As homeschoolers, we want to give our children an excellent, well-rounded education. Not only do we want to prepare our kids academically, but we also want to prepare them socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Incorporating extracurricular activities into your homeschool program can strengthen and improve your child’s educational experience in many different ways. In this blog post, we’ll define what extracurricular activities are, explore what’s available, explain why they’re so important in homeschooling, and help you understand how you can implement them into your homeschool routine.
What are extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities are additional activities outside the normal school routine that allow your child to explore their interests and develop new skills. They are not required for a high school diploma but can be added to your student’s transcript. Extracurricular activities can give your children many opportunities to expand their knowledge, work with others, build leadership qualities, or just simply have fun. Extracurricular activities are any education-related or school-authorized ones that take place during or outside a regular school day. These activities can include career education courses, performing and fine arts, physical education, and others.
Are homeschool electives the same as extracurriculars?
Yes and no. The two share many similarities but are also two distinct things. Homeschool electives are an essential part of your teen’s regular curriculum. However, extracurriculars are not. Homeschool electives usually extend beyond the main core academic courses of math, science, foreign language, history, and English. Electives do not require as much work as core courses, and they are included on high school transcripts. Some examples of high school electives include personal finance, marketing, web design, graphic design, home economics, culinary arts, nutrition, and CPR training.
You, the parent, ultimately decide how to categorize your children’s educational activities. Ideally, both elective courses and extracurricular activities should be included on your teen’s transcript. Both homeschool electives and extracurricular activities will broaden your child’s educational experience. These activities will also help your child build different talents and skills and discover career interests.
How to Distinguish Extracurricular Activities and Electives
If you’re not sure whether to treat an activity as an extracurricular or an elective, the following questions can help guide you:
- Can the activity be accurately evaluated by tools such as quizzes, papers, tests, or projects? If so, then it can be counted as an academic elective.
- Does the activity require more detailed explanation than what appears on your teen’s transcript (i.e., credit awarded, course title, final grade)? If so, it should probably be considered an extracurricular activity.
- Would the activity show up on a public or private school student’s transcript? If not, it’s best to count it as an extracurricular activity rather than an elective.
- Is your teen’s transcript packed with elective courses? If so, consider transferring some of them to the extracurricular category.
Do extracurricular activities count for credits?
Generally speaking, yes, extracurricular activities can count for credits. If a coach or teacher can assign a pass or fail evaluation of your child’s participation for the year, extracurricular activities may be substituted for a comparable academic course. For example, participating in a sport can count as a PE credit. Most extracurricular activities will count for either a half or one high school credit. Parents should keep a detailed record of their teen’s extracurricular activities. Items such as awards, brochures, projects, and samples of your teen’s work are valuable in documenting their academic experience.
What is considered an extracurricular activity?
Community events. Homeschoolers are just as much a part of their local community as public/private school students. As such, they can participate in many community activities, sports, and classes, such as:
- Library activities
- Day camps
- Martial arts
Public school sports. Many states have laws that allow homeschoolers to participate in public school sports programs. Or you can incorporate your own physical education course into your homeschool schedule. For ideas, refer to Homeschool Physical Education: Ideas for P.E. at Home with Kids
Fine arts. Perhaps your child is interested in music. Sign them up for piano, violin, guitar, or other instrument lessons. Your local library or community center may offer group lessons. Or, if you need one-on-one instruction for your child, you can find private teachers. Does your teen enjoy acting? BJU Press offers a Performing Literature Subject Kit. This full-year study develops students’ storytelling and acting skills for performance at homeschool gatherings, in church, and in competitions. Maybe your child is an aspiring artist. Check around to see if there are any art studios or art lessons for kids or teens in your area.
Clubs. So many different clubs are available to kids now. If your child has a particular interest, look for a club centered around that interest. Your local library or homeschool circle can help you find a book, knitting, cooking, chess, or other club for your child. For kids who are passionate about science or math, clubs such as robotics and coding are a great option.
Scouts. Families are no longer limited to just Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Several other scout organizations are growing in popularity such as Royal Rangers, American Heritage Girls, Trail Life USA, and Keepers of the Faith.
How to Choose Extracurricular Activities for Your Child
With so many different options, you may be thinking, how in the world do I decide which extracurricular activity to try for my child? Here are some ways to help you choose:
- Find out what is available to you in your area. Have you looked into what extracurricular activities your community or local school offers?
- Choose activities your child enjoys and that develop their natural abilities. If your kid is good at something, find an activity that will help them grow in that area.
- Encourage your child to try new things that will challenge them in different ways. For instance, maybe your child has always been proficient in sports. During their off season, consider signing your child up for art or music lessons. You won’t know what your child will learn about themselves unless you help them venture beyond their boundaries.
- Attend the first meeting of an extracurricular activity, even if you’re unsure about signing up your child. Most groups understand that people want to “test the waters” at the beginning before making a commitment.
- Explore activities that will give your student a chance to lead. College admissions officers and potential employers are always looking for students with leadership experience.
Tips for Getting Started with Extracurricular Activities
When to Start Extracurricular Activities
Knowing when to have your child start extracurricular activities is just as important as knowing which ones to have them involved in. There’s a fine balance between pushing your kids into something too soon and waiting too long. It really depends on the personality, maturity, and capability of the child. The main things to consider are your child’s levels of confidence, independence, and interest. Here are some general guidelines for deciding whether or not your child is ready for extracurricular activities:
- If your child is expressing interest in or asking to start a specific activity, it may be a good indication of readiness.
- Your child should be able to meet the social, physical, and emotional requirements of an activity. Can your child listen to and follow instructions if you’re not around? Will your child feel comfortable interacting with other children and adults independently?
- If your child is interested in meeting and playing with other kids and is developing good social skills, then now is a good time to get started with an extracurricular activity.
- Is your child always looking for something to do and is curious about new things? This is another good indication of readiness.
How much time should you spend on extracurricular activities?
For high school students, a reasonable number is 5-6 extracurricular activities, although fewer is fine as well. The key is picking one or two main activities to which your teen can dedicate between 5-10 hours per week. The number of extracurriculars can depend on where your teen is interested in applying for college, as well as the targeted course of study. College admissions officers consider extracurricular activities almost as important as students’ grades. They can infer many things about a student such as leadership skills, ability to manage a schedule, and willingness to keep commitments.
If your teen is pursuing a competitive university or college, only one extracurricular activity is really necessary. Keep in mind that it needs to be a very impressive activity that reflects on your child’s dedication, discipline, achievement, and leadership. It should also be an activity your teen has been involved in for most if not all of the high school years. This could be a sport or a STEM-focused activity.
For younger kids, the amount of time spent on extracurricular activities is ultimately up to the parents. Since you know your child better than anyone else, you can determine how many additional activities are manageable. Much of it depends on your homeschool schedule, academic load, and your children’s interests and capabilities.
How many extracurriculars are too many?
This is a question that only you as the home educator can answer. If you or your family are exhausted at the end of the week with little energy to devote to home responsibilities, you may have too much going on. Homeschool extracurricular activities should enhance your child’s educational experience, not strangle it. If extracurricular activities are taking away too much time from studies or adding extra stress to your family, it may be necessary to eliminate some of them. Remember that there is plenty of time throughout your homeschooling years to try all kinds of different extracurricular activities; you don’t have to cram all of them into one year.
Budgeting for Extracurricular Activities
You might be wondering if you can afford any extracurriculars in addition to all your other homeschooling costs. If you have never homeschooled but are planning to, expect to pay anywhere from $700-$1,200 per child annually. Here’s the breakdown of the costs:
- Curriculum. This will be your largest homeschooling expense, but well worth the investment.
- Membership fees (homeschool organizations, co-ops, record-keeping services, etc.)
- School supplies. These include basics like glue sticks, notebooks, crayons, and staplers. They also include things such as computers and headphones.
Some extracurricular activities are free, so take some time researching what’s cost-free in your area.
Extracurricular activities can be broken down into three main categories: low-cost, mid-cost, and high-cost.
- Examples of low-cost activities are running, swimming, tennis, and hiking.
- Some mid-cost options include martial arts, group orchestra or band, and some team sports like track and field or badminton.
- High-cost activities refer to club sports (soccer, volleyball, gymnastics), competitive cheer/drill teams, and performing musicians.
Once you’ve looked at the costs of extracurricular activities, set aside a budget for them.
- One great suggestion is to ask your parents or in-laws to designate money for your child’s extracurricular activity in lieu of birthday presents.
- Another creative way to budget for extracurricular activities is to barter. Offer to trade your own services or skills in exchange for lessons or classes your child is interested in.
- You can stretch your budget dollars by purchasing pre-owned sports equipment or instruments. Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, and flea markets are good places to find deals on these items.
- Find out what programs your city or local Parks and Recreation departments may offer. You can usually find several classes, activities, and programs that are cost-reduced or even free.
Finding Homeschool Extracurricular Activities Near Me
Here are 5 places to start looking for nearby extracurricular activities:
- Friends. You may be fluent in Spanish and have a friend who is a gifted seamstress. How about scheduling weekly playdates and take turns teaching your children?
- Co-ops. Homeschool co-ops can be a great place to participate in extracurricular activities. Many co-ops provide activities such as music, sports, and art as well as elective classes such as creative writing, survival skills, and cooking.
- Community colleges. This can be an ideal option for high schoolers, since many colleges allow teens to take elective classes like sewing, carpentry, and cake decorating.
- Schools. In many states, public and private schools allow homeschoolers to participate in after-school activities. Some of these include choir, chess, debate, and sports. Contact your local schools to find out if this would be an option for you.
- Libraries. Local libraries are some of the best places to find extracurricular activities. Our own library often hosts workshops just for homeschoolers, such as painting with watercolors and creative writing.
• • • • •Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.
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