Why we waited more than 10 years for extracurriculars

Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool

Once upon a time I begged my parents to let me take dance lessons.

I had learned to play the viola through school since the age of 11, but these would be my first private lessons. I knew the expense would be a big deal for my family, but I loved dancing and wanted to learn more. Eventually they said yes (thanks again, Mom & Dad!) and I had a blast that year learning a little tap, ballet, and jazz each week.

I was 15-years-old.

I can’t help but wonder if we have extracurriculars a little backwards these days, though. In our society, parents seem to beg their kids to take lessons.

They sign them up as five-year-olds for piano, soccer, karate, ballet. They fork over hundreds of dollars.

And often as each month passes by their kids grow to hate piano, soccer, karate and ballet.

I’ll never forget the first time I noticed this approach. At a playgroup, another mom and I were discussing plans for the upcoming summer.

“Will your boys be taking any classes or going to any camps?”

I looked around to make sure she knew which two boys were mine before I answered, “Uh, no. They’re two-years-old.”

She assured me that didn’t matter and we could choose from huge array of activities. But none of them fit our budget, and the whole concept didn’t feel right either. Later that summer, four-year-old Trishna joined our family from India and we entered a new round of survival mode.

And that “not right” feeling about extracurriculars continued for over a decade. Why?

Here are a few of our reasons:

1. We wanted our kids to savor childhood.

This unstructured, free-range period of our kids’ lives will never come again. Our belief in the importance of a solid Core Phase made us feel that structured extracurriculars weren’t essential for our young children.

2. We didn’t have the money.

I can look back now, grateful, that we didn’t have extra income back then. Certain opportunities just weren’t an option, making it easy to say no.

3. I didn’t want to hound my littles to practice or go to lessons.

With three young kids so close in age, we already had enough drama in our days! I didn’t want to add any more by having to force anyone to practice their instrument or activity.

And I didn’t want anything to get in the way of attaching to my two adopted children, still growing in their relationship with us and dealing with developmental delays in many areas.

4. As a highly sensitive/introverted mama, the idea of hauling everyone out to the soccer field or the dance studio multiple times per week did not sound fun.

The payoff for any of us just didn’t seem worth the effort and energy required, especially when it meant having to wait with one or more siblings while their brother or sister participated alone.

5. I want my kids to beg me for lessons, too.

As a mom of interest-led learners, I want them to have that same desperate urge I had to learn and grow beyond their current abilities. I want them to also recognize the expense to the family, so that when we invest in them there will be gratitude and contribution, not entitlement or expectation.

And that’s starting to happen.

My 13-year-old daughter has been learning to play piano through an online program for over a year. Never forced to do lessons, she spends an hour or more each day practicing because she wants to improve.

Recently she’s mentioned how amazing it would be to have a real-life teacher, and I see her face light up when we discuss the idea. That’s my cue, my signal–ah yes, it’s about time.

Does this mean that my kids have been locked away indoors for the past ten+ years? Not exactly.

Here’s what we’ve focused on instead of structured extracurricular activities:

1. In the younger years, we focused on friends and playdates.

Meeting other homeschoolers, playing at the park or someone’s house–this was plenty to keep us busy during their preschool/early elementary years.

And of course plenty of trips to the library, kids’ museums, Trader Joes, you know–life with littles.

2.  Mixed-age activities they could attend together.

Instead of skill or age-based teams that would divide them up, we looked for activities they could attend at the same time. This saved me from chauffeuring multiple children in different directions, plus it meant I sometimes had a few hours of precious quiet to myself.

For us this has included a weekly program at a Waldorf school for a year, summer camps here and there, and our current weekly nature/wilderness school.

3. Exposure via homeschool co-ops.

We’re not in a co-op at the moment, but a few years ago we participated in one that provided plenty of exposure to different activities: martial arts, cooking lessons, scouting, and more.

This worked well because all of us were involved at the same time, but I loved that it also allowed the children to try out a few extracurriculars, to see what might interest them and what they might excel at, all in a low-pressure setting.

Am I saying that extracurriculars are never appropriate during the early years?

Hopefully you’ve been reading here long enough to know the answer–no! I’m merely sharing our experience so that if you’ve felt unsettled with our society’s pressure in this area, you’ll know there is another way. You’re the expert on what your family needs most.

Just before Christmas my 12-year-old son Jonathan took part in A Christmas Carol. It required weekend rehearsals many Saturdays and Sundays, weeknight rehearsals nearly every day as opening night drew near, and so much driving back and forth during its multiple performances.

It was exhausting sometimes, but also? So beautiful.

I loved it–because it was the first time we had ever done anything like that as a family. It’s fun watching the kids reach this new level, thinking of all that’s ahead of them to experience this way.

But most of all? I love watching their eyes shine, excited by the possibility of learning something new.

No forced practices required.

What has been your experience with extracurricular activities in your homeschool?

Originally posted on March 28, 2017.

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About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I love this! And you’ve definitely got me thinking about different socializing options for a youngster.

  2. Yes to all of these! My 6 kids range from 12-4. We have only done family activities and short term commitment ( like 2-3 weekends) classes until now. This year we will begin piano lessons at home and send the oldest to a co-op. So many of our friends run from one activity to the next and I wonder when their kids play. My daughter colored pictures for some nursing home residents and her friends said, ” I wish we had time to color, but we are never home.”

  3. I love this. I want to join the YMCA instead of my kids being on sports teams, so we can play together and bond. We have been going to the park on nice days. No pressure, no schedule. This just confirms that this is OK, even good.

  4. We did a mixture of classes and park days when my child was younger. Around where we live, people socialized around classes. Otherwise, it was hard to meet people. We also met with homeschoolers but had to travel since they didn’t live nearby. I don’t miss the driving! We’ve cut down the driving and are taking local classes at the public library which is low-pressure and great way to meet people. My daughter still begs for classes/private lessons because she enjoys them. I wouldn’t invest in them otherwise. It’s nice for kids to try new things and let them pick few of their favorites.

    • Yes, Min! Also each family and child is so different–I always want parents to know they shouldn’t feel pressured to copy what my family or any other is doing, but find their own way. And yes, driving can increase when you homeschool, for sure. That is an issue for us as well, as our closest friends live quite a drive away.

  5. Thank you so much! This voices exactly what I’ve been feeling but didn’t have bullet pointed out. In our culture, you feel like you are depriving your kids if you don’t get them ballet, gymnastics, and soccer by the time they are 5. But I just want them to have a slow, simple, loved childhood and that sometimes feels boring or not enough… As I also am a HSP and introvert, staying home a LOT makes having a big family doable for me, and I think my kids will be ok without organized sports or classes (for now). Again, thank you for posting!
    June’s latest post: 7 Tips for Finding Hand-Me Downs (when your sources run out)

    • Isn’t it such a relief when someone articulates what we’ve had a hunch about but have never fully articulated? Glad it resonates with you, June, and yes: I so believe in boredom!

  6. Oh yes! My kids are in very few extra classes and people around me wonder how they are surviving their childhood! We live in an affluent area of the south and it is the norm to shuffle your children from field to gym every Saturday and multiple times throughout the week. The parents are exhausted, the kids are exhausted, yet it seems as though people take pride in their involvement/exhaustion. My husband and I are so grateful for the slow Saturdays we have as a family and quiet evenings throughout the week. That may change as the kids get older – they are 10, 8 and 4, but for now, we are definitely savoring these childhood days! Thanks for the encouragement! Sometimes being in the minority makes you question your choices.

    • I know, Amy. I’ve questioned our own on this issue so many times (& sometimes still do!), but in the end just had to follow my gut! Recently my 12-year-old said that his favorite day of the week is Saturday because “there’s nothing going on.” I just loved that!

  7. All awesome reasons. We have mostly done family activities. Dance is the only exception. My youngest came to me at age two and started begging for dance lessons. She went carefully through several dance videos I bought for her. By age 4 it was obvious that this desire for dance wasn’t going to go away. We signed her up and are still at it now that she is a teenager. She has never wavered from this course and spends 12+ hours a week in dance classes. We followed our children’s lead and never push them into anything. I think that has solved the problem of learning to hate certain activities.
    Blessings, Dawn
    Dawn’s latest post: The Week of Spring Fever…

    • Such a beautiful story, Dawn! I love that you started her with videos–all the resources online are a beautiful way to “test” a child’s interest in an activity first.

  8. I quite agree with your thoughts! I, too, have been careful regarding extracurriculars and being generally “too busy” as a family. When our family was younger, I must admit I got excited about everything available at the school and let our oldest two, our boys, get involved in way too much–and especially in things they weren’t really that interested in: soccer, football, wrestling, basketball.

    Then we took our 6-month family sabbatical to remote southern Belize, where we lived off the grid and sent the kids to one of the poorest schools in the country. We thought it was a break from our busy life in the U.S. When we got back home, however, we’d changed. We had learned that life is too short to spend it dancing to someone else’s music.

    So now I’m of the opinion that sports and activities–even in excessive amounts–might be fine for other families. For mine, though? Maybe not so much. The kids are still involved, but only when the call they hear to ‘sign up’ is strong and clear and comes from within instead and not from what other people are doing.

    Thanks for this post! It’s so good to know there are other moms out there who feel the way I do!
    Best, Domini
    Domini Hedderman’s latest post: How to Get Traveling Sooner Than You Think

  9. I also love the idea of letting your kids beg to do something…we’re going to start piano lessons for my oldest next year (he’ll be 10 soon) because he’s been asking for over a year! I also didn’t want to force practice, etc. so I waited and it turns out that a year later, he’s just as excited, so I feel he’s ready.
    In BC, we have a great setup, we get funding and can spend that $$ on curriculum, lessons, classes, field trips, etc. so my kids have taken lots of community classes over the last few years including cooking (nah), pottery (loved), swimming lessons (the one thing I force!), ice-skating lessons (they both love), and gymnastics…not at the same time, though! Thankfully all these things are during the day, too, so we’re not fighting traffic, classes are small and with other HSers, and are free to us. It’d be much easier to say ‘no’, if we didn’t have the free money. During constantly rainy months (like, 5 months of rain), we NEED to have those movement activities in place, and I get to ice-skate at the same time, too!
    Sarah M’s latest post: February Titles // 2017

  10. I have three little ones (6, almost 5, and 3), and we have tried some activities over the years. I signed my oldest up for dance classes when she was 3, and it was miserable. This past fall we tried soccer for the older two, which was one practice during the week and a game on Saturday, but it still felt like a lot. I often wonder how people with multiple kids do activities, because I find it so difficult to get the kids in and out of the car, and to wait with younger siblings. I am letting my oldest do Irish dancing right now, and online piano (which means no driving/waiting), but I feel so strange in my community that my not-yet-5 year old isn’t playing t-ball and soccer and everything else. It was interesting to read how you’ve handled the issue. Oh- we definitely do swim lessons too, but I look for situations where everyone can take them at the same time.

    • Yes, Jennifer – we did swim lessons, too. I should have mentioned that, but forgot since it was a seasonal thing we did for safety purposes one summer in a neighbor’s pool. Sounds like you’re listening to your kids, and that makes all the difference!

  11. Thanks for sharing Jamie! I wholeheartedly agree! I want my children to enjoy their childhood and just be kids!!

  12. Love this! My son is 4 and people keep asking why I haven’t signed him up for sports yet. We go rock climbing as a family in our local rock gym. It’s wonderful because we get family time! He’ll try the climbing camp this summer and from there we will decide whether to do the after school climbing program which is only once a week! We also do AWANA. I once overheard a parent with an 18 month old talk to a parent with a 5 month old telling her she had to sign up her baby for all these activities. The mom with the 5mo old looked overwhelmed. There is true pressure in my area to sign up kids for things even at the infant stage. I’m just glad we’ve done things slowly with my son especially since he’s had a speech delay (and thankfully now almost caught up after 1.5 years of speech therapy). As much as I loved playing soccer as a kid for 18 years, I am not ready to become a full on soccer mom yet.

  13. melanie lawn says:

    I feel the same. I have a story that confirms this for me. When Mr (now 14) was 4 1/2, yes thats right just 4 1/2 !! We enrolled him in soccer ( we also enrolled him in school at 5 but thats another story) I thought thats what you did you see (lol) because almost every boy and girl plays soccer where I am from, they then go on to Netball or Rugby when they get older. He played a season and never complained, never made a fuss, but also was never concerned if a game was rained off and that should have been a clue. After 2 yrs of playing soccer, and being told he was one of the best players on the field, we let ourselves get caught up in what was in it for us as parents *sigh* Pride at being the team to beat ( I mean this was 5-6 yr olds for goodness sake !!), socialising with the other parents, the excitement and feeling of belonging. I am sad to say it was for us in the end, not my lovely boy. When he got to around 8yrs we removed him from school and therefore he was not around to sign up for soccer again. Now he’s 14, and he has never asked to join a sports team again, he actively resists the idea. He LOVES playing sports as a family, he is fiercely competitive ( in the way Teen boys can be) and is one of those annoyingly capable sports people who just seems to be able to get good with little effort *sigh*, unlike his Mum who rarely if ever makes contact with the ball lol. He has no desire however to join in a sports team. I think sometimes he would like to be part of one, but I am thinking that deep memory or being chauffeured around to sports as a young boy, not really wanting to be there but going through he motions has left a bit of a bitter taste in his mouth he can’t get past. I still know many of the kids who were on that same team, most have grown into lovely young men, but I still see that same pride in their parents, spouting the kids sporting prowess while the kids sit by looking annoyed and bored. Most have moved from sport to sport as parents try to find the one that said kids will finally get excited to play, all the time these parents are telling me how much they love it. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that school was a horrible experience for my oldest because we didn’t just change our schooling options by bringing the kids home, we changed our whole lives and attitudes.

    • It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that school was a horrible experience for my oldest because we didn’t just change our schooling options by bringing the kids home, we changed our whole lives and attitudes.

      Wow, Melanie. I love this story. Thank you for sharing! Homeschooling really changes everything, doesn’t it?!

  14. Thank you! I am going to save this to remind myself in the future for every time I hear what all the neighborhood kids are involved in, and then not feel guilty that I’m not forcing my kids to play or attend anything.

  15. Kristi Goldsberry says:

    I loved this article, I thought I was one of the only mom’s who didn’t understand the need for the extracurricular’s but has definitely felt pressure to involve my kids in things and constantly question if they would like to do things. We have tried things throughout the years and nothing has stuck so I gave up. I look forward to the day when my kids are begging me to really learn something!

  16. Agreed! It’s odd actually how competitive many parents seem to be…someone else mentioned the parent pride factor and that’s very common I’d say!?! My eldest is nearly six and has been participating in a junior karate class right down the road from us for a little over a year. She has continued to enjoy going and loves the coach, who himself is the eldest of seven and completely homeschooled. My daughter has been invited to try out the next level up (ages 6-12) next week. She’s very excited and seems genuinely proud to have made it this far.

    I do get a lot of sideways glances when other parents overhear me saying that not only do we homeschool (gasp!) but we haven’t signed our kids up for tball, soccer, basketball, or preparation-for-the-world-camp yet! Seriously…just let them play! So glad I’m not alone in the desire to protect childhood!!!

  17. We did start in with the activities when my kids were pretty young; encouraging them to try new things but soon realized we were killing ourselves and taking away from our family time just to see IF they liked something. We slowly stopped asking them and I am still waiting for them to ask– my boys just aren’t interested in a lot of extra curricular activities and I am finding that we just love having all of our nights and weekends to ourselves.
    Mother of 3’s latest post: Love to Learn Linky Party; Week #3

  18. I love this! Thank you for helping me feel less alone. I have always known our decision to be the right one for us BUT I have felt a lone in my decision when asked what activities our children are part of. I see the neighbours going back and forth from house to car and car to house mulitple times per week, I hear of families needing two cars so they can go in different directions each with a different child who has simultaneous activities, I have heard a neighbour calling for their child to GET IN THE CAR NOW FOR DANCE! and heard the child respond “but I just want to play! I don’t want to go to dance!” and I have always felt that I didn’t want those scenarios for my own children. Instead I wanted to do things with other families and things as a family- activities that can be shared and with little or no age segregation. Its hard to do at times- especially when its hard to find people available since they are “busy” and doing the activity route…but we’ve managed so far and its going well overall to do things this way. I am thankful we have chosen this route. I have always said I am not totally against activities but it has to be the right one and the right situation…and that has never happened. We haven’t had anyone really interested in doing anything yet either. I would consider it at that point for sure. Anyways thank you for putting this all into words for me.

  19. Thanks for sharing your experience! We actually tried piano lessons for my 8yo, at her request, but she got bored with it and never wanted to practice–and I didn’t want to be constantly nagging her. This was pretty much what we expected to happen, so we let it go and told her if she wants to try when she’s older, that’s fine. I was forced to learn piano as a kid and hated it, so I always swore I wouldn’t do that to my kids. Right now our family is in a Waldorf co-op tgat meets every other week, and we do lots of field trips that both kids can enjoy, and my daughter is in a Girl Scout troop that I ended up leading. That’s plenty. Formal lessons, it turns out, just aren’t a good fit right now.

  20. Thank you for the thought provoking post!
    My son is almost 5 and is, and will continue to be, an only child. I am feeling pressure, I think partly from myself, partly from extended family and probably just society in general to get him into activities such as sports, music, etc. However I am not convinced he will actually like them. I tried a Musica Lingua class with him last summer and he hated it! I feel that he needs a bit more socialization as he does not have any friends that he sees on a regular basis. Perhaps a CoOp, is a good solution? We are considering a Collaborative next fall that might be the ticket. I am worried he might be a bit lonely. 🙁

  21. Yes, yes, yes! While #4 was the driving factor for me, I just felt it wasn’t necessary to do hosts of activities as small children. When my two oldest were able to both old enough for scouts, they started (and it was a great activity to do with my husband). We’ve gone a few random things through the years but I’ve been happy to stick with my gut, and I think they are closer for learning and playing together.

  22. I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.
    Just sending some homeschooling (TJEDers) love to you and yours.

  23. Interesting take! I don’t disagree, but I found your story about begging for dance classes intriguing compared to my own experience. When I was about 10 years old I went to a friend’s dance recital. I wished I could dance too, but lacked the confidence to try. I didn’t have any natural ability and felt like I was too old to start lessons. Here I am in my 30’s still wishing I could dance! So I signed my daughter up when she was 3 years old. She’s nearly 5 now and loves her dance classes. There is no forcing her to go. On the other hand my son played soccer in the fall and seemed to enjoy it, but wasn’t interested in playing again in the spring so we didn’t push him. Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  24. Andrea Troyer says:

    This is so encouraging to me. Your blog has been the best find ever! 😊 Thank you!

  25. Ah, and here I start TBall tomorrow. This has given me thoughts about not pursuing piano any further for my kids who do not want to do it. I want my kids to play an instrument so badly, probably because I wish that I could. Well, maybe I need to work at playing that banjo that hangs on the wall waiting for me… maybe then, with the example, my kids will want to play. Revolutionary idea! Wow, this is challenging food for thought. I love the idea of kids really yearning for lessons. I also hear about some not having the confidence, so maybe needing a push to try. It is a delicate balance for each kid and family. I must further investigate this Thomas Jefferson education.

  26. Great thoughts! I have four homeschooled kids, ages almost 10, 7, 5, and 3. We do a 1 day per week classical co-op. My boys (10 and 5) both take Brazilian JiuJitsu by choice and we barter for it. My husband and I also take jiujitsu so it’s a family affair.

    I do have them take swim lessons every summer, non negotiable in Texas.

    My 7 yr old daughter begged for gymnastics since she was literally 2 years old, so she does that once a week. She used to be on the team but we cut the out after six months, too much on our family in so many ways. She misses it sometimes, but for now this is much better on our family.

    My oldest son used to play chess competitively from age 4-7, he was invited to train intensively for the World Youth Champtionship.. at seven (he was a prodigious player). It would have involved hours and hours of training a week for over a year and two weeks in Greece. He ended up saying No to it and I’m so glad!!

    I do wish they could do music lessons, but for now, we just sing at home. It’s what we can afford and this article makes me happy to not feel pressured.

    They do a fair amount if home based interest learning for free like art, coding, etc.

  27. This is something I’ve been putting a lot of thought into, as my daughter is turning 4 soon, and I had always heard that for them to “excell” at anything they had to start it young (gymnastics, piano, swimming, soccer, etc). I myself did ballet from the age of 4, and started hating it around age 9, but also wasn’t allowed to quit it. It wasn’t until I was 14 and I tried out for color guard that I really found MY thing, the extracurricular that I loved, and defined who I was.

    I had recently been struggling with how I choose what my daughter should do…. she’s only 4, there’s no way for her to know that she wants to do gymnastics, or swimming, or dance, etc. And what if I pick wrong?? This article has given me a lot more to think about, and I’m happy to be reminded that waiting until my daughter is old enough to decide for herself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now I just have to get over that mindset that tells me that she can only excell in something if she starts it at a young age!

  28. Great post. As a homeschool mom of older teens, I will say that this is important to not burn them out when they are little. Ages 4-12 should be more childhood related activities, and not competitive at all.
    On the other hand though, I have seen children that are in homeschool circles where parents are not allowing them to be involved in homeschool related activities, extra curriculars and other lessons because “it is too much work”. Is it a lot of work? Yes. It is. For me, I had children that were very active, they tended to get in trouble and needed something to burn some of the energy to be able to function to do school. It was a lot of work, but now as I have a son about to graduate, and three more coming up fast behind him, I can say that with balance, extra curriculars have been the thing that caused our school to thrive. We didn’t start until they were a little older, and even then they were more once a week and everyone went. Look for things that will be healthy for the whole family in the early days. As they got older, we did hiking as a family, swimming, camping, and as they got older we joined a homeschool basketball team in the fall and in the spring, theater club. They have made lifelong friends and it has impacted them in a positive way, beyond what not doing anything would have. So have balance. Don’t be afraid, but make wise choices.

  29. Daksina says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this today! Recently I have been consumed by guilt that I am not providing enough extra-curricular activities for my 5-year-old. We tried out trampolining for a while but she started hated going and I hate to admit it but I made her cry about her lack of commitment. “What!!!! She is 5!!” I know, I know (holding my head in shame)! I just felt the pressure to do what other homeschoolers are doing – music, drama, multiple sports, forest school, knitting club, and on and on and on….

    But I have realised that me and my little one love just being at home and sitting by the fire with a book and some lego. I just have to deschool myself from thinking I am depriving her of so many amazing opportunities. So thank you SO much for this well-timed article Jamie. You have articulated my feelings and thoughts perfectly and my mind has calmed down immediately – if it’s good enough for Jamie, it’s good enough for me!

    • “If it’s good enough for Jamie, it’s good enough for me!” – LOL, Daksina! Sometimes we just need a voice we trust to say that’s what’s in our head is okay, don’t we?!

  30. We were the opposite of you. Only child, live out in the country, homeschool, and a social butterfly of a child, extra curricular activites (starting in Kindergarten) were a life saver for us. Home during the day, doing book work/free play /outside on the farm and then in the evenings gets to go hang out with kids/learn from other adults/ and enjoy social time. To be honest, without those activites, we simply wouldn’t be able to homeschool because my son needs that social time away from us and we need a break from the constant one on one time that homeschool provides. That is why homeschooling is so wonderful…every family can do what works for their situation 🙂

  31. This is my experience. An older mom of 3 once told me she waited until her kids begged her to do something at least several times OVER SEVERAL WEEKS. She said it’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing but they may not really be interested in it!

    We have four kids & the older two boys took a sports class one semester with other homeschoolers where they got to try out baseball, soccer, basketball. I occasionally will play tennis with the kids. And my Dad teaches them golf in the summer. But we didn’t start any “organized sports” until our oldest was 8. We do one sport per season for the whole family & if you don’t want to play you just tag along. The pressure here really is to do everything but we have resisted. So far only my 10YO plays baseball in the spring and my 8YO plays soccer in the fall. We gave our 5 & 1YO swim lessons this year as we have a pool membership but we don’t do swim team. Your article encouraged me to let my kids take the initiative in planning the next thing — one has actually been begging for piano lessons!

  32. Kathleen Yeaman says:

    I agree with your analysis that kids should be free to learn to explore what is around them, especially in the younger years. My kids are now 12 and 15 and we still meet friends at the park. However, as we all know, all kids are different. We enrolled my oldest in Tae Kwon Do when he was 7 at his request. He needed more physical activity and this provided that as well as self-control and more time with friends. We are blessed to have a Christian instructor. He earned his first degree black belt at the age of 14, so he learned a great deal about setting and achieving goals, as well as perseverance. He never asked to quit, but there were struggles as he learned new skills. My youngest asked to play piano at the age of 6. I was apprehensive because he was so young, but boy did he teach me! He is passionate about piano and I have rarely had to remind him to practice. Six years later and he still loves piano. He has learned so many deeper life lessons from this early experience.

  33. I think it varies a lot based on the size of your community. I grew up in a town of less than 4,000, and other than advanced sports, we were really able to pop in and give anything a try even well into teenage years. Join the play! Join FFA, 4H, FHA, you name it. You come out of your high school years having had the opportunity to try it all.
    However, now I live (and parent) in a town of almost 200,000. I’m finding that here, kids are expected to specialize EARLY. If you aren’t in soccer by 1st grade, forget about trying it in 5th. If you aren’t doing the intense little theatre productions in 3rd grade, forget about it in 8th grade. If you aren’t FULLY COMMITTED to Suzuki instrument practice, you will be given guilt trips and pressure to cut all else from your life. The one exception is church. My kid is 10 and already lamenting that she can’t get in to basketball or soccer. (Because at 4-6, she wasn’t doing those things–she was into ballet.) What’s more, our state degree plan has you basically declare your college major at age 14.
    It’s really frustrating to me. I can also see how it would feed into a lot more need for frats/sororities in college. If your ONE THING was tennis or choir or whatever, and you get to college and you don’t make the cut, you suddenly no longer have a group at all.

  34. Trishna Martin says:

    I just love this post! Great post, Mom

    Love Trishna

  35. I love this post. We have taken the same path. Its great. This year my 12 year old started youth group and is going to a (low cost) Bible camp nearby but this is because SHE wanted to do both. This is the first time ever for any activities.

  36. Christine says:

    It sounds like that was the best move for your family. However, my 7 year old has recently started piano lessons and he LOVES it. I never have to tell him to practice, he just sits down to do it for fun about 25 times a day. I am so thankful he found something that brings him so much joy. If he didn’t practice and didn’t love it, I would not pay for it to continue. He still climbs trees, plays outside and colors he just also does piano. Sometimes it’s about finding the activity that sets a fire in their eyes and heart.

  37. Well, just for fun…
    We took a really different approach with our two boys (7& 9). We live in a walkable / bikeable / bussable part of Chicago, quite close to a music school, an art school and two really active city parks. We’re also an easy two block walk from the neighborhood public school in which we’re able to participate. So, while my kids are homeschooled, I sometimes say they are “cityschooled” which is probably more accurate. I always thought of our days as having the “home” part, and the “out” part. So each day after homeschooling, around 3:30/4pm, we (2 boys, me & baby) head out together to either bike or walk to a casual sports class at the park district (at this point they’ve tried everything) or to a music lesson (always the group classes) or an art class. My oldest son has also woken up at 6am each T, Th & F for the last two years to walk to the neighborhood school for a 7:15am chess team practice. ( He loves it. It’s become this independent identity that he has apart from the family … he gets up on his own, takes a shower & walks to practice. I NEVER thought he could do something like that at his age, but he does! His chess coach is such a great teacher / thinker / inspirer of kids… I am so grateful my son has this. I feel like the early tweener in him is satisfied to some extent by this autonomy. I heart (free) chess!) Anyway, the sports classes at the park are multi-age, coed & low pressure. I consider them the equivalent of PE. Very different than league sports. The music lessons have been a huge financial commitment and are always a stretch, but our youngest has turned out to be passionate about both piano & guitar and he’s made great friends in the classes; they have been a social highlight for him each year, and it’s somethimg he’s able to practice with his dad in the evenings. Our older son (the chess player) would simply live at the art school if he could, so I try to send him there for the day-off camps they host when the school district has off days. I carve those special days out of our grocery budget and we eat more beans. They both take “family woodshop” at the park district with their dad on Friday evenings, and they take Italian with me on Saturdays at a local parish center, and those have become special mom and dad times. Is this all insane? Kind of. Sometimes. Is it amazing? Many times. Is it tiring? Yes, but raising kids is tiring no matter what, especially in the city. Is it too expensive? Yup. Will we keep up this pace forever? I’m sure we won’t. I can see our older son itching to replace his music lessons with art, and that’s probably Ok though I’m sad to see him stop, as he was lovely on the piano. I know my youngest would trade all art classes in for music for the rest of his life if he could, but for now I think it’s important for him to get his hands dirty now and then, make something messy and wily, and take some chances with his ideas around other kids. But later, he’ll get to decide. I can see my youngest honing in on soccer which he loves to the exclusion of other sports, and I can see the older one loosing interest in playing basketball. Some days the boys say they want to skip this or that, and if they really want to, and they have a good reason, we do. My great hope is that when they’re 14 or 15 and beyond, they’ll feel confident enough to try anything, they’ll understand themselves well and know what they’re passionate about, and that they’ll be able to coexist with people of all ages, flavors, languages and abilities in a learning / playing / making environment. My other hope is that when they’re 25 and beyond they’ll look back on their “city school” and feel a deep connection to place and to the experience & adventure we all shared here together.

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