Once a week I have been answering your homeschool questions… keep them coming they are great for keeping me posting!!! I had an excellent question regarding Extra-Murals:
Mine have up until recently, but running around to all the extra murals every
afternoon just doesn’t seem to work all that well with a lifestyle of homeschooling!!! from Kim.
I had to think about this one because it turns out I have quite a bit to say about extra-murals!!! Our relationship with extra-murals has been up and down over the years. Right now they are going well, my kids that are involved are learning well and enjoying them. And for my kids who are too small to be involved in extra-murals, the activities are pretty transparent, which means no traveling for hours and no sitting in the car for more hours.
- School at Home: As we travel further down the homeschool road our school becomes less and less like “school at home.” There is far less sitting at a table from nine to twelve and far more exploring and following our interests throughout the day. Because of that extra-murals, which tend to be designed to fit in with traditional schooling, can indeed disrupt our entire day. There is nothing like a science experiment that expands from a quick ten minute project into an entire afternoon of exploring being cut short to dash off to an extra-mural!!!
- The Rut-Race: At the beginning of our homeschool journey we did quite a few extra-murals because “one must” and I nearly went mad with art lessons, and swimming lessons, and tennis lessons and so on!!! And that was with two or three kids signed up… and a string of younger kids who were spending their afternoons sitting in the car driving from extra-mural to extra-mural. After about two years of this I realized I couldn’t do it for eight kids and made a clean break. We quit them all!!! I realized that we would be doing more art just milling about at home, if we were home… and for the fifteen minutes of swimming lessons twice a week it was more than a two hour round trip!!! Really my kids weren’t making friends at extra-murals… they were spending their days in the car… So we took a break from extra-murals and never went back!!!
- Socialization: Often folks say to us: “Well if you homeschool then you must do a lot of extra-murals so that your kids can interact?” And I have a feeling that question is the good old: “Are homeschool kids socialized enough?” Well if you think about it, extra-murals are usually lessons out of school time when children are in a learning situation… not so much making friends but learning and so extra-murals don’t provide the great pool of friends that people seem to think they do!!! My kids have all found friends outside of extra-murals. They played soccer for years and while they had friends in the class, they were friends for two hours on a Friday afternoon while chasing a ball around a field. They were indeed classmates and we all know there is a vast difference between classmates and best mates.
- The Rat-Race: There is a certain amount of “getting ahead” in the world of kids!!! I found that while my kids were attending art class one afternoon a week their class mates were attending dancing before art class and gymnastics afterwards and so on and so on every afternoon. I am not sure when those kids got to play, or if they had the time in their schedule to make friends. While none of the activities these kids were doing were bad, altogether they were completely overwhelming. Seriously, it is one thing to expose your kids to a number of options and quite another to fill their days with commitments. Children really need to play – a lot!!! Folks often say, but what about the child who is talented… I have found for each of my kids that have a passion there is no holding them back… For example, I have lived with a chef for the last six years and he has never been to a pre-school cooking class. For kids with a passion, they want the real thing and mousing around in a class with other kids who don’t share their passion is just going to frustrate them. If you have a kid that is brilliant at something then settle in, get the “kit” and prepare yourself to learn along with them!!!
- Extra-Murals at Home: There is a vast difference between extra-murals and electives… where electives are topics we cover in the name of school, but aren’t traditional math, language arts, history and science subjects. Subjects like music appreciation and art, foreign languages and exercise. Topics like these are the ones that make me think homeschooling is great and I really appreciate having the time to cover them and enjoy them with my kids. One of the first questions my kids get asked by non-homeschooling friends is “What sport do you do?” Apparently a lot of status rests on your sporting ability!!! I am far more concerned that my kids live a lifestyle that includes exercise, so running, jumping, cycling and swimming for a large portion of each day.
- Outsourcing: I have no problem, when my kids get to a stage in their lives when they need to learn something I cannot teach them, with outsourcing their lessons. And I think it is great for my kids to get the idea of learning in a formal setting from someone other than myself. Someone who expects assignments done, despite things being busy, someone who expects a level of dedication even when my kids may not be “in the mood.” They are learning life-lessons about working in the big wide world one day, when they will have to work even when they would rather be reading a book and when presenting an assignment is crucial to a pay-check. So yes extra-murals do have there place and I think in the scheme of preparing our kids for life, they have an important role.
- What Works for us: and by that I mean outsourcing that I do… Our kids do musical instruments. I usually let them begin their instrument of choice from about nine-years old. Friends whose kids have begun really early have usually fizzled by the time my kids are getting started and after years of chomping at the bit mine are really keen and eager. Practicing is not a problem and they have a good idea of what is expected of them. Otherwise we all go to gym together a couple of times a week and my kids go to their relevant coaches and do whatever exercise is on the agenda when they get there… pretty random and always fun. Finally, while they can learn a language at home and we have used Rosetta Stone to learn smatterings of languages. I really think they need to have conversational practice with mother-tongue speakers. So once they reach high-school, and I only have one of those so far, they are off to a more formal language class.
And the Se7en + 1th Thing:
- Schedules: I schedule our extra-murals at the very beginning or the very end of the day, so usually before we get stuck into our school day or at the end of the day when their is a vague hope that the father person will be home to lift and ferry the student or I can leave little people home and dash out with a student. First thing in the morning means that we haven’t started our school day and I just take whatever read-aloud we are busy with and do it then. At the far end of the day it works quite well too because it makes me get into gear earlier as all the chores and things get done before we head out. Anything in the middle of the day is just too disruptive, it disrupts naps, it disrupts school and it disrupts life. All our extra-murals are chosen specifically for being within five minutes of home – really I don’t want to spend hours driving anywhere!!! And one or two of them the teacher took one look at eight kids tumbling out of the car to wait for their sibling and decided they would rather just come to our house – which I love!!!
In a nutshell: If you are thinking about extra-murals then know what you are after before you embark on them. If you are wanting your kids to learn a new skill, or make a heap of friends, or try something new then you need to make sure that you choose an appropriate extra-mural. Don’t expect the world from one extra-mural and don’t sign them up for a million of them either. To be quite honest my kids have been more than happy without them. If they want to learn a new skill they pursue them, if they want to spend time with friends they invite them over… and there is no end to the trying out of new things around here!!!
If you want to know more about our homeschooling journey then feel free to have a look at our Complete Collection of Homeschool Posts.