September 17, 2014

Prioritizing Extracurriculars

The question came up a couple of times lately - what extracurricular activities do your kids take part in, and how do you prioritize them?

At first,  I just listed off the activities my boys are in.  But, after I saw the question again, I started to think more about it, and we actually do have a structure to the way in which we decide what (regularly scheduled) activities to participate in.

Faith.  Family.  Fellowship.

The motto of our home school is this:  God first.  Everything else falls in line.

To that end, the activities we choose first are those that help in building our faith.  Apart from attending church services on Sunday mornings, our boys are part of three other regularly scheduled activities sponsored by our church that occur during the public school year.  

First is what our church calls Wild Wednesdays.  You may have heard of Christian Religious Education, which is a program where public school students go to a local church during the last hour of school one day a week and are taught about the Christian religion  Wild Wednesdays is just that, but with a lot of fun activities thrown in, too.  My youngest son is in one of the Wild Wednesday groups, and my oldest is a group helper.

Next, the boys and their dad meet with other boys and their dads at our church one night each week for Christian Service Brigade, which is a program similar to boy scouts, but with a greater emphasis on Christian living, and is intended to build a strong bond between the boys and their male mentors.

Finally, as a family, we attend what our church calls Fab Fridays.  Once a month, we meet with other families from the community at our church for a night of fun.  Everything is family friendly and Christian oriented, but there's not usually a specific message or teaching.  It's just a night where we play games, eat snacks, make crafts, and generally have tons of fun!

After activities that strengthen our faith, we choose those that strengthen our family.  I already mentioned one above - Fab Fridays.  That falls into both the faith and family categories.  Currently, it's the only organized activity we're involved in as a family, but, if we have the opportunity to do something together (such as camping or field trips), we'll choose those things before choosing others (like sports or music lessons).

The third category we have for choosing extracurricular activities is for those that encourage fellowship.  In other words, everything else.  Sports, music lessons, technology, friends, summer camps, etc..  

Up until this summer, our boys have participated in our town's Little League program every year since they were 5 years old.  This year, my youngest chose to play soccer instead.  They made it to every game and every practice.... unless it fell on a night that one of our faith or family building activities was scheduled for.  Which usually meant they weren't starters on their teams, but that was just fine with us.  They still had fun and learned the sport as well as teamwork, but they also learned that God and family come first, which we feel is important for them to understand.

The last extracurricular activity the boys take part in regularly is piano lessons.  They travel with me when I go to work on Wednesdays and take their lessons from our Pastor's wife, who lives next door to my office.  Wednesdays, as you'll remember from earlier, is also the day for Wild Wednesdays, so after their piano lessons they simply walk across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church building, ready for Wild Wednesdays to begin.

So far, I've talked only about activities that we have scheduled on a regular basis.  Often, though, opportunities come up for the boys to get involved in an activity or program that takes place for a smaller chunk of time.

For example, in the summers, they attend our church's VBS program, which lasts just for one week.  They also attend both a summers sports camp and a summer Bible camp, each lasting for one week.  Last year, my oldest son performed in his first play with a local school that offered parts to area homeschoolers.  He had a couple practices each night for about 2 months, then two nights of the final performance.  Lastly, as a family, we take a few weekends each month in the summers to go camping (RVing, really) and to go on field trips (A.K.A., vacations).

We tend to work the temporary activities into and around our regularly scheduled ones and make some allowances for changes, depending on the activity.  For example, in order for my oldest to be eligible to perform in the play he was in, the director required each performer miss no more than two practices.  Because it was important to him, and because we anticipated it being a growth experience for him (and it was), we placed high priority on it for the two months it lasted.

I feel it's important to prioritize your child's extracurricular activities, or you can end up feeling overwhelmed and drowning in all you have to do.  Our schedule may look full and busy on paper (or computer screen), but when we know what our priorities are, we know when we can say no to something.  Being too busy can have a negative effect on both faith and family, and since those are the two most important priorities for us, it's easy to cut something out of the schedule to be sure we maintain our health in both those areas.

How do you prioritize your child's extracurriculars?  Do you have a system?  Or are you feeling overwhelmed?  Let's chat!

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