Balancing Homeschooling and Extracurricular Activities
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Last fall, my daughter and I were doing a science experiment together using a balance scale, weights, and various household items for measurement. My daughter was determined that the items would be balanced perfectly. She learned that just a little extra weight, no matter how tiny, can tip the balance. This image has stuck with me when I think about how our family balances its homeschooling and extracurricular activities.

In our house, our main activity outside of schooling and church is sports. This year all 3 of my school aged children will play competitive soccer. Practices, games, tournaments and travel can all take a toll on our energy, health and school schedule. Balancing extracurricular activities and school is not an easy task. Regardless of which extracurricular activities your children are doing—sports, music, debate, arts, etc.—there is no "one size fits all" model for balance.

As we enter our 8th year of homeschooling, we have grown more confident with each year in terms of balance. This year we will have more children involved in sports with more intense schedules than ever before. It won’t be easy, but we’ve learned to be flexible along the way. Exactly how do we work to balance it all? We incorporate these rules:

Have established school start times. In my house, this means gone are the days of sleeping in and starting late. We set an alarm and have a specific start time. With the kids getting older, the work load is heavier. Activities start earlier as well. Our goal is to finish lessons and all work during school hours so we do not have homework, or at least very little. We actually have staggered start times based on our children’s individual needs. Plus, it’s easier for mom to get them started one at a time!

Turn off phone during school hours. My voicemail states that if I am not answering the phone, it is during school hours and I will return the call after school is done. With constant access to texting and emails, I have even started moving my phone to the living room where it is not in easy reach. I may plan to check my email quickly and then 20 minutes later, I’m still there with phone in hand. Establishing these boundaries for myself has helped to keep my focus on the kids. And, when mom is focused and helping to monitor them, they are more focused.

Saying no thank you. We have had to learn that to balance our priorities means that we have to be willing to say no to different things. We cannot do every local homeschool activity, field trip, or lunch date with friends. We cannot overcommit our time to volunteering in the community or at church. We cannot constantly be stopping our schooling to put the needs of others before our responsibilities to education. That’s not to say we don’t leave our house and connect with others, but we are highly selective. And, as we have said no thank you to certain opportunities, we have been able to say yes to our schooling and to our health.

Plan and work ahead. We begin school in the summer because we know for 2 months in both the fall and spring our schedule will be crazy. We also add in some Saturdays and Sundays during the winter months. This helps to lighten our load in the spring. With travel weekends for sports, we are often tired on Mondays. We have shifted to having a bit lighter day on Mondays after a weekend away. The remainder of the week, we try to add one extra lesson a day to be caught up by the end of the week. Being flexible in this area, we accomplish our work in a way that makes sense and is less stressful.

We have a rule in our family that there is 1 sport/activity per child per season. Many years ago, after allowing our oldest to both run track and play soccer, we were stretched too thin. School always felt rushed and we were always letting down one team for the other. After that season, we established the rule of 1 sport per child and as more children became involved in sports, we found it has been a blessing. It often runs counter to a society that encourages over-involvement, but it is what works for our family. It’s what allows us to remind our children that school is their main responsibility.

Schedule one day a month as a catch up. We have found that life, no matter how organized we try to be, can throw us a curve ball. This year we will be scheduling one day a month as a catch up day. I will work to plan appointments on this day as well as extra errands. If we don’t need to leave the house, we will be able to use it as a catch up day for school or as a day to relax and rejuvenate. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new addition helps us this year.

Use our children’s passion as a motivator. Throughout the years, we have held firm and made our children miss sports practices or outings when they have not completed their schoolwork. They truly dislike this, but dislike even more having to contact their coaches or friends to explain their absence. While they don’t enjoy this lesson in natural consequences, it usually only takes one missed event and that child will quickly figure out they need to refocus and do their work. We believe that the passion our children have for sports and other activities can serve as a motivator for them. Using what motivates them takes away many of the battles we can face in keeping them on task.

Remember that in the end it’s about Him! Why we school, why we play sports, what we do to serve others—it’s all about Him! In our family, we live by the verse “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 This verse is interwoven throughout our day. It’s included in our prayers and in our praises to the Lord before our school day begins, before sporting events, and at the end of our day. Our kids are living this truth and in doing so, it is helping us all to remember what is most important. And, when we start to feel out of balance, evaluating things in terms of how it brings glory to the Lord, helps to reign us back in.

What works for my family, may not work for yours. I encourage you to take some time and think about what changes you could make that would allow more balance in your day. Identify what you are doing well and build from there. Remember, there are always going to be distractions and things that can entice and pull us away from educating our children. Know that as you find balance, you will be blessing your entire family and honoring the Lord.

Debra Schroeder

HomeWorks by Precept Consultant
www.homeworksbyprecept.com/Debra-Schroeder


 

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