I remember the class picnics in grade school, where we walked to the city park and played half the day and ate sack lunches instead of the usual cafeteria fare, and the field trip to the local tribal museum where we learned what life was like in ancient times for the Native Americans who populated our area. I remember working after school on my science fair project in middle school, and performing with the band and the choir. I remember traveling with the academic team, and hanging out between matches watching the guys play hacky sack and getting a kick out of the ugly ties we wore in a protest of sorts against the formal dress code.
The one thing all these memories have in common is that they didn’t take place in the classroom, as part of the everyday routine. They were the fun days and field trips, the contests and performances; the events I’d worked hard to prepare for or looked forward to with anticipation are the ones that now stand out in my mind.
How can we give our kids these types of experiences, the kind they will remember forever? I suggest we break out of our regular homeschool routines in big and meaningful ways, and I’m not talking about the typical homeschool advice to enjoy a nature walk or do math at the grocery store. These activities definitely require more effort and preparation than that, but they will mean so much in the long run.
Win or lose, competitions are memorable
If your child is athletic, you probably already know that there are community leagues where kids can play soccer, baseball, football, basketball, compete in cheerleading, gymnastics, martial arts and more. But did you know that there are many other competitions, such as film festivals, history day competitions, science fairs, writing contests, animal shows, arts and crafts and so much more?
When you find a competition that matches your child’s interests, sign up as early as possible, especially if they’ll be working on an individual project. This will give them plenty of time to work on their piece, to practice for tryouts, or to simply get excited about the contest to come.
Performances give your kids a chance to shine
I remember the first year we homeschooled, I saw a notice from a local dance company looking for kids to fill small roles in a production of The Nutcracker. They didn’t require previous dance experience to audition, and the kids seemed excited about the idea, so I signed them up. They both got very small parts, which ended up costing me way more than I had anticipated in costume fees, but they were so excited to be on stage that Christmas.
Whether it’s a piano or dance recital, a local theater production, a concert with the church choir or community orchestra, or a solo act in a talent show, giving your child the chance to perform in front of an audience is an amazing way to help them practice and hone their skills, and give them an event they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Community service gives meaning to learning
Spend some time with your kids, looking around your community to identify ways that they might be able to make things better. Something as simple as making lap blankets for nursing home residents can make a huge difference, and give them an opportunity to learn, plan and execute a project that has meaning.
You don’t have to do it all, but do something
Look for an activity that connects in some way to your child’s own interests, and give them a push, if needed, to get them to think bigger, dig deeper or explore further. Help them find the excitement and joy in working hard to prepare for a competition or performance, and then giving their very best effort. Allow them to see what a difference they can make in their community when they step up, learn new things and give back.
Tavia, also known as The Unplanned Homeschooler, is an award-winning freelance writer, author, convention speaker and homeschooling mother of three awesome kids. She recently published Homeschool Bullies: Dealing with Mean Kids, Cliques and Mama Drama. You can follow her blog and find her new book at www.unplannedhomeschooler.com.