How do things such as gymnastics, dance, piano, swimming, sports, etc fit into a CM education? On one hand I see where these would be valuable but then I find myself shaking my head saying “come on!” especially in regards to risk of overscheduling kids and the cost factors. As parents, how do we prioritize these? What ages do we start?
FYI, my children are only 3 and 5 and as of now they aren’t enrolled in any of these activities. But I’m a planner and thinking ahead.
Well, every family is going to be different on it – but I do think you need to prioritize – and probably place limits – especially if you have a few kids. There is only so much time – and for that matter, money.
Here are my family’s priorities.
We avoid sports… I’m sure there is a lot of value in them, but they take a lot of time (and for some, time all over the calandar – ie, variable on days etc.)
We do Swimming. We consider this an important Safety skill. If they do well at it, it can also be a good part-time job when they are a teenager. (my neices and nephew all became life guards. My one neice also became a SCUBA instructor – and, along with other skills, worked full time at a few club-meds because of this skill.) But hey – safety around the water is my main goal.
We also do Music lessons. I’ve always felt it was an important skill and talent. We did Suzuki Violin partly because I was familiar with it and liked its ideas – and partly because when my son was 3 he wanted a violin.
We started both of those young, at age 3…. although most people wait for music lessons unless they are doing Suzuki.
At 8 our kids start Scouting. Well, that is when the oldest started (this year) – but we ended up starting the next in the younger program at almost-6 because she wanted to do it to. First, Scouting is the program for boys in our church (although in Canada scouts is co-ed outside of the church…) But also… well, I’ve been a Scouting (or Girl Guide… for a few years) leader for over 20 years now. My husband has even more experience. So let’s just say we really value the MANY benefits of a well-run scouting program.
And that is it. That is the 3 things we do.
Well…… when our kids are 12, if they want to join Cadets, they can. (in Canada there is Army Cadets, Air Cadets, and Sea Cadets… sponsored by the military) Both their Dad and I were in Air Cadets, and we both joined the military afterwards. He was a Tank Commander. I was to be an Aeronautical Engineer (did you know that Officer Cadet Training (ie, Basic training) will almost certainly expose any tendancy towards depression… much more than the Air Cadet camps will???) So anyway, if they want to be an Air Cadet, or an Army Cadet, that is fine with us. (Although if they want to be an Army Cadet, I think their dad would insist on them doing it in the group associated with his Regiment.) If they want to be a Sea Cadet…….. hm…… that might be a harder sell (lol)
Anyway – that is our priorities. The kids would have to be pretty convincing for other activities – although I’m not saying they wouldn’t be allowed…. but one thing we discovered (well, my dh already knew as he has 3 adult kids too) – generally if you let one child do an activity… the others want to do it too. That can get expensive really fast. Oh, and driving kids to various activities every evening wouldn’t be much fun either…. especially when the activities collide.
We have decided to look at what our goals are for our family and then let that be our guide to outside activities. We use the good, better, and best theory on this too. Those activities are all good, but some are better, and others are best. We have chosen the things we felt best supported our goals as a family.
That said, we pay for music lessons, sign language classes and the occasional limited time class (usually these are considered “school” anyway, but don’t tell the kids, lol). We have tried others, but they ended up either taking over our time and money, or the kids didn’t enjoy it as much as they thought they might.
For social time and learning new skills, along with learning how to set and accomplish spiritual goals, our children will/do participate in the tween and youth programs at our church.
Our kids participate in a variety of activities, but not every week of every month. We might take a break through the summer from a certain activity or during the holidays. It all depends, I guess.
Also, I think the more kids you have the more challenging it can be….but even if you only have 3, like we do, then allowing them to do even 2 can be alot (financially/time consuming), etc.
With all that said, we have allowed our kids to do alot of different activities (even some that I just wanted them to do because I thought it would be fun) and adjust as necessary. I have tried to spread things out through the week, keep one day free with nothing scheduled, take a month off of the activity, and so on.
My dh is a firm believer in hsing, but really desires for our kids to be involved in the things that interest them outside the home. And, to be honest, there are times we just have to get out of the house!! It’s been a blessing to have met some fantastic people who teach my kids all sorts of things that I wouldn’t be able to do, or just choose not to.
You’ll know what works for your family when the time comes. You’ll know if you’re over scheduled (you’re pulling your hair out) and when to take a break, reevaluate, or when something is just not a good fit for your child(ren).
I do try to use the “drive time” to our advantage, as well, and always have an audio book going or an educational CD ready.
There was a GREAT message on this very subject on Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey – I bet you can find it online… Radio program
It might help you as you’re preparing for the future – it’s very encouraging!
Great ideas above. 1st, we only take them because Grandma pays for them:) There wouldn’t be any classes if she didn’t. 2nd, so far we haven’t done any organized sports for a few reasons. My husband and I both played very competitive sports our entire lives, and I don’t know that it was edifiying in a Christian sense for any reason. In fact, both of us have had to really look at the way we get when we are playing sports with less skilled friends, or games against each other (we even put Bible Trivia away our first year of marriage because we were arguing over points!) I also struggled with my girls learning to “fight for themselves” in a sense with soccer,etc. I really didn’t feel like it lined up with a meek and quiet spirit. (Not that it’s wrong for girls to play, just for me personally I can’t let them).
We won’t ever do something that requires more than once a week (soccer for example is usually 2 practices, and a game/week). Family worship suffers, and family time is lacking as well.
We really enjoy the classes offered through the city parks and rec, they are 6 weeks long, once a week, usually affordable, and have had lots of good experiences with art, pottery, horse riding, skateboarding, etc. HOWEVER, my children have been around other children whose parents drop them off and the child has free reign in the class with their mouths/actions which have been very undesirable at times, so that is something we’ve questioned too. Where we live, there are also homeschool programs offered during the day that are half price (ballet, gymnastics, etc)
Bottom line, your children will be just fine without ever having taken a class or sport. Is it okay to? Again like above, pray about it, figure out the reasons you would want them to, and if it’s best for your family or not.
Update: we can play Bible trivia just fine now:) The Lord has been very gracious in allowing our competitiveness to soften, and for it never to have shown in front of our children. We are a family who loves games/sports together, and it’s been wonderful to see my children enjoy them for the pure sake of fun, not winning.
It depends on the child– my oldest was not interested in outside activities until this year when he turned 7. You know those cute 3 and 4 yr. olds on the soccer field? He was never one of them! Now he plays soccer at the YMCA and takes a weekly music class.
My second son is a team player. He started soccer at age 4 and excels! He also participates in Kindermusik Young Child, which is great for his maturity level (not ready for regular music lessons).
My youngest son wants to do what the big guys do. He joins them for soccer practice at age 2 (not old enough for games) and learns music along with them. I hope his enthusiasm keeps up but he’ll probably have his own interests and temprament as he gets older.
Having boys, dance has never been an issue for us. I would love them to do it but none of the studios in our area fully support that. The teachers usually look at me funny for asking.
We don’t have an official plan but for now, I’m letting my kids ages 7 and under experiment with a variety of sports and arts activities. They do the same one at a time to keep our schedule easy. As they get older and have their own interests we’ll do our best to let them persue one sport at a time and music, but other activities aren’t important to us right now.
Our motto is if we can’t all do it we don’t do it. Someone mentioned number of children and for us that’s a big one. We have 7 children and a couple things for us made us decide this motto
1. If it happens on a Sunday and it isn’t a family activity that doesn’t work for us
2. We are not running around 7 days a week (mind you with 7 kids how easy that could be)
3. Cost – well do I need to say more
4. Trying to schedule multiple children on the same day in different areas/sports… not going to happen
5. (A big one) dad works late many nights.. how is 1 mom suppose to get different kids to different locations and still keep the other children happy including herself.
Anyway.. that’s just us. I know other larger families who make it work, and I say more power to you! For us it just doesn’t work. We’d rather go fishing, hiking, biking, picnicing, swimming, to the park, ect “together”.
We have park, field trip days in the summer where we get together with other families (socialization) but right now our family can’t seem to get along witheachother why add more to the mix?? LOL
Our kids are (will be) all in Pioneers at church (kind of like Boy/Girl Scouts, but with a religious twist on it). Then I have 2 girls in gymnastics and 1 in dance. But this is her only year of dance (she’s 5 and doesn’t really like it, and the extra costs we didn’t know about upfront are killing us). She wants to do gymnastics next year. Thank goodness! I love gymnastics, they can all go on the same day at roughly the same times, and they all LOVE it. Our 7yo is also in soccer in the fall through the City Community Ed. classes. We are trying to figure out our summer plans, but our main goal is that everyone gets to choose one thing they’re in (other than Pioneers) per season. And we may throw in a 1-day class or something through community ed if something really good and cheap comes up. 😉
And that’s our plan for now. Of course, this may change in the future.
Like many others said, every family is different. I can see how it would be next to impossible for a family with 5, 7, or 10 children to have each child in an outside activity. I can’t imagine! Our family, however, is complete with 2 kiddos, so that makes it a little more doable for them to be in extracurriculars. So far, we have allowed each child to be involved in ONE thing. We don’t do Wednesday night church or small groups, so our evenings are free for the most part. Our ds8 is involved in Taekwondo, and it has been wonderful for him. In the past he has participated in baseball (which we all love), and will probably play again this fall. It’s something he and Daddy do together, so it’s good time for them. I’m not really fond of competitive sports for my kids, but ds doesn’t view baseball as competitive yet. For him, it’s about his own skill development in the sport. Taekwondo, on the other hand, is his sweet spot. He practices on his own daily at home, without reminding. He is actually about to belt test again. I love it because he competes against himself to be better and excel, rather than competing against others for a reward or trophy. It has been very fulfilling for him. When we started lessons five months ago, we decided to take it one month at a time to see if it would be good fit for him and our schedule. It has worked thus far.
Our dd6 has been in ballet or gymnastics at different times. She enjoys both, but doesn’t really excel in either. We decided on gymnastics this semester because her trunk is very weak and we knew it would help her. She finally learned to do a cartwheel! She did gain some trunk strength, which was our goal; and now the class has ended and I am looking forward to having only one child’s activities to deal with during the summer. I don’t know what we’ll do for her in the future because she hasn’t yet found her “niche” or passion, and we would really like for her to find something she really enjoys and challenges herself in.
I don’t agree that it’s wrong for our children to be in organized outside activities at all. I mean, we all have a passion of some sort, which is healthy and good. If my child’s passion involves something outside our home and isn’t excessively taking up tons of time and driving, I am willing to sacrifice an hour or two per week so that he/she can follow that passion. If that passion doesn’t involve something outside the home, that’s great too. Of our two children, one has found that thing which drives him to do better, practice, be excellent, and set goals for the future. Those characteristics are desirable well beyond childhood, so we feel it is beneficial for him to continue the activity as long as his attitude and ethic remain as they are now. We will continue to help dd find where she fits, be that in a sport, with art or music, theatre, or elsewhere.
Hope that helps, from someone who has tried really hard to find balance in it all,
My 4 kids probably do a fair amount of activities. I will say the things they did when they were younger, say up to age 5 or 6, probably didn’t have much long lasting value. I try to find things multiple kids can do at once. I see these things which are usually exercise or arts as just areas of homeschOoling that I outsource. Some people send their kids to school and outsource their whole education. We choose to do the basics but I am okay with someone else teaching them painting or gymnastics.
We only have one DD, so we are pretty intentional about outside activities to offer her a little social interaction with other kids. DH wanted her in swimming lessons through the YMCA this past year, because she had a pretty bad experience with her beginning swimming lessons through the park district last summer and he didn’t want her to be afraid of the water. Plus, like suzukimom said, it’s a life skill. It’s actually her favorite activity, and we plan to keep her in it year round.
She also attends the AWANA program at the church just down the road from us. She’s been in that since she was three, and just finished her first year of Sparks. She has made some friends in that program over the past few years and looks forward to seeing them every week. I have really seen her blossom in the area of scripture memorization, not just with what she is asked to learn for AWANA, but also with what we’re learning at home. She will stay in that as long as we continue to live here; if DH gets called to a new church with a Wed. night program, then she’ll transition to that instead.
This year we also added tap dance lessons, 45 minutes, once a week. She loved the experience, but honestly, there were weeks that it got a little overwhelming for me that we were gone so much. (I also work outside the home, and I’m gone two or three evenings a week until 7 p.m. because of that.) She would like to continue next year, but DH and I have to decide on that sometime over the summer.
In the summer, she’ll get to try a few new activities, because they are offered at a reasonable cost through the park district, once a week, for six weeks. She’ll do a horse camp each Sat. morning in June for 2 hours, learning the basics about horse care (including grooming, the tack, etc.) and get to ride a little. She’s loves horses, but we can’t afford regular lessons, and this is her “big” birthday present this year. She’ll also take a drama class on Friday mornings for six weeks. And the Y offers summer soccer camp for one week in July. That will likely be a birthday present from Grandma and Grandpa again.
We really need to find a few homeschool families in the area for playdates, and get some interaction that way. 😉 We were good friends with two families whose DH’s respective jobs took them out of the area last summer, and my work schedule makes it challenging to meet new families at play days at the park, etc. Once we do, we’ll probably drop to church and one activity.
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