Extracurricular Activities: How Do I Choose?
Type in the keywords, ‘xtracurricular homeschool activities,’ in Google’s search box, and a myriad of sites suggesting a bevy of activities will be displayed. Typical suggestions you will likely find include:
From the information available, it appears that if an activity can be done, you will be able to find someone who knows something about it or who can at least link you to someone who does.
With all these options, homeschoolers should have no trouble finding extracurricular activities. But just how important are they? “They fill several purposes,” says Andrea D. Clements, Professor of Educational Psychology at East Tennessee State University and author of the book, “Homeschooling: A Research-Based How-To Manual.” For her children, extracurricular activities met social needs and curriculum requirements. They helped her children develop leadership skills and work experience.
Extracurricular activities may also help with the college admissions process. “If a student doesn’t do well on the ACT or SAT, then the benefit of having appropriate extracurricular activities for college admissions becomes moot,” says Clements. However, she explains that extracurricular activities, especially those that demonstrate leadership skills, may give homeschool students, with competitive scores, an edge in many selective colleges or universities.
What types of activities promote leadership you may wonder? “For a homeschool student,”explains Clements, “leadership could be shown thorough advancement in Scouting, teaching, or working in volunteer agencies.” Opportunities to teach may include instruction in martial arts, a musical instrument, fine art, Sunday School, or the offering of tutorial services. Examples of volunteer jobs that demonstrate leadership include campaigning for politicians or raising funds for charitable organization.
Just because an extracurricular activity doesn’t smack of leadership development doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile. Clements’ teens, which now rank as third degree black belts, began taking tae kwon do as children. They’re involvement led to many friendships and social opportunities while also meeting the requirement for physical education credits. As they progressed, they developed leadership skills and the older one was eventually employed there and as a result gained invaluable work experience.
While the benefits of extracurricular activities may be clear, what may not be so clear is where to find these activities. Clements, who also teaches a college course on homeschooling suggests looking to churches, community centers, independent classes, and local volunteer organizations for extracurricular choices. Community colleges, on-line courses, state or municipal agencies, and local homeschool networks may also offer interesting options.
Once suitable activities are located, the decision has to be made about when to begin them and the amount of time that should be spent on them. “I don’t think there is a time when students shouldn’t be involved in extracurricular activities,” says Clements. “I don’t think people get to high school and suddenly say, ‘Well, it’s time to check off the extracurricular box,’ she continues. However she often jokes that it’s difficult to fit her kids’ school into their social lives.” Despite this conflict, Clements suggest that academics should come first. “If the academics are going well, then add extracurricular activities, but not to the point that the academics suffer,” advises Clements.
While most homeschoolers integrate extracurricular activities into their curriculum throughout the year, Clements has observed that the number and frequency of extracurricular activities are highly dependent on the lifestyle of each family and personalities of the children. The profiles of three homeschool moms, Lisa, mom of middle school-aged Garrett and Ashley; Ellen, mom of a high-school aged Jordan; and Gail, mom of two college-aged young women, Laura and Paige, support this claim.
Lisa’s Extracurricular Criteria and Choices
As a homeschool mom of four children between the ages of five to thirteen, Lisa has to make choices about a lot of things, and extracurricular activities are near the top of the list. To Lisa, Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” means “train them in their natural bent.”
So when helping her children choose activities, she looks for things that enhance the natural inclinations and qualities of her children. “I want them to become well-rounded, but we focus on the things that they have the strongest desire, interest, and potential in,” explains Lisa.
Lisa admits that discovering natural talents takes time and is still trying to decipher them in ten-year old Carter and five-year-old Dawson. But with Garrett, her oldest, it was easy. “Since the age of five, his interest in sports was so obvious,” recalls Lisa. Garrett started with soccer, basketball, and baseball. Most recently he has played football, basketball, and baseball for a middle-school team in his home state of Florida, a state which allows homeschoolers to participate in the public school system.
Ashley, only a year behind Garrett, also had qualities, from a really young age, that were apparent to Lisa. “People have always noticed that she is very loving and has a very intuitive heart,” remembers Lisa. “I think she will probably be doing something with children some day. I encourage her to baby-sit and get as much experience with kids as possible,” says Lisa.
Lisa also sees Ashley, at age twelve, as a natural leader. “She loves to help other people and works very well with them,” adds Lisa,” so as she gets older, I want to involve her in service oriented activities to help her further develop leadership skills. Lisa is currently researching information about an area Girl Scout program and the local school-sponsored Beta Club.
To promote well-roundedness, in addition to tennis and babysitting, Ashley has been involved in dance and art classes. When Garrett is not on the playing field, he participates in art, piano and guitar lessons. Both children also participate in Church youth activities.”
With all this activity, you may wonder how Lisa deals with the time factor involved.
“I haven’t hit ninth grade,” says Lisa. “I know this coming year my focus on academics will be greater and as you get older, sports become more demanding.” As a result, she has already warned Garrett that next year, he may have to choose only one sport. She also weeds out activities that are no longer enjoyed or beneficial. “I pray a lot about what my kids are involved in,” says Lisa, ” and when I feel an activity is not in step with God’s plan, I reconsider.”
Lisa’s Extracurricular Resources
Lisa takes advantages of several resources in her quest for extracurricular activities. The paper, the local college, and the website of her local homeschool group, Gulf Coast Christian Home Educators in the Florida panhandle all provide an abundance of easily accessed information. But even with these connections, Lisa thinks that her best resource is talking to other homeschool moms. ” You find different people who can recommend teachers for things like art and music,” explains Lisa.
Lisa’s Thoughts about Extracurricular Activities and College
“Just recently, with Garrett, I have started to think about college,” admits Lisa. Lisa has already attended a seminar to learn what colleges expect and has acquired models for portfolios and transcripts. She also seeks advice from a friend whose homeschooled children are currently in college. But mainly she searches Garrett’s heart. ” Garrett would love to play for a college one day,” says Lisa. While Lisa is unsure if this will happen for Garrett, she knows that it is his desire and wants to continue encouraging him in his extracurricular interest until a door closes.
Ellen’s Extracurricular Choices
Ellen has been homeschooling her four boys, for almost eleven years. ordan, age fifteen and her oldest, is involved state, community, and church sponsored activities. He participates in sports and academic teams at the local public school. He is also involved in local community theater and at church he plays in the worship band.J
Ellen’s Extracurricular Resources
Ellen gets information about extracurricular activities from a variety of sources. ” There is usually a lot of word of mouth information as well as information in the local newspaper,” she notes.” For homeschool moms in states that allow homeschoolers to participate in selective courses or electives, Ellen recommends asking the schools about activities that are offered. She finds that in addition to providing information about school-sponsored activities, the schools sometimes have information about community activities as well. At times Ellen calls an organization directly to find out about activities her boys are interested in. ” Another good resource,” suggests Ellen, ” s the local homeschool group e-mail loop.” She recommends also looking to the church as a good place for finding extracurricular opportunities.
” Where you look sometimes depends on what you are looking for,” says Ellen. Of Jordan, she says, ” We found activities based on his interests.” Ellen recommends, ” eaving no stone unturned when your homeschooler is interested in something and you all have decided to try it. The internet, homeschool group, church, local school, newspaper and people you know in the community are all good resources for finding activities,” advises Ellen.
Ellen’s Criteria for Extracurricular Activities
With four boys, the amount of time spent on extracurricular activities has to be carefully considered so that the family is not overwhelmed. As a rule of thumb Ellen tends to avoid activities that keep her family from attending church and require focus on only one family member. ” Traveling sports are very demanding and traveling theater separates the family. We don’t participate in anything that precludes family time for a length of time,” Ellen explains.
Time allotted to activities also depends on the type of activity chosen. Ellen points out that, ” sports are generally scheduled by the coaches. Any time spent practicing outside of that would be based on the intrinsic motivation of your child and the amount of time available to devote to that practice.”
When considering the appropriate age to begin extracurricular activities, Ellen concedes her thoughts are different from many people she knows. ” If I could go back and start over,” laments Ellen, ” maybe we would wait until age ten for everything.” While academic team or community theater are not available until later, Ellen notes community sports typically start at about age five or six rather than at age eight to ten, which she feels is ideal. Because of the diminished demand on her family, Ellen is less critical about other activities, like Church choir that usually kick in about five years old, since for her family is typically there anyway.
Ellen’s Thoughts about Extracurricular Activities and College
Though it’s not a current priority, but with college a consideration, Jordan has chosen to participate in competitive sports. Ellen agrees with his decision, but she has reservations about organized sports however and recommends a lot of prayer for protection from the competitive mindset of most secular communities. Rather than becoming a source of pride, Ellen thinks the activities should be a means to character training. ” I have seen a lot of character growth in my oldest since he began playing junior varsity basketball. We pray and talk a lot about his response to situations and try to remind him about the importance of his heart toward the Lord,” concludes Ellen.
Gail’s Criteria and Choices for Extracurricular Activities
Like Lisa and Ellen, since kindergarten, Gail, mother of two homeschooled daughters, twenty-one year old Laura and nineteen year old Paige, considered the interests and talents of her girls when deciding which activities they would be involved in.” Neither of my girls was sports minded,” reflected Gail.” Both were musically talented. So activities revolved around music at an early age and especially in high-school. Laura was six and Paige was four when they started piano lessons,” recounts Gail. “As they got older they started branching out into voice and other music-related studies.”
Gail also found ways to encourage her girls to volunteer. She considered volunteer work important for her girls’ spiritual growth and work ethic. Along with seasonal volunteer activities like charity gift wrapping, every year since they were fifteen, both Laura and Paige volunteered at Camp Victory, a Christian camp in Alabama.” They were part of the volunteer staff which meant they worked as part of the kitchen and clean-up crew,” explains Gail. Last summer Paige was a paid camp counselor and before that Laura had been as well. In addition to helping the girls develop leadership skills, the volunteer hours also counted toward the requirements for Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship which both girls were eligible for.
When considering the time spent on extracurricular activities, Gail remembers that the high school years were very demanding.” We focused mainly on the academics and just added in the extracurricular as time and energy allowed,” recalled Gail. Sometimes the extracurricular activity could be counted toward credit requirements. Gail explained that, “in high-school the girls were allowed to dual-enroll at a local community college and were given high-school and college credit for their music lessons.”
Gail’s Thoughts about Extracurricular Activities and College
When asked if she thought extracurricular activities were a factor considered in the admissions process, Gail said, ” I don’t think they were a major consideration.” Before beginning the college application process, Gail had been advised to use a transcript format consistent with transcripts colleges received from public schools. So she included sections that listed extracurricular activities, work experience, and volunteer experience. She tried very hard to present the girls as the well-rounded individuals they are. During the college admissions interview process, though Gail was asked to defend with documentation the measures she used to arrive at academic grades, Gail conceded that never in the interview process was she asked about any of the extracurricular activities. Gail does, however, feel that extracurricular activities played a major role in scholarship selection; both girls received scholarships to their chosen colleges.
In addition to the affect that Gail thinks extracurricular activities had on scholarship selection, she also thinks these activities helped shape her girls’ choice of a major and their college experience in general. For example, Laura’s high school extracurricular activities revolved around taking different kinds of music lessons including piano, voice, and flute. Through her church youth group, she participated in choir and on the drama team. Laura, now a junior in college has chosen to pursue a fine arts degree with a theater major and a minor in music. Paige likewise chose to devote her high-school extracurricular time to music. She played piano and classical guitar and was also involved in the youth choir and drama team. Now as a college student, Paige’s interests have remained consistent. She has chosen to major in Christian education and, like Laura, will have a minor in music. In addition, both girls have performed in recitals. Paige writes music and has chosen to be involved in the talent show at her small Christian college.
As you have probably deduced, many factors have to be considered when choosing extracurricular activities. Your child’s age, interest, inclinations, time involvement, academics, future aspirations, and collegiate expectations will most likely shape your decisions. But most importantly, before making your decisions, like Lisa, Ellen, and Gail, pray and follow your child’s heart.
For clear instructions on, “How to Choose Extracurricular Activities”, check out this “EHow” link -
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