Wednesday, November 6, 2013

a November morning and thougths regarding extra curricular activities for kids

From where I sit at the dining room table, I am enjoying the view of my tidy house with the light coming in all the windows. Out our large northwest facing window I can see the sun hitting the hillside across the valley. Sun on newly snow covered woods; frosty and still. I can enjoy watching the flames of the fire through the glass door on the wood stove. The children are playing in their small lego room. Yep, they now have their very own lego room. It is the future second bathroom and right now consists of a rug and a hanging light, my metal plant rack that is soon to have greens and sprouting trays on it, and lots of legos. My Enya pandora station is playing very soothing and peaceful music in the background and all is right with my world.

We should actually be just finishing up with our morning school routine. However, as we finished breakfast this morning and I began to gather the kids for school, Avery dramatically protested that she all she wanted to do was just have time to play with her brother. At that moment I could have pushed on with the agenda, but was kinda feeling like taking it easy myself. So at this point in time we may possibly all be "skipping" school this morning for our first designated school day of the year. Or, we may resume lessons after lunch. The kids have proceeded to play together without interruption for the past three hours while I did dishes, started bread dough, did all the outside farm chores and now I'm seizing the rare chance to get on the computer during the middle of the day.

There is so much that I want to do. I could pick up my most recent knitting project that was almost finished the other night before I decided that there were too many mistakes and unraveled the whole thing and now I must start over from the beginning. I am also inclined to take up a couple needle felting projects that I have been ignoring since last spring, one, a purse that needs the finishing touches, and then an odd assortment of fruit and vegetables that I started and need to add more to before they become the complete gift I'd imagined. And as always there is my banjo sitting there, tempting me to pick it up. Although, I have been playing daily and as a result have been neglecting my crafting. Now that we are in November, I think it may be time to finish my current novel and not pick up another till I've produced some finished crafts.

There is so much on my craft list for this season. I want to make Avery a needle felted doll, possibly more than one. She is asking for an "Indian dress". I am waiting for a friend to finish some goat hides that she is tanning for me, but I'm wondering if one will be big enough for a dress or if I will need two, and whether I want to put that much hide into one garment? I'm already envisioning flowers or maybe clusters of strawberries as bead work. Noah wants another pair of moccasins; this time ones that he can slip on that don't tie. I think that will be doable. I'm not going to put as much work into beading onto his slippers, as he doesn't care about embellishments. I am usually making soap, candles, medicines and lotions this time of year. I do have jars stacked three high of oils and tinctures ready to be filtered. It is time to prioritize. The calendar is filling up with winter social engagements, birthday parties, Martinmas and Holiday dinners. And so I am thankful for simple days like today.

I have been thinking a lot lately about extra curricular activities for the kids, and how glad I am that we have none. I know a lot of homeschooling parents that have engagements most afternoons of the week; music lessons, language lessons, sports activities and play practice or this or that club. I get overwhelmed just thinking about all the running around. I know that as the kids get older it may be necessary to get them involved in this or that. I am biased in that I grew up with parents that allowed us to get involved in very little, partly due to the cost of sports or lessons, and then also because of the time commitments.  When I look back on being told I couldn't do this or that, I don't remember being terribly disappointed, nor do I think I missed out on much. I spent a lot of my time reading and crafting. My mom gave us piano lessons when we were young and later I went on to learn to play the flute with my mom's help. In high school I took different languages and eventually minored in Yup'ik in college. In high school my parents told my brother and I that we could each pick one thing to do and I chose riding lessons, something I'd wanted to do since I was little. I absolutely loved my riding lessons. I went on to show horses, work at a ranch, and then worked to buy a horse and pay for her food myself. I think the deal was that I paid for half her cost and half her food. I think that it was important that I had to wait and dream and work hard for what I wanted. I valued and appreciated the opportunity to ride and have a horse more than most other girls I knew.

I have been thinking that as parents, there is so much that we want for our children, yet sometimes the best gift we can give them is time to explore and play on their own; to be allowed to be children and to just play. Is this becoming an obsolete notion? When I think of our nation and what play means I think of parents letting their young children play games on their phones or on the computer, or signing them up for sports and driving them to lessons. I'm going to come back to this at some point as it is a tangent that I can't follow through on right now, other than saying how important I think it is that children can spend hours pretend playing with each other and how thankful I am that my children have this. 

Sometimes I think how much Avery would enjoy dance lessons or how much Noah would enjoy some sort of martial arts class.(I have been intending to do swim lessons with the kids for a while now, and each time we travel somewhere on vacation they come so far in their water comfort. I have indoor pool phobia ever since I realized the intention of a swim diaper and am reluctant to visit our local indoor pools.)  I think there are so many ways to explore children's interests and to introduce them to languages, music and sports without taking lessons which not only cost lots of money but also end up making for busy hectic days, rushed dinners and sandwiches while driving.

This winter I am going to start learning to play the Lyre, meanwhile Avery is going to watch and just burn with a passion to play it herself as well. Then for Christmas she is going to get her own Pentatonic Kinder Lyre that looks somewhat similar to the one I've been playing, and the two of us will have some special time playing the Lyre together this winter. Avery's main interests so far are music and arts. We have just started doing some embroidery together. She currently draws and paints daily as well as beading with large wood beads. She gets in a crafty mood daily. My challenge is staying one step ahead of her and being ready with new ideas.

This year we are buying used skates and used cross country skis for the kids and I. Dustin is getting a pair of snow shoes and if he likes using them, he is planning on getting a pair for Noah so they can go hiking off trail together. I am looking forward to getting out more this winter. But not as much as I'm just looking forward to our indoor family time. I could not be more content with how the next few months are shaping up; filled with mellow home time; morning lessons, afternoon play time and evening crafts and gaming, punctuated with weekend family get togethers and celebrations.

I would love to hear from readers about your favorite family winter activities and what you do to explore your children's interests without signing them up for lesson upon lesson. Best wishes to you on this November morning


Ngo Family Farm said...

My babies are still small, but I so agree with your sentiments here - Let the children play!! I feel children (adults, too, for that matter) naturally learn what they need to when they need to, if that makes any sense...I think observing them and trying to foster whatever it is they're interested in or passionate about or have a gift for is the way to go.

It seems to me that parents have good intentions to intervene and make certain their kids take advantage of every activity/ opportunity that comes along, but often all kids really want is time to play. And so often we don't realize that their play is their work (and when they're 2 years old like my daughter, their work is their play!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts today - they made me feel less alone and more assured of the way I hope to raise my kids as well.


Oh, yes, yes, yes! Emily, I am so with you on this post! I often find myself wondering how "missing out" on all of the activities their friends are doing will affect the kids. Then I see how harried some of the folks I know seem to be. Your vision of a lovely day is very similar to mine, and it is nice to know there is a kindred spirit so close in that regard.

It was also very validating to hear how your life was growing up and how it has impacted you as an adult and mother.

I only wish we lived a little closer...

Aimee said...

My girls are 8 and 10. We homeschooled for a year while we were living in Mexico, but now they are back in public school. I know plenty of kids who are so over scheduled it makes me sad - once, when I talked to the mom of a girl my daughter liked, trying to set up a playdate, she told me "I'm sorry, we just don't have time for new friends." That really took me aback. I do feel it is important to supplement the public education with extracurricular activities, but these can be at home, they don't have to be professional classes! In your case, your mother was able to teach you piano. My kids take piano because both my husband and I feel we missed out by not getting a musical education. That's a half hour once a week. They also just started gymnastics, because they both begged and begged for months. They were trying to teach themselves gymnastics and I actually worried for their safety! But two activities is my absolute limit, for a number of reasons. The expense is certainly one, but even more important, I don't want to become the harried mom driving kids hither and yon every day of the week. I won't do it. I need down time, and so so they. Lucky for us all, we have a big playroom where they can play in winter - it has swings and toys and art supplies - and they like to hang out with the farm animals as well. In the depths of winter when nobody wants to go outside we make hot chocolate and read novels out loud. Last winter was Watership Down.

Plain and Joyful Living said...

We do very few outside activities as well. Our three older boys love music and learned to teach themselves - our oldest is an excellent keyboard player and drummer and guitar player. The next oldest did take a year of violin lessons but then taught himself on the electric guitar and he plays with various groups and on his own. The next boy, composes music through a computer program, took one year of guitar lessons from a neighbor but now teaches himself (you tube and computer programs are wonderful!). They all play church music groups and have recorded some of their music.
I think children's interests will become clear and as parents we have to do our best to facilitate them without disrupting the flow of family life.
For the winter we have a pond - so skating is huge and hockey. Snow shoveling takes a lot of time:) We don't have a snow blower or anything.
Thank you for sharing your post.

sustainablemum said...

I have been mulling over the exact same thoughts recently. My children do not go to any afternoon activities and recently my youngest (4) has asked to go to ballet lessons. I am really reluctant partly because she wouldn't go without me and I have yet to find somewhere that would be happy for me to stay and also because she loves to dance and do her own thing and I feel lessons would squash that creativity. Then I wonder if I am just being mean....

My oldest is happy not to do anything like that!

I agree that time to play and to just be a child is more important than any extras.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I love hearing this! This is our first year homeschooling our three children (2 1/2, 4 1/2, and 7) and we don't do any sports or outside extra-curricular activities. I was feeling a little guilty because so many young kids are shuffled from one thing to the next. But I decided that I didn't like how other kids were so demanding on their parents ("what are we going to do know? Where are you going to take me?") treating them as though they are there only to provide entertainment and car-rides to the next place on the schedule. I like that our kids can hunker down and entertain themselves and this is how I grew up as well. I also had horses and showed and worked for them (as opposed to just being given them) and it was the highlight of yay childhood. So we will give them swim and ski lessons, and we have two horses here so I can teach them to groom/ride as part of our homeschool curriculum. I also think that helping around the farm is a great way to learn and develop interests together and on their own. Thank you for posting this, it helps me feel even more confident in my instincts...and I'm always happy to read what you have written. :) Jen