The Texas Education Code requires home schools to teach the following subjects: reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and a course in good citizenship.
There were days when that was all I could teach, having begun my home schooling career in 1993 newly pregnant, teaching a first grader, kindergartner, a three-year old, and an eighteen-month old. There were days when I was relieved that is all that is required of homeschoolers to teach!
Over the years of teaching my six children, participating in several co-ops, and leading or assisting in youth organizations such as Boy Scouts and 4-H, I have become convinced that extra-curricular subjects and activities are just as essential as core subjects. I believe that extra-curricular subjects actually provide more real life skills to students than core curriculum does.
In the world outside of school, people compete, set goals, plan projects that have actual applications, and receive rewards for the successful completion of their projects. Conversely when people do not meet goals, the consequences of failure also teach important skills. Many times we learn more from our failures than our successes.
One advantage of extra-curricular subjects and activities is that often the choice is student-driven. When a student has an interest in an area he or she is more likely to be more invested in obtaining and utilizing the information presented. It is a joy for both student and teacher when there is enthusiasm for a subject, activity, or event.
When my daughters participated in 4-H they read the monthly newsletter avidly, telling me about the various workshops, competitions, and community service projects in which they wished to participate.
Through their participation in the food show, fashion show, livestock show, and Round Up, they learned how to prepare balanced meals, to insure food safety, to comparison shop for food and clothing, to write and present a speech, to care for and train animals, and to identify and serve the needs of their community. They earned credits in family & consumer sciences, speech, health, citizenship, and community service in a fun, challenging, encouraging atmosphere.
Another asset of extra-curricular subjects and activities is how they strengthen skills in core curriculum areas. Whether my students were preparing for an upcoming 4-H competition, earning badges in Scouting, or participating in a co-op class, they used and improved the math, reading, writing, and spelling skills they had learned in their regular coursework.
Opportunities to pursue extra-curricular activities are everywhere and can be as expensive or inexpensive as your budget allows. We have utilized home school co-ops, private lessons, youth organizations, volunteering, and the Internet as a way to incorporate extra-curricular subjects to our school day.
Some home educators may feel that the school day is already so full with math, English, science, grammar, foreign language, literature, history, and other required coursework that they could not possibly add anything else. I would encourage home schooling parents to make time for extra-curricular subjects and activities-especially in the high school years when these subjects offer a way to “try on” careers and interests.
Extra-curricular studies also pave the way for lifelong hobbies and skills that develop the student into a well-rounded individual. If college is in your student’s future, a transcript that has a variety of courses and activities detailed on it sets your student apart from the rest of the pack. Scholarships are often offered in extra-curricular areas or through community service organizations such as 4-H. My youngest daughter received a 4-H scholarship which made all the time she did invested extremely worthwhile.
In conclusion, I would encourage everyone to make room in their school schedule for extra-curricular subjects and activities. These activities breathe life and excitement into your school day and your students. You and your students will reap many continuing rewards as a result of the time you invest. What kinds of extra-curricular activities do you do in your homeschool?
(written by Holly Williams Urbach, previously published in the THSC Review, all rights reserved)