Over the years, I’ve often been asked how we added in the “extras,” since our schedule was already pretty full. While adding extracurricular activities to that schedule might seem like overkill, it was actually really easy!
It was easy because they weren’t “extras.” We’ve never really had “core” studies and “extra” activities.
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If you ask my son what extra activities he did throughout his years of homeschooling, he would have a hard time coming up with any.
He earned his Eagle Scout at 14, is now a second-degree blackbelt, and traveled internationally without us at 17. He went hiking in the mountains in New Mexico and spent a week or two backpacking across Colorado with my cousin, a wilderness guide.
But to him, these aren’t extras.
They’re life. Life is school, and school is life.
Everything he does is something he can learn from. The “extras” are just as important and impactful as the “core” studies.
With this perspective, he learned to pick and choose his activities by what was important to him. He never looked at them as something to fit in around what others considered important – instead, if they were important, he figured out a way to fit them in.
The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s ClassroomHome Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting withthe Natural WorldBig Book of Unschooling
Playing to His Strengths and Interests
Part of how we did this was by designing his curriculum around his strengths and interests to begin with.
I required that he learn the skills and concepts he would need; he had a strong voice in how he learned those skills.
Often, we did this through unit studies and unschooling. Both of these approaches work well with his learning style.
For example, being dysgraphic, the physical process of writing is not something he enjoys. I required that he learn to write at a functional level, and he can type for everything else.
If I made him write in a workbook, our days would have been filled with struggle. Letting him write weird facts about human anatomy or journal as a medieval knight, however, made the process smooth and easy.
Works for me!
Many of his math skills were learned through Skrafty has amazing courses that will draw them in and keep them learning.
Or maybe you have a child that loves music, but has trouble with other subjects? Music in our Homeschool has some incredibly fun ways to teach history, literature, and more through music.
SchoolhouseTeachers has tons of innovative courses for all ages!
The point is, you can use just about anything to teach your children. An activity doesn’t have to be “extra” just because it’s fun!
Letting “Extras” Become Priorities
But what about when your child becomes so interested in an “extra” that it starts taking up too much time?
I actually see parents ask about this one a lot. What should you do when your child wants to spend hours per day designing an app or taking pictures?
How should you handle it when sports or dance practice start taking all their time?
Well, that depends.
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It depends on whether your child is growing and learning from that activity, or whether it’s just sucking up their time.
If it’s simply draining their time but they’re getting nothing out of it – and quite possibly, don’t even like it anymore – it may be time to let it go.
My son reached this point with competitive baseball; he loves the sport, but wasn’t ready to give 20+ hours a week and $400 a season to it. To him, that just wasn’t worth it. So, we let it go.
A few years later, he started taking karate and found out that he absolutely loves it. He chose to go to 2-3 extra classes a week and spent 10-12 hours of his own time practicing.
Notice that key word: chose.
Today, he’s a second degree black belt and an instructor with an international martial arts ministry. He gets to not only train under some amazing martial artists, he gets to minister to and mentor hundreds of people, both locally and around the world.
To him, this is completely worth it, and God has done some amazing things in and through his life because of it.
Adding in the Extras
Those choices will be different for each of our kids, and that’s a good thing. They’re each different, created uniquely to do incredible things.
Through homeschooling, we can give them the chance early on to figure out what they are (and are not) passionate about. And because of that, they can find opportunities and skills that will impact their lives and others for years to come!
So don’t be afraid to add in those extras. Don’t feel like you have to add things in just because they’re available, but also don’t be afraid to let your child take on a new passion. You never know what the results will be!
What “extras” have you found beneficial? I’d love to hear – comment below and let me know!
Planning Out Our Unschooling Studies
Beginner’s Guide to Eclectic Homeschooling
Insightful information here. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom gained through doing. I appreciate the distinction between something taking up time that they enjoy and learn from versus something that just sucks up their time. Thanks for writing this. – Lori
Annette V says
aw, I love how you made it all work. Giving choice matters doesn’t it?