Extra-Curriculars Aren’t “Extra”

Why does our family homeschool? So we can customize the twins’ learning. To that end, we choose a variety of learning opportunities; some of which are considered extracurricular activities – art and music are the biggest in this category.

However, I do not see them as “extracurricular,” I see them as part of who we are as humans – necessary to our growth.

The last 100+ years of institutional schooling has us conditioned to believe that kids need academics and maybe sports, leaving things like music and the arts to only the people who have a strong interest.

But why not teach them to appreciate great composers and master artists and sculptors? They do not all have to be Mozarts or da Vincis to enjoy and understand these things, yet they enrich our children’s understanding of humanity’s capacity for greatness – and during a time where our news is full of the horrible side of our species.

Kids need more than just the basics

The basics give you the ability to learn more, so obviously we can’t skimp on them. But reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic can be more than just the three Rs.

Here’s an idea: What if, instead of just learning cursive, you teach calligraphy for a while along with it? Then, by simply following the rabbit trail down the history of the written word, your son finds that he is utterly fascinated by antique manuscripts? What if, he then become so fascinated that he finds a way to help preserve our history by protecting as many of these fragile manuscripts as possible?

Or another possibility is that maybe your daughter falls in love with a particular painter’s style, say Monet really caught her eye. So she goes on to learn everything she can about Monet, his life, and more. Then, she takes that love of art and applies it to digital art, becoming a game designer.

Maybe your son learns to play the viola, and decides that he wants to learn to teach, so that he can share that love of music with other kids – they way you did with him.

None of this is possible without doing more than just the basics. These extra-curricular activities open doors to more than you or I can imagine. It doesn’t matter if you think they are a waste of time, because you hated learning music. You never know what might spark a flurry of learning and passion for something, so don’t sell her short.

It doesn’t matter if they never become a great musician or artist.

My kids or your kids may never decide to be an artist or musician, that is okay! It really does not matter. What matters is that they have the opportunity to learn about something, because, as the saying goes, “Knowledge is power.”

What no one also tells you is that knowledge teaches understanding, which breeds respect.

Understanding what an artist or musician endures for their art is a vital part of our humanity. We start to understand that, no matter how gifted an individual, he or she must still work to achieve. It helps us empathize with the plight of people who are different, and teaches us to be gentle when we see someone struggle.

Isn’t that what we want for our sons and daughters? For them to be gentle with the people around them, and lend support when needed? To learn, and to be the best possible version of themselves?

I know I do. And, even though I will never be a great artist or masterful soloist (Ivan Galamian once said that you can either be a great soloist, or great teacher, but not both – which I have found to be true for me), music and art both bring me peace. On days where things just don’t seem to go right, those things – music and art – are my refuge in a sea of chaos.

Quick ways to include them in your homeschool

  • Have a day where everyone dresses like an artist. They can choose an artist (or sculptor, musician, etc) to dress like, and then teach friends and family a few things about that artist’s life.
  • Use gift-giving as an excuse to study something. Is a birthday, anniversary or holiday coming up? Learn about pottery enough to create something special as a gift.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter, homeless shelter, local playhouse or music hall. You’ll get to see another side of the world that most don’t get to see.
  • Check into 4H in your area. They offer a variety of programs to suit almost any interest.

How do you incorporate extracurricular activities?

Tell us in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to Learning Tangent – we’ll have even more extracurricular help in the spring issue.

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