Tag Archives: extracurricular activities

The Year of the Taxi

This fall is our first venture into organized sports. We live in the country, and it takes us about 15 minutes to get to the closest grocery store, or 25 minutes if we’re going to do any other shopping. Because of this, I knew that signing one or more children up for a sports program would require quite a bit of driving. And time. And driving… and driving…and driving…

But my daughter Cassie wanted to take the plunge. She loves meeting new friends, so we signed her up for a volleyball skills session in June. Twice a week, she met with other girls to learn how to play volleyball. I figured it was a good sport to learn, as that’s the game of choice when extended family gets together. Next reunion, she’d be ready.

And she loved it!  So when the teams form and she was placed on the middle school girls’ volleyball team, it was hard to say “no.” As soon as we received the schedule, I marked everything on the calendar — times and places of practices and games. And then I wondered how I was going to juggle it all.

All four of the kids are taking music lessons of some sort now, and my oldest son is also teaching piano to some young friends. That was already four places I had to be. We also have co-op classes twice a week. Then there are the spontaneous get-togethers with friends (especially for my 10th grade son).. Still do-able, except that when the school year started, my husband began part-time work most weeknights, so he’s not available to help run anyone around.

So far (and with extra help!), we’ve made it. We share rides with some friends to/from co-op, which cuts out one trip for me. Some other friends who also have a daughter on the team have been able to give Cassie rides to some of the practices and even a couple of games that were far away.

It does get complicated, though. Monday’s are the trickiest, and I actually have to write it all down so I don’t miss anything. On a typical Monday afternoon, this is the plan:

  • 2:30 pm – Co-op classes end
  • 2:40 pm – Take Cassie and her friend to volleyball practice
  • 3:00 pm – Pick up son John and 3 friends (we carpool with them) from co-op
  • 3:10 pm – Pick up daughter Lillie from friend’s house where she went there to play after her classes were done
  • 3:30 pm – Drop off John at the home where he’s teaching piano lesson
  • 4:00 pm – Drop off John’s 3 friends, pick up son Luke who’s been playing at the friends’ house with their little brother
  • 4:15 pm  – Drop off Lillie and Luke at their grandmom’s house (next door to ours)
  • 4:30 pm – Pick up John
  • 4:45 pm – Pick up Lillie and Luke, take all home
  • 5:00 pm – Leave to pick up Cassie from friend’s home
  • 5:30 pm – Arrive home and start supper

So far, so good, though I almost forgot to pick up Lillie last week. And since we only have about a month to go until volleyball season is over, I can soon take a small break from the taxi service.

But then, John’s wants to try out for basketball….

 

Photo by K Rosseel

Lacking Confidence?

This past week, my 15-year-old went to the DMV to take the written test for a beginner’s driving permit. His birthday was at the beginning of August, so he had been asking me for a couple of weeks when we could go, so as soon as we had all the paperwork together, we went. But the night before we planned to go, his attitude suddenly changed.

“We don’t have to go tomorrow,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked. “You’ve been asking and asking to go.”

“I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

“Sure, you’re ready. You’ve been studying the driver’s manual, haven’t you? And, even if you fail the test, so what? You can always try again.”

“I’m just not ready,” he replied.

“You can’t get your permit if you don’t try,” I said. I was starting to get a little frustrated. During the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling a lot of the kids’ activities, trying to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there. We had set aside this particular time for him to get the permit. I didn’t want to re-figure the whole schedule.

Though he wasn’t convinced, off we went, my son very nervous and myself just glad we were going. He took the test and came out of the DMV a proud owner of a driving permit.

I’d like to say that the lack of confidence has only been on his part, but lately, I can really relate. As we start another school year, I’ve been reassessing how we’ve been doing and what needs to change. But sometimes, I’m just not sure. There are so many opportunities available; which ones should we make time for? What activities are the best ones to be involved in? Are we getting too involved in extra programs? Should we stay home more? Are we spending enough time with the books? Are we spending enough time as a family?

There’s no single answer to the questions, as every child is different, their needs are different, and family dynamics are different. And for us right now, I don’t even have an answer. We’re trying a sports program for my daughter that’s requiring a lot of time and a lot of travel, but she loves it. Yet as our co-op gets ready to begin, so do the big assignments, and I know we’ll have to start working on those for the majority of each day. So as we begin a new year, I’m thinking, like my son, “I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

But like my son, even if I fail, so what? I can always try again. And I can keep trying until I find what works. After all,  that’s one of the reasons why we started homeschooling in the first place.

And as for my confidence as a homeschooling parent? I’m thinking that might come after they’ve all graduated…or made it through college…or have families of their own…or maybe just through a lot of prayer! 🙂

 

Photo by karlzbobarlz

 

Contests for Kids

Last fall, three of my children entered a local art contest, and all of them won a ribbon! As part of their prize, each won a ticket to the local children’s theatre, and we were finally able to redeem them last night and see a musical together. What fun!

 Many organizations offer free contests for kids to enter, and children can learn some good lessons by participating. Not only do they have a project they need to finish well, but they have to complete it by a certain time or deadline. They develop their skills through the process, whether it’s art or writing, crafts or photography. They learn to be gracious if they win, and they learn how to deal with disappointment if they don’t. And through it all, they learn that to succeed at anything, they first have to try.

 If you can’t find any contests for kids in your local community, check out the ones available online. Here are a few with upcoming deadlines to get you started:

 ART:

SHADE Foundation Poster Contest – This contest is for children in grades Kindergarten-8th. Participants enter a 8 1/2” x 11 1/2” poster featuring five sun-safety action steps. The deadline is April 1.

Animal Rescue TV Art Contest To enter this monthly contest ,children draw or paint their favorite animal. For kids ages 16 and under.

Look and Learn Art – Based in the United Kingdom, this is a monthly international contest and is open to children ages 18 and under.

State Fish Art Contest – This contest is for students in grades 4th – 12th. Entrants draw or paint a state fish and include an essay about the habitat and behavior of that fish. The deadline is always March 31.

National Geographic Kids posts contests from time to time. Keep checking the website for updates.

WRITING

PBS Kids Go Writing Contest for children in grades K-3. Check with your local PBS station for rules and deadlines.

Kids are Authors Writing Contest – Sponsored by Scholastic, this contest is for students in grades K-8 to encourage them to use their reading, writing, and artistic skills to create their own books. The deadline for 2011 is March 15.

Why Take an Art Class?

This past week, we started back with our co-op classes. Instead of teaching the younger elementary students, though, I’m teaching classes to middle school and high school students, and one of those classes is Sr. High Art. As I introduced the course, I asked the students why learning how to create art is important.

At first no one answered my question — I wasn’t sure if they were just shy, or if they just didn’t know. Finally, someone said, “Because it’s fun.” And that’s a great reason. For many people, creating art — whether they are working on a two- dimensional piece such as drawing or painting, or whether they’re making a three-dimensional carving or sculpture — is very enjoyable. It can be a way to escape the stresses of the day and concentrate on something else for a while.

And there are other reasons. Art encourages children to use their imaginations — to do more than sit and watch a television show or video game. Also, the arts often help children develop a their self-confidence and self-esteem, as students can look with a sense of pride at something they created themselves.

Since our co-op is a Christian co-op, I shared with my students yet another reason for taking the class: sometimes the arts can reach people with the message of the Gospel when logic and reasoning cannot. Half of the people in the world out there are  logical thinkers, who want to hear something that’s black-and-white, cut-and-dried. The other half, however, — those creative-type thinkers, may identify more with the images and emotions conveyed through the arts. I can remember so many times I have been moved by a painting, a song, or a melody.

God, as the Creator, is the greatest artist of all — and he’s created us with an appreciation for beauty along with the desire to create beautiful things. And we can do that for His glory — what better reason could there be for taking an art class?

Photo by mindexpansion

Music Lessons Again — This Time, It’s Personal

When I first began homeschooling, my husband bought me the book The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise. For a few years, I tried to follow many of the recommendations outlined in the book before I realized that’s what they were: recommendations. I then used it more as a springboard as I planned the new school year. One thing I did appreciate, though, was the authors’ view of music study. Every child, they say, should have two years of piano lessons as part of their education. I agreed, thinking this would help build self-discipline, self-esteem, and an understanding and appreciation of music.

This didn’t quite happen with my daughter Lillie, though. As I’ve written before, she’s struggled with the lessons and practicing, not because she couldn’t do it, but because she didn’t want to put forth the effort. In order to have a good practice week, I would have to sit down with her every time she practiced and make sure she did it — as she fussed and whined and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (I don’t play the piano, but I did study music from middle school through college). I was unsure if I should let her quit or make it stick with it until I saw some positive changes in her attitude. I let her quit at the end of the school year.

Then, this summer, a new opportunity came along. Both of my girls were given the chance to take violin lessons from my sister-in-law who moved nearby. Lillie was very excited — and I was surprised. It would be a year’s commitment, I told her, but she agreed. We started the lessons three weeks ago.

Because they are beginners, I’ve been sitting in on the girls’ lessons and helping them as they practice. The first week of practice went well. When we began the second week of practice, though, Lillie began complaining the chin rest was uncomfortable. She spent much of the practice time fussing about it, but when we went for the next lesson, she didn’t mention it to my sister-in-law at all.

This week of practice has brought out more of Lillie’s woes: the chin rest was still uncomfortable, her fingers couldn’t reach the right strings, she was tired of standing, and on and on. I finally asked her why she didn’t tell her aunt about all these problems; after all, her aunt was the one who would know what to do about them. “It never happens at her house,” Lillie told me.

Exasperated, I finally laid down the law. “No more grumbling in this house,” I told her. “If you have a problem with your violin, you can’t tell me anymore. You have to tell your aunt.” Suddenly, the complaining stopped.

I know Lillie wants to please her aunt; after all, she’s not just a music teacher Lillie sees once a week, but she’s the aunt who lives close by and has a pool in her backyard and invites us over for cookouts and looks through Lillie’s whole collection of silly bands. I’m sure that this time, Lillie will learn a lot more than music notes. 🙂

Photo by earl53

Time with Friends

DSC_9545For the last couple of years, my children have done quite a few extracurricular activities: P.E. class once or twice a week, a literature class once a month, FCA club meeting twice a month, scouts, music lessons, art classes, and holiday parties. We saw the same friends sometimes two or three times a week, and they enjoyed being together. This year, though, that group has gone in many different directions, and we haven’t seen some of those friends since school started back.

I’m not worried about my children’s socialization — they’ve been meeting new people this year as they’ve attended co-op classes. We still have some friends over to our house once a week for art lessons, and that’s a lot of fun. But as the saying goes, old friends are like gold, and I don’t want my children to lose touch with the friends they’ve spent so much time with in the past.

So today, I made the 30-minute trip back to our old P.E. class. The P.E. class was re-arranged this year so younger children play games during the first hour while older students play during the second hour. My oldest, John, was the one who wanted to participate the most, so we went for the second hour.

And it was really good. The girls, Luke, and I went to a friend’s house who lives nearby; her girls and younger sons weren’t doing P.E. that hour, so all of them had a great time playing together inside. Another friend whose older sons were also in PE stopped by with her daughter, and it turned out to be a very relaxing visit. And John had the opportunity to play soccer with friends he hadn’t seen in a while either.

On the way home, I asked them if the trip was worth it. A resounding “YES!” went up from everyone else in the car. We won’t be able to go every week, but when we can, we’ll make the effort to get there. It’s an investment of a little more time and a little more gasoline, but I’m sure it will have a big return as the relationships continue to grow.