which extracurricular activities our children would participate in is the accessibility of the venue. I have 3 children who are all under 8 years old. My youngest is still nursing. I don’t have a maid or nanny right now. We would usually bring several bags for the children’s needs. If we need to go somewhere on a weekday, I would need a driver to bring us to where we need to go because I don’t drive. My husband has work during weekdays. That said, I prefer weekend learning events or extracurricular activities so that my husband can go with us and that we don’t spend a lot on transportation costs and a lot of our time on the road. If it is too far, my toddler might cry during our travel time and would want to be held or carried instead of sit in his car seat. For example, we allowed our eldest son to commit to playing the piano daily in our parish because it’s just a stone’s throw from our house and he doesn’t need to bring a lot of things every time. I also do not need to bring a lot of things with me even if I need to bring the two younger kids since the Mass is just an hour or less during weekdays. We can just walk to the church to go to Mass. We can easily go back home if we need something that we failed to bring with us. Sometimes, my eldest simply brings a clear book folder for his music sheets. Sometimes, when he needs to play songs that he already knows very well, he doesn’t bring anything. But there are also exceptions like the Blue Knights Club that we recently joined. The venue is quite far from our place. But since I have not heard of other groups with a similar goal and activities and it only happens once a month, I’ve decided to let my two older kids join.
The number of children in the activity is something very important to me because my kids are easily distracted. They need to have a good amount of interaction with the facilitator or teacher to thrive. Otherwise, they would come up with their own agenda! We had this experience before wherein I was not able to ask the maximum class size before enrolling my eldest child. He was only three years old then. It was for a summer soccer class. The class had a coach and an assistant coach. But, there were many meetings when there was only 1 coach and he had no assistant. They also combined the big kids with the smaller kids. There were around 20 or more kids in their class. I believe that they should have separated the smaller kids from the bigger ones. There would be a long line for all the kids. My child had to wait a while before it would be his turn to kick or do the drills. While waiting, he would notice so many other things in the field. There were a lot of times when he would not listen to what the coach was saying because he could not see the coach well or at all. He doesn’t have eye contact with him. He gets bored in line. Thus, he would sometimes wander away from the group and explore the other things he would see on the field. I also didn’t like that he picked up some bad behavior from the older kids whom he imitates while waiting in line. Since there was only one coach/teacher who can’t see what everyone is doing, he does not notice if some kids are already misbehaving. After that experience, I now ask first what the maximum class size would be for the activities before I let my kids join.
Is the extracurricular activity a paid one or not? If it is, is it something we can afford at this time? Is it worth the investment? Will our child really learn or improve on his knowledge or skills in this activity or workshop? Will he truly enjoy in it? These are questions that I often ask when considering extracurricular activities for our kids. If it is a paid class or activity, I want to make sure that it’s really worth it and at the least enjoy it. Gifted kids can have a number of interests and they could show potential in most or all of these areas. But, we need to be realistic and we need to prioritize which extracurricular activities we would invest our money on because we have a limited budget. When we chose to support his passion for music and playing the piano, we purchased a new keyboard for him along with the books that he needs. We spent thousands on his piano lessons and outfits for his recitals. I wanted to let our two older boys join robotics, Lego programming and other Science classes also. But, I’ve reminded myself that these are not urgent and that we can cover other Science lessons and experiments in the meantime in our homeschool. We need to evaluate our overall family budget first and see if we truly have the budget to spare for extracurricular activities.
Last but not least, we need to consider the child’s schedule and the family’s schedule. I think this is one of the most important factors in deciding if our kids will join extracurricular activities. Even if we have the budget for an extracurricular activity, we cannot let our kids join if our schedule is already full or if letting them join that activity would make our schedule too packed and all of us would no longer have time to breathe. Kids need some down time too in between activities, even if they like all these activities. Otherwise, they could have a meltdown or they might lose interest in one of the activities. My husband and I had been thinking of lessening the number of times that our eldest son would serve as the pianist in the Mass in our parish. We noticed that he was not as eager as before to practice. He used to practice at least twice a day. Lately, it has become challenging to make him practice. When I had a long talk with him, he said that he wants more time to read his books and to play. So, now, we agreed that he should at least practice once a day if he still wants to serve as the pianist in the daily Masses in our parish. Things have improved since we had this agreement. I am also less stressed because I don’t have to go through power struggles with him and ask (or nag) him to practice. Our rule is that if he doesn’t practice, he cannot serve as the pianist in the church. Since he really wants to serve, he makes time to practice at least once a day. It’s actually a big commitment not just on his part, but for me and my husband as well. This extracurricular activity or service means that there must be at least one parent who will go to Mass with our eldest son daily. It means that we need to bring him to church at least a few minutes before the start of each Mass. It also means that we need to ensure that he practices the songs for the Masses and that we supervise these practices. Sometimes, we need to search for music sheets and videos on YouTube of songs that are in the lineup that he doesn’t know yet. In truth, this takes a lot of my time because I’m the one who is usually home with the kids. I’m also usually the one who accompanies him to the daily Masses. I choose to stick to our current schedule and commitment because I see that he really loves serving in the church as a pianist. This role also provides for him the challenge that he needs as a music prodigy. With this role, he learns new songs frequently based on the liturgical calendar. This gives his piano practices variety. It also pushes him to challenge himself and his capabilities.
These are not all that I look into when considering a potential extracurricular activity for my kids. There are still others things that I check but including all of them would make this post already too long. 😉
How about you? What is your main consideration or top 3 considerations? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment.
This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) Blog Hop. Click here to read the other posts in the blog hop.