by Kami Huntzinger
Originally published in September of 2007 under the LDS-NHA Leaders' Post
Homeschoolers are an eclectic bunch with all different kinds of personalities, needs, and time constraints. In addition, homeschoolers lead very busy lives. For this reason, it is important to make our activities be natural and valuable extensions to our homeschool curriculum. As homeschool leaders, the challenge is to balance group activities so that there is something for everyone. Here are different types of activities that will appeal to different families and individuals:
There can be a club for just about any interest, skill, or timeframe. You can have book clubs and hiking clubs and girls clubs. There are crafts clubs, cooking clubs, chess clubs, drama clubs, entomology clubs, and sports clubs. There are homeschool Scout Troops and American Girl Clubs. And don't forget writing clubs, archery groups, and leadership clubs. Any kind of interest can lead to the formation of a club.
These are often the most time consuming of homeschool activities because they require a regular commitment. But they can also be very rewarding as your children meet others with similar interests and create lasting friendships.
2. Academic Activities.
These activities can supplement your homeschooling in a very real way. Academic activities such as Science Fairs and International Nights give your children a chance to share what they have been learning. My children work hard on their Science Fair projects, knowing that they will be talking to other people about it and being judged. The simple ribbon given there is a reward that I can't match at home.
Other academic activities, like Geography or Spelling Bees, give your children needed motivation for learning a subject that they might not find so interesting until it is presented as a competitive game.
Some activities might actually steer the direction for what you study at home. Getting together with other people can be a real incentive for learning. Several years ago, someone in our homeschool group organized a Medieval Night. My family really wasn't scheduled to study that for a while, but my children were so interested in it that we chose to get into it right then with the purpose of attending that activity.
Academic activities are a very important component of our homeschooling program. I try to keep abreast of the homeschool and community calendar to determine if there are activities that can help shape our curriculum. In addition, if I know that we are going to be studying something specific, I quite often look around for a group of people with similar interests and organize a group to get together-sometimes just once; other times monthly, quarterly, or weekly-to do activities related to that topic. My children love it and it gives us the motivation to put together larger activities that we might not do on our own.
3. Performing Arts Activities.
Believe it or not, there are some people crazy enough to volunteer to take a group of rowdy kids and turn them into a first-rate choral group! Participating in a homeschool play or musical is a great opportunity for kids to work hard on something fun while making new friends.
It can be fun to have a homeschool music night where everyone brings their instruments and jams together. Younger children can play triangles and bongo drums-it's a bit crazy, but lots of fun. Or you can limit it to a smaller group of more mature musicians for a more sedate, but fun, experience. Or you might organize a homeschool band or orchestra. A Talent Show might give a much-needed venue for performing.
Also look around for people willing to teach homeschool music, dance, or art classes. Often it is great for teachers because they can have students while everyone else is in school. They might even give discounts (it's always worth a try!).
4. Crafts Activities.
There are so many ideas I can't even begin to name them all. You can have a clay play day or a collage party or a bead-stringing workshop. There is origami, mask-making, and homemade paper. You can have candle-making, knitting, or soap- making classes. You can get together and make Christmas gifts or Valentine crafts. And, of course, everyone loves Tie-Dye Day. You can have crafts clubs (for older kids or younger kids or even the moms!). Homeschool scrapbooking groups can be a lot of fun.
"Middle Ages" crafts or "Astronomy" crafts. There are lots of ideas on the Internet and at the library.
5. Sports Activities.
Because homeschoolers aren't in organized P.E. classes, they don't always get the chance to play different sports. It can be fun to have a homeschool sports day in which you alternate the sports they play each time (try kickball, dodgeball, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.) Or you can have a mom or dad teach a one-day or multi-day class on one particular sport. My children had never played tennis until a mom in our group organized a tennis day. She explained the rules, showed them some drills with the balls, and let them practice. Not the equivalent of professional lessons, but exactly what my kids needed to learn the rudiments of the game. We can't put our kids in every sports league, so these kinds of activities give them a chance to try something new.
In addition, you can ice skate, bowl, canoe, or snowshoe with homeschool groups. Sometimes you can get discounts on any of these activities if you do them during school hours. Our local ice-skating rink gives free one-hour classes to school groups and the homeschoolers qualify. Check out your local resources.
6. Team-building Activities.
Many of the activities already discussed may qualify as a team-building activity, but I made this a separate category because I believe that it deserves attention of its own. These types of activities build lasting relationships that are important to homeschoolers.
A team-building activity may be a one-time event that allows the children to work together as a group to accomplish a purpose-for example, a scavenger hunt or a field day. Or it may be a group that meets together regularly to accomplish some purpose, such as preparing for a Mock Trial or putting on a play. Whatever the activity, it allows for kids to have something to do while they take the time to relax and open up. These types of activities can be very important for building group identity and strengthening friendships
7. Field Trips.
Everybody loves to explore new places. Many field trips are just a phone call away. Last year, our homeschool group did a science week. We organized 11 field trips to science-oriented companies in our little valley. Most of these trips were not done through contacts or people we already knew. Instead, we cold-called companies that we knew did something with science and engineering and asked if we could have a tour. All but one or two were more than happy to let us come. If you have an interest in anything, find a place that does it and visit. Many people are happy to share their work with us.
For more standard field trip destinations, large groups often get discounts or special tours. Don't hesitate to ask. Field trips are a great way for homeschoolers to meet others while learning something new.
Service activities help us to look outside of our own lives and see the needs of others. Doing service with a group can make it more fun. And by putting it on the calendar, we make sure that it will be done! (How many times have we thought about a kind service that we could do, only to have it slip through the cracks of our busy lives?) In addition, by allowing our children to spot the opportunities and organize the activity, we are teaching them compassion and leadership skills.
9. Social Activities and Special Events.
These activities have socialization as their primary purpose. Play groups, Park Days, and Ice Cream Socials. Christmas and Valentine Parties, Fall Festivals and Homeschool Dances. They are lots of fun and definitely need to be a part of all homeschool groups. However, as a parent, I want these activities to be special occasions instead of weekly time-fillers.
10. Parent Support.
Finally, we come to the moms and dads! Parents need activities, too. As a mom, I look forward to meeting with and talking to other moms in the same situation as myself. In addition, I love to attend conferences and classes that teach me an array of skills to improve myself. It is nice to socialize with moms during the children's activities, but it is also nice to have an occasional adult activity. Book clubs, Parent Nights, and Conferences all meet those needs.
I haven't even scratched the surface of the variety of activities available to homeschoolers. You are only limited by time and imagination.
About the Author
Kami lives in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah, with her husband and four children. She started homeschooling as a child when she used to make her little brother and sister sit down for lessons. She is an active leader in the Cache Valley Homeschoolers, where she puts on a yearly Science Fair and accompanying activities.