The other day I ran into a friend I used to spend a lot of time with, but as our lives have gone on we don't see each other so much anymore. She and I began to catch up on life-- what she and her husband were doing and what her children were doing. It became apparent that we have very different philosophies about extracurricular activities for our children.
As a homeschooling family we have made sure that we have our children out in the community to some degree and we have done that through extracurricular activities, church activities, park days, and through play dates. Certain things are mandatory and others are a choice. Church activities are mandatory, but fortunately our children like things such as Sunday School and AWANA. Sometime next year Caleb will begin some piano lessons and may be Simeon too. This is something Vic and I decided to make mandatory as part of home education. The boys will start with piano lessons and will be taught music theory. If they choose to continue on in piano great, but if they want once they have a good music foundation then they can move to the instrument of his choice, but music is an important part of a well-rounded education for our children. Then in addition to these things we allow them to pick two extra activities. Caleb has chosen Scouting and soccer for this year, but is considering next year changing to Scouting and dance/ theater type of activities (Vic and I thinks this is up his alley and that he is making a good choice for himself). Simeon this year got to be in soccer for the first time and he will be in Scouts next year. Let me interject here that this level of activity works for our family because we have two children. I absolutely love large families and wanted a large family, but the Lord in his wisdom chose for us to be a two child home. That being said, if we had a large family then we would not have all of these extra activities because then we be sacrificing a higher goal.
This higher goal is where my friend and I disagreed. See, when I shared with her that Caleb was still deciding whether he wants to play soccer next year or do dance and theater, she did not understand why I would limit my child's opportunity to try things. She did not understand our commitment to sitting down to dinner together, not running our children ragged, or not filling every minute of their day so there is no room for play or creativity. In her mind I was stopping my child from reaching his full potential. She did not understand that by limiting our children's activities that we are really teaching them some important lessons and as I pointed out to her our children are still doing several things. Since this conversation has stayed with me I decided to blog about it.
I believe that by limiting the activities of our children does three things: 1. Offers opportunity for discipleship at the dinner table (in my opinion that most valuable place for discipleship) 2. Teaches our children to make choices and set boundaries for themselves 3. Allows free time for play and creativity.
The evening meal time is the highlight of our day. We have discussions, time of reflection, laughter, tears, learning of manners, learning that we are important and valuable to each other. We use conversation starter, learn hymns, read novels, play games, and the list could go on. There are good things my sons could learn from being in a sport or other activity, but there is nothing they will learn in those activities that is more important than what they will learn around the dinner table. My friend does have a point that her children are getting to try out things to see what they enjoy. So are mine, but my children are also learning that time is limited and they can not do everything which I believe is harder to learn as an adult. Also all the busyness takes away time to imagine, think, create, and try out new ideas. Plus all the hustle and bustle wears children out, then they don't have enough time for other obligations so they miss out on sleep so are sleep deprived. This leads to higher levels of stress hormones and other harmful things to health. I could go on,but as Vic and I discussed the matter we agreed to give our children a well-rounded education, but to limit activities.
My friend can make this lifestyle choice, but my family will continue with the philosophy that says we are unwilling to sacrifice the great for something that is merely good.