by Katie Julius

Dance, piano, soccer, robotics, cooking, martial arts, musical theater, Spanish…the list could go on. The number of curricular and extracurricular classes, lessons, and programs offered to homeschooling families, especially in California, has exploded in recent years.

Many families choose to homeschool because they feel that God has called them to teach their children at home. With the proliferation of options available to homeschoolers outside of the home, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that our kids need to be involved in as many activities as possible because other families are.

However, in order to reap the benefits of a home-based education and to take advantage of opportunities for discipleship, families need to be at home – and not just a couple hours per day. It’s difficult to do when we are shuttling kids from one activity to another.

While each family is different, there are a few other things you may want to consider before you begin looking at classes outside of your home.

Many of us probably wish there was more, but there are only 24 hours in a day. This limits the number of activities in which our kids can participate. While I’m certainly guilty of puzzle-piecing our schedule together this year to fit in the activities our family has chosen, it was important we left time to complete our traditional academics at home. Consider how often and for how long classes meet. Our activities are only one or two hours per week (or less). Most weeks we are home at least three or four mornings when we can focus on our Bible, math, language arts, history and science; what I consider our core academic subjects.

Don’t forget to factor in drive time, as well. We have chosen to drive about 30-minutes one-way for a youth running club, so we’re on the road an extra hour for that practice. It’s worth it for us, but others may not find that to be the case.

After time, finances are probably the biggest factor in determining which activities our family participates in. This will, obviously, vary with each family. I am fortunate to be able to work part-time to supplement my husband’s income. The majority of our activities and homeschooling resources are paid for with my income.

However, this wasn’t always the case. After leaving my full-time job when my daughter was 15 months old, we had only one income for five years. We had to be much more selective with the activities she participated in during that time.

We all go through seasons and I believe it’s a great lesson for our kids to learn that we only pay for what we can afford. Sometimes that means we have to sacrifice something we really want or we have to save up to be able to pay for it.

As I mentioned above, we have three or four days of traditional academics at home. My daughter is only six and in first grade. This works for us because school doesn’t take us more than an hour or two each day. I know that as she gets older and the rigor of curriculum increases, there are some activities that we may have to cut back on or eliminate from our schedule. I also recognize that we are at a stage where my daughter sees something and wants to try it. We can’t always acquiesce (she’s still asking for horseback riding lessons), but this is the age where she’s exploring new interests and finding what she loves and wants to pursue long-term. I know this can change from day to day, but many kids have more established interests by the time they’re in high school where you can focus more on one or two activities.

Our family is fairly unusual in the homeschooling community because we only have one daughter. This has allowed us to choose more activities outside of the home because I don’t have to worry about having kids in multiple places at one time and finances aren’t as much of a concern as they might be for other families. I know one family with multiple children who all participate in voice lessons plus one other activity of their choosing. If they want to do something new, they have to give up their current activity (after meeting any commitments they’ve made such as finishing the season for a team sport or performing in a recital for a dance class).

Each child is different and unique and will have different activities in which they excel or are interested. Letting the kids pick an activity they want to be involved in can be just as important as those outside classes we think are vital to their learning and growth.

A child’s personality can also drive what your family participates in. As the mom of an only child who is an extreme extrovert, we use our activities as times for her to socialize and release some of that energy, including co-ops and park days as well as her more structured classes. A child who is more introverted may not want to be as active as we are – and again, that’s okay!

There are two programs that I, as a parent, deem essential and a priority over other activities. We participate in Awana, a Bible-memorization program at church and our American Heritage Girls troop, a character and skills-building program founded on our faith in God. This may change as she gets older, but the long-term benefits and life skills she is learning place these at the top of our list of extracurriculars. Our other activities are “extra” right now. What some families value in a program may differ from ours. Each family has to find what works best for them.

I hope you’ve noticed the trend that’s developed through each of these points. We all should be mindful to avoid falling into the trap of being involved in too many activities. We do not want to sacrifice our academics or family time. The right balance will be different for every family. These points are offered as a list of things to discuss as you plan your activities for the year. Even if your family determines you have enough time and money for certain activities, consider the reasons you chose to homeschool. Don’t give in to the pressure to be involved in activities that take you out of your home just because you can.

That’s why it’s so important not to compare your family to others. In Galatians 1:10, it says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of God.”

As Christian homeschoolers, God has called us teach our children. We have an accountability to Him alone, not the Smiths, not the Johnsons, and not the Joneses.