How can you teach what you don’t know?
Teaching children those subjects that we weren’t good at, weren’t interested in or aren’t experienced in can be difficult. Some things, like higher maths (calculus or trigonometry, anyone?), physics or chemistry can be accomplished with a good virtual course. Or maybe you’ll try a long distance class or a tutor. But what about things like music, the fine arts, or physical education? It’s all available in your community.
One of the common objections
A big question about homeschooling is about the extracurriculars offered at schools. Will my child be able to attend prom? Be in a band? What about school plays or trying out for the football team? How can I homeschool and deprive my child of those experiences?
My first response is often, does your public school still offer band? Really? Because, the truth is, except for sports, a lot of these extras aren’t offered by the schools anymore either. Unfortunately, they’ve been replaced by testing or cut out by lack of funding. So many parents are turning to organizations and community-run groups for these extracurriculars. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether their children are in public school or not.
Check out your community
All that bodes well for the homeschooler. Many communities now offer community dances for your kids. If you’re part of a large enough homeschool group, there can often be a homeschool version of prom too.
Another source is the community-based sports team. There are many community run house league or rep sports teams. They can offer much better training, competition and opportunity for the talented athlete, too.
Community-run dramas are becoming ever more popular, especially with preteens and teens. In my small city of less than 500 000, there are at least 4 different organizations each running drama groups just for children. And there are at least 4 other organizations that regularly ask for children to act in their multi-age dramas. We’re also fortunate to have a decent symphony, that offers both free mini-concerts and larger concerts open to school groups. Between the plays, musicals and concerts, my children can be well-exposed to the dramatic arts.
Local resources are available for all the extracurriculars
Local museums are excellent resources for exposure to the fine arts. They often offer guided tours of exhibits, and possibly even classes for children. The library is another place to look for fine arts programs — check out their galleries, books, classes and speakers. Our local library here has an “author-in-residence” program, meaning that they often have published local authors offer story-telling or workshops for the public.
And our local city hall will sponsor an “artist-in-residence”, with similar sorts of programs. Recently, the artist in residence was a fascinating lady who turned nettles and other natural materials into felt. She was asking the community to help her create a felted-leaf-and-bronze-metal tree for installation in city hall. She told amazing old folk-tales about nature. At one class, taught the kids how to make the felt leaves and gave out samples. She even hid some of her creations along a hiking trail. We got to experience art and nature all at the same time! (Talk about educational!!)
Don’t forget about your community centre!
Another great place to look for exposure to a variety of artistic and athletic experiences is your local community centre. My children have been able to participate in a variety of dancing, judo, and sports, all through local community centres. The classes are 8-10 weeks long and usually a fraction of the cost of going through a studio. The local YMCA also offers pick-up basketball, squash or racketball. Plus they have affordable swimming lessons.
Try out music lessons
Music lessons are an awesome way to give your child exposure to music. They don’t have to be the classical piano or flute or tuba either. Try out a drum lesson, or maybe learn to chord on a guitar. Let your kids join a pick-up jam session at a local pub or church. Some things can even be learned through a book, such as reading music, picking out notes on a recorder or learning to sing.
Don’t forget to look for crafting opportunities. Farmer’s markets, bazaars and craft sales, and flea markets are perfect places to examine quilts, hand-sewn aprons and doll clothes. For the curious, sometimes those quilters, sewers and knitters may even offer a lesson or two in their art. It never hurts to ask politely!
Community clubs and organizations
There are speech and debate opportunities too. Community organizations such as the Lions’ Club, Kiwanis Club, Optimist Club, or any other community-minded organization probably sponsors competitions for kids in your area. There’s also parades, 4H and community clubs that your children may be interested in getting involved. Girl Guides or Boy Scouts might also be available, and they have plenty of skills to learn, trips to travel and experiences to live for your children.
Look around your community and take advantage of the benefits of homeschooling. Maybe your town is known for glass-blowing, and you could do a tour. Or there’s a music festival coming up and they are offering a family-friendly matinee (or would be willing to if asked). An airport provides a cool field trip, and of course an air show is an even better one. Also, the police, fire and ambulance services can also be interesting tours and speakers. Our local police force has a Children’s Safety Village that’s always popular, so look for one in your area too.
A further place to look would be for volunteer opportunities. The local animal shelter will always take on a responsible preteen or young teen to help care for the animals. Hospitals and nursing homes welcome visitors, and those older folk are an untapped resource for stories, wisdom and practical skills. Maybe a community garden needs a couple of strong arms and backs to help weed. And in the process the kids learn from master gardeners. Or they could serve food in a homeless shelter and learn the practical skills of cooking cheap and filling meals. Also, you could also look at job-shadowing opportunities with local landscapers, politicians and trades people.
Community college or post secondary institution
One more resource to examine for the possibilities is a local high school, community college or state university. There could be engineering camps, robotics competitions, archaeological digs, planetariums or star-gazing clubs. What about computer coding and video editing, or even just the open-to-the-community lectures? And guest speakers and workshops make amazing extracurricular opportunities for you and your children.
Community based is best.
What’s the best thing about all of the community-based fun? Most of it is free, or low-cost, and therefore affordable. Also, it usually doesn’t require much of a commitment. You can give your kids a one-time or short-term taste and see what excites their imaginations. And you don’t have to risk paying for (and push children to attend) something they might not like. You never know what will turn into a lifelong passion and ultimately a career.
There’s a wealth of opportunity
Some say homeschoolers are missing out on the extracurriculars by not being in school. In fact, I think most of us don’t realize the wealth of opportunity we are missing out on. Get out there and explore new things. Check out your community resources. Volunteer, visit, and get to know your neighbours. You’ll love the ability to experience all the hidden gems your area has, and be able to educate your children at the same time.