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.
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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.
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 Life of Fred and strengthened through Boy Scout Merit Badges. He really had no interest in learning about trigonometry from a textbook, but was fascinated with its application to surveying and engineering.
Because he was interested, the material stuck, and he can still explain it today.
There are a million ways you can work with your child’s interests to make the learning process both easier and more effective.
Do you have a child that loves Minecraft? 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!