The Soul of Education

Extra curricular activities are always an interesting topic to discuss. As what exactly are they, how do they fit into our lives and days and why exactly are we doing them? Thoughts such as these often come spinning around my head late at night.

When we first began our homeschool journey and I was fresh out of the classroom these activities were viewed in my mind as something extra, something to add on after we had done “school”, something that was viewed as a luxury and as an added bonus – if time and money allowed. Yes, as all of life comes down to money, that is still a realistic constraint – however my attitude and views have somewhat altered over the past 10 years!

As I have spent more and more time researching Charlotte Mason, listening to Ken Robinson and partaking in other Learning Revolution discussions my understanding on what education truly is has changed. I see more and more the need for an education to fully embrace the mind, body and soul. In the past I viewed the extra curricular as something extra whereas it’s now become a part of what we do. A part of the child’s education, something as essential as maths or language.

Obviously it would sound fantastic if every child could partake in every activity that caught their attention however this is not practical or necessarily a good thing. As parents we need to wisely know our children and what suits them and when. We see these “extra curricular activities” as a personal extension of who each of our children truly are. It’s our hope that these experiences will capture their souls and their love for something that will carry them a lifetime. Our 10 year old son has always been passionate about birding, he writes a birding blog and has a birding website. We try to see that he’s able to volunteer at the Bird of Prey Sanctuary – as often as we can make the 45 minute trek there. This has not only allowed him to connect with the birds themselves but with many amazing people. Many of who maybe colleagues of his one day if he follows through with his dream to study ornithology. This “extra curricular activity” should therefore be viewed as fundamental as his writing lessons as it’s networking and connecting his passion with his future.

Each of our children may choose 2 (though sometimes it becomes 3) activities that they may partake in off our property. As all our children have an affinity for music, and I don’t, taking music lessons is a non-negotiable (which they love the idea of.) As our eldest is attends regular school and her time is tight she’s decided to find pieces off the Internet and teach herself using the online lessons she has found.The younger 3 attend musikgarten, which gives them an amazing grounding in music, and our 10 year old son has violin lessons.

Interestingly he has always wanted to play the violin and so he began lessons at the age of 6. His teacher came to our home every second week for 2 hours. During this time our boy not only played the violin but was submerged into listening to it, watching DVDs on it and above all learning to love his instrument. This year however he’s begun to talk about studying music after school and for this reason we’ve changed music teachers. The new teacher, known to have her students play beautifully, requires a much higher level of playing, as well as her students to be fully commited. Surprisingly he has absolutly taken to this and is loving the challenge.

Besides their music the boys also attend Lego lessons which have been fantastic for this mom who has absolutely no interest what-so-ever in anything that has to do with pulleys, levers, buildings and conveyor belts. By attending these lessons with a mom who’s as passionate about these, as I am about writing, has been a real blessing for the boys as they have grown and learned so much under her enthusiastic instruction.

Besides music the twins and our 15 year old do praise dance – an hour of fun dancing where they learn to worship God through their dance. The twins have been attending rhythmic gymnastics but I feel this season has reached an end for now. As hard as it is, as parents we sometimes have to make hard calls. They still really want to go but I see burn out knocking at our door as well as little foxes entering our home. For other children this is not a problem but the sweets at the end of the lesson have become an issue in the hearts of my gilrs and it’s my responsibility to guard their hearts.  Being so young the girls have begun to assosiate dancing with being rewarded for performing and now they won’t dance at home without me supplying them with a handful of treats. They are losing the love for simply dancing and are instead being drawn to the reward. Charlotte Mason warns up of this and now I’m seeing the true fruit of “what you draw a child with, is what you draw your child to.” This added to the fact that we’ve realised that gymnastics is a very individual sport, meaning that in effect our girls would be pitted against one another, we’ve decided to give it a break and that they may return, when they are older and one of them specifically wants to take this up as their “thing.”

Our 15 year old has recently taken up ballet. As her plate is full at school and she still has home responsibilities we have decided for her to attend the adult dance class that happen in the evening. There are no shows or exams but just fun ballet lessons. She’s really enjoying this approach and it allows her to decide if it is something she’d like to take more seriously later, whilst allowing her to catch up with her peer group.

We have also found certain areas that we are passionate and interested in assisted greatly by outside input. Our eldest son has just joined Cubs where he is learning so many vial skills that we simply don’t have the time to get around to.

But I’d say the greatest “trick” we’ve learned is to host or do as many extra curricular activities from our home as possible. Having studied drama and my husband being a microbiologist we host drama lessons and a science club from our home. This is great as our children are able to have lessons for free and we actually do them because others are paying to come! From the drama lessons we discovered one teenage boy has amazing soccer skills, so after drama he coaches soccer, in our garden, for half an hour. We have also said that the money we make by running these extra murals from home is the amount we’ll set aside for the children to use for other activities they want to take part in.

Having 5 children does limit one’s ability to get to everything they would love to partake in and often the lessons cost more than they child is benefiting form the activity. We do therefore use the Internet a great deal to. We have found free drum, art and piano lessons and then we also buy DVDs that have lessons. My twins favourite being one with ballet on it.

As mommy to 5 very different children I have learned one thing that remains the same – extra curricular activities need to not only entertain a child because they enjoy it but to rather be firstly something I cannot teach them and secondly something that suits them and grows them personally into all the were created to be. As our children learn and embrace new skills, these activities are the part of our curriculum that develops our child’s body as well as their soul. This happens as they are connected to beauty and are able to partake in the creative world around them.

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This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more.  You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!

SA Home Schooling Blog Carnival June 2012 ~ Extra Curricular Activities

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