Public schools offer tons of “extras” for most kids. There’s band practice and debate club, school plays, student council and yearbooks. There are proms and formal dances, assemblies and in-class parties. And of course, there are all the varsity and junior sports. But what if you homeschool? How do you find extracurricular activities when you homeschool?
Many families new to homeschooling wonder and worry about making sure their children get all the experiences they remember fondly about going to school. They want football tryouts, proms, and graduation. And it’s a justified question, because often, these things aren’t necessarily offered for homeschoolers.
So does homeschooling mean you have to go without extracurriculars?
Homeschooling does not mean you have to go without extracurriculars entirely. Your local community may have several options you just haven’t discovered yet. And you may have to get creative and be willing to organize your own.
What kinds of activities do you want?
First, consider what kinds of extracurriculars are important to you. Extracurricular activities tend to fall into four categories: social, art, civic and sports.
Social extracurricular activities include things like dances, movie nights, carnivals, pizza day, and assemblies.
Artistic extracurricular activities would be things like band practice, choir, art contests or fairs, and school plays.
Civic extracurriculars are those events that promote development of good citizenship, like school councils, yearbooks and newspapers, debate club and speech meets.
And of course sports are all those athletic activities, both team and individual. Think football, baseball, hockey, volleyball and rugby. They also may include things like track-and-field, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, or martial arts.
Once you’ve decided what kinds of experiences are important for your family’s values and homeschooling goals, it’s time to consider what’s available, and what you may have to organize yourself. Extracurricular activities when you homeschool are out there, if you know where to look.
Check out your community!
Public school extracurricular options have long been declining. Many schools no longer offer the wealth of options they once did. And that means that community-based activities have increased to fill in the gaps.
All that bodes well for the homeschooler.
So look around your community and see what options you might find.
For example, many communities now offer community dances for your kids. Afterschool clubs, political parties, and church groups can offer programming your kids may enjoy. And there is a wealth of activist organizations that welcome young people.
And many rep sports offer house leagues, if you don’t want to commit to the competition travel schedule. They can offer 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 600 000, 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 extracurricular activities when you homeschool. They often offer guided tours of exhibits, and possibly even classes for children. You might be able to access historical, scientific, and artistic classes and educational opportunities.
The library is another place to look for extracurricular 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.
Libraries can also be great places for STEM activities too. Some libraries offer borrowing programs for certain technology (ie robotic kids) and many will have a technology center with 3D printing and VR access, along with classes or programs to teach people how to use them.
Go right to City Hall
Our local city hall sponsors an “artist-in-residence”. 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!!)
There’s also the mock-UN, or mock-City-Council, or mock-trials that are often put on by municipalities. And your local councilor or mayor may be willing to offer a “job-shadow” option as well. It never hurts to ask!
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, for members.
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. And you may have access to a community choir or band as well.
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 often sponsor competitions for kids in the local 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 almost 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, civil servants and trades people.
Community college or post secondary institution
One more resource to examine for extracurricular activities when you homeschool, 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.
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.
Start your own!
And if you can’t find it, start it. Partner with other homeschooling parents in your area and organize your own dance, “school” newspaper, track-and-field meet, or science fair. Or maybe you could do a talent show, play soccer together, or ask for a “homeschool swim” at your local pool. Organize a co-op with guest speakers from the community, go on field trips together, and enjoy creating your own community!
There’s a wealth of extracurricular activities when you homeschool
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. There are lots of extracurricular activities when you homeschool.
Get out there and explore new things. Check out your community resources. Volunteer, visit, and get to know your neighbours and your homeschooling community. And if you can’t find it, make it! 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.