Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Any Room for Extras?

I think that when we consider how much extracurricula activities is suitable for our children, we can approach it from different areas.

From a Philosophical Point of View
For children who go to school, extracurricula activities usually means all activities that happen after official school hours, and are subjects that are not covered within the official curriculum.  In England, this usually refers to:
  1. any activity that takes place before 8am and after 4pm from Mondays to Friday;
  2. any activity that takes place on weekends, bank holidays, and school holidays;
  3. 'discretionary' activities that parents have to pay extra money for their children to participate in.
I have just had quick look into several prominent English school's websites to check the types of activities they classify as being "extras".  The list include:
  • performing arts (theatre, dance, instruments)
  • hobby/interest-related clubs (sports, debating, cookery, chess, photography, film making, fishing, philosophy, pottery, gardening)
  • field trips
Nowadays in our homeschool we make no distinction between 'extras' and 'core'.  This is because we have increasingly embraced the view that learning is an integral part of our way of life.  In our waking hours, we experience no separation between the times when we are learning and those when we are not, since we don't limit ourselves to how we learn, what we learn, where we learn, and who we learn from.  When something looks/sounds interesting, Tiger and I will go and check it out regardless of whether it is part of our current 'plan'. As a result, we spend about half of our time learning outside at different venues, from different people, about different things that don't necessarily tick any "academic subject" boxes.

I must point out that we did not start off on Day One being so flexible and freewheeling in our homeschooling approach.  The change has come about in response to Tiger's maturity, capabilities, and developmental needs.

At this stage of Tiger's educational life, I believe that a wide exposure to different ways of learning is necessary for him to be informed of the many different choices to getting a rich and fulfilling level of self-education.

From a Financial Point of View
Going out to attend activities costs money in terms of food, travel expenditure, and activity fees.  Therefore, I exercise discretion when choosing activities for Tiger to make sure we get the best value out of every pound we spend.

My decision process from a purely financial aspect is very straightforward: I will only pay for us to attend an activity if I feel that we are getting superior value out of our attendance.  Examples of this are the drama classes and team sports that Tiger attends regularly.

From a Time Management Point of View
Even though we are very flexible in our approach such that we have no specific "learning targets" to meet, I am still very conscious of the amount of time we spend on traveling to and from activities.  I tend to restrict our regular traveling times to within 1 hour of driving each way or within 30 miles radius of where we live.

In the recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of homeschooling activities that are made available to us, some of which are very tempting.  However, to avoid spending most of our time running around from one activity to another, I have had to learn to say no to many of them.  We find that our most effective learning experiences (for now) come from the one-to-one interaction at home at Tiger's own pace.  Therefore, while we welcome the variation that outside activities add to Tiger's overall education, I am always in the process of streamlining our selection so as to give ourselves time and space to rest, or to simply do nothing.  I don't feel that it is necessary to fill our calendar with external activities, especially when those activities compete with the time that can be spent with family or time that we need to get to know ourselves.

Lucinda from Navigating By Joy has joined us as a contributor to this series starting from today.  As always, each contributor has her own take on this matter.  Therefore, I encourage you to visit each of them at:
  • Bernadette is clearly Just a Homebody, as she makes suggestions about picking and choosing what's best for your family and your life season.

This post is linked up to:
1) Hip Homeschool Hop - 4/30/13
2) Hearts for Home Blog Hop #15
3) Homeschool Mother's Journal: May 3, 2013
4) Collage Friday - Taking Time to See Beauty
5) TGIF Linky Party #74
6) Creative Learning #13
7) Friday Flash Blog #16
8) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One Where We're Wrapping Up
9) Share it Saturday - Homemade Mother's Day Gifts
10) Sunday Showcase - 5/4/13


  1. I love how organised and comprehensive your post is, Hwee, addressing all the issues.

    I know what you mean, there is so much more on offer these days. The choice is good, but we do need to be discerning. It sounds like you've found a good balance for your family.


  2. Great post Hwee, as usual I find myself nodding in agreement with you, especially your last sentence!

  3. Lucinda - it took me quite a while to be able to say no to the activities and not feel that we're missing out. :-) It's a constant balancing act between staying at home and going out to participate in all the exciting activities.

  4. Claire - I think the societal and personal pressures on people to be seen to be active all the time cannot be underestimated. It certainly takes much thoughtfulness to go against the grain and stay true to one's family values. :-)

  5. Oh I love you approach this from different perspectives. Well done, Hwee! Very thought provoking.

  6. Thank you for your kind words, Savannah. :-) The thought of seeing this question from different perspectives just came to me when I started writing up this post, and it's exactly how I look at the issue to decide what to do when selecting outside activities to participate in.

  7. Visiting from TGIF Friday. I'd like to invite you to my Friday Flash Blog, where you can share your best blog entry of the week! And who knows, you may just get featured next week.


  8. I love this post. Thank you for sharing!


  9. Thank you for stopping by, Jennifer and Stephanie. :-)

  10. I look for outside activities that build on what we are doing at home.

  11. What a party last week on Friday Flash Blog! Thanks for joining us. I hope you’ve visited some of the other community members and you're having a splendid week.



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