Stop Seeing the Homeschooling Extras as Extras

Blake and Steve Hawley

Blake with Astronaut Steve Hawley

This week, we’ve talked about no curriculum being good enough and asked the question where are you leading your children.  Today, I want to build on these thoughts by encouraging you to take your homeschooling to a new level by seeing the things we typically consider the extras of education as integral parts of your child’s homeschooling instead.

Let me give you some examples from our own homeschool…

The photo above was taken at a breakfast with Astronaut Steve Hawley.  We chose to forgo school that morning so that Blake could meet another astronaut (yes, this is not the first astronaut we’ve had the pleasure of meeting).  Why?  Because Blake is very interested in space exploration and the aerospace industry.  We don’t know if he will actually pursue a career in this field, but we are encouraging his exploration of this interest because it has lead him to push beyond the confines of what most 14 year olds are doing.

You might say, “But, why would you want your son to meet people who don’t hold to the same worldview?  Doesn’t that go against what you just said about leading and discipling your children in the Lord?”

Not exactly.

We have been walking alongside our son since he was small.  We have not hesitated to stand beside him as he’s met Christians and non-Christians, humanists and atheists alike.  With our guidance, our son has grown into a young man who knows Truth and who can discern right from wrong.  He can take the meat and leave the bones.  He can be inspired by the handiwork of God in another human being’s life without idolizing that human being.

photo by my oldest daughter

And then there is my daughter’s photography.  To most people, this would seem like an extra.  Something she does in addition to her homeschooling day.  However, we have chosen to make photography an integral part of her training.  God gifted her with an amazing talent and we want to hone that talent in honor and glory of Him.  This is much more important than any random math problem out there.

Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God.  There is no need to separate our day into school hours and extracurricular hours because they are all God’s hours.

Additionally, we frugal homeschoolers must be willing to spend money on the homeschooling “extras” just as we would spend money on the best math curriculum or foreign language curriculum.  To reiterate what I said yesterday, we don’t want standardized children, so we have to stop letting someone other than God choose our standards.  The things most consider “extras” aren’t extras to God.  We have to stop treating them like they are second class citizens and give them full and formal status in our homeschooling day.

So, tell me, what are your extras and how can you start making them more a part of your homeschool?

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42 thoughts on “Stop Seeing the Homeschooling Extras as Extras

  1. Yes! Yes! I agree! Our 14 year old daughter has been passionate about horses for as long as she’s known what they are. We unfortuinately can’t have horses but we are constanty looking for opportunities for her to work with them and learn about them. She and her 11 year old sister currently muck stalls for a Christinan non profit that uses the horses for therapy. We’re all prayerfully seeking the Lord’s leading for her and possible future work with horses.

    For the younger kids, we plan to continue providing opportunities to try new things so they can learn what they like and then we will encourage them there, viewing those interests as gifts and leadings from the Lord.

  2. Amy, I LOVE THIS! It truly gets to the heart of discipeing and mentoring our children…to become the person God created them to be!

  3. My three girls LOVE to sew, crochet, and knit. My older two actually sell some of their items. Since we do not “do school”, meaning the academic book stuff, on the days my husband is off work (usually 1 day a week), my daughters and my 2 sons get full days each week for their creative and service projects. One of my oldest son’s hobbies is blacksmithing, and he spends every spare minute in his makeshift forge. He works extra jobs around the house to buy the supplies he needs.
    Lately, all of my children have been earning extra credit in homemaking 101, because I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, and have had 2 surgeries and numerous doctor appointments. While I am recovering from my last surgery( double mastectomy), they have pretty much run our household. It is such a blessing. We are slowly easing back into the reading, writing and arithmetic, but life’s lessons are sometimes way more important. They are learning the power of prayer, faith, service, and thankfulness. And I am learning more of these traits too.

  4. Ok, so am I a bad mom , and bad “teacher” because I don’t really know what my kids are passionate about :( I suppose I have focused too much on academics. There is so MUCH opportunity out there for various activities, etc. that I find myself doing none of it (lack of finances is one reason)……. Can some of you moms help me? Where do I start ( frugally) in helping my girls find what they are interested in? All girls ages 8, 6 and 14 month :(

    • Your children are still young, so do not fret. My older two are 11 and 14, but my next one is 7 and while I know she loves to act and tell stories, I haven’t fully fleshed out what that might look like later on. The library is the place I would encourage you to start. Take them to the non-fiction section and see what intrigues them. At this age, it doesn’t take much money at all. ;)

  5. Great encouraging words. For us, a huge benefit of homeschooling is having time to explore our passions. Right now, my son is really into the Eragon book series. I love it that he has the opportunity to sit and read for hours uninterrupted each day if he chooses. My 7 year old daughter is into music and is an great little songwriter (she gets it from her daddy). It’s so cool to see her spend an hour in her room and come out with 2 or 3 new songs (that are actually pretty darn catchy).

    God put certain passions and desires in our hearts. And he gave us gifts and abilities to use for His glory. Homeschooling gives us great opportunities to explore all of these things while living out our faith.

  6. Amen, again. Two great posts in a row. This is the whole reason we home school. My two oldest love music. They each play three instruments. Our daughter plays the harp and often plays at places we would not agree with their world view (different denominations, not for there services, but when they rent the space for concerts) but it gives her the opportunity to meet and interact with others that share her passion for the instrument. We are still very protective of who she is around and are always with her, but what a great thing it has been for them both. She is able to meet people in areas you would normally only get to see them on stage perform.
    They both plan to play professionally. And for our daughter this is a wonderful way to have the option to make money if she needs to later in life. If not it is a great way for them to minister to others both now and later in life. Yes, it does take time from our home school day to get to lessons and it cost a fortune, but it is well worth the time and cost. They are more than willing to work outside of the tradition school time of day to be able to get to the lessons on other days.
    In a traditional school they would never have been able to do so much in there music.

  7. This is so true! It is easy to get caught up with “finishing the curriculum” and checking off our subjects for the day. Nonetheless, that is only part of educating a child, and we do have to remember that as homeschoolers and not feel so pressured. Thanks for the good reminder. :-)

  8. Thankfully, right now, my kids are small and our extras are simply living on a farm. We have been so blessed to have time in our school days to birth baby goats, watch chicks hatch, bring home piglets (and then take them to the butcher). All of these are so fun for my daughter, who has always been an animal person. And, I’m so happy to say that living on a small farm makes such a difference in how she sees the world. She understands death better than most adults, she understands that growing our own food (plants and animals) takes work, but she knows exactly where those eggs, bacon, and milk come from at breakfast.
    It wasn’t intentional, but this life has given us so many extras that we’re thankful for! When she gets older, I’m sure she’ll have other passions, but right now, furry friends, grass and sunshine are a pretty big deal!

  9. Yes! I totally agree! I picked up a computer programming curriculum for my 9-year-old son who has shown an interest in that area. We got it at the Teach Them Diligently Conference (loved it!) and he excitedly carried it around with him all day long as if I had bought him a box of Legos. Since returning home, he has worked his way through the first few chapters and is so happy. I am so glad that God prompted me to make this purchase. It feels good to be able to invest in our kids and to be able to pursue their passions.

  10. Right now, my 10 year old daughter is sitting beside me making jewelry for the vendor fair she is a part of this weekend. We spent the morning at a bead store gathering some last minute supplies. She got to talk to a jewelry artist who makes jewelry full time and received great advice on creating, marketing and pricing. They have these little “lessons” every time we go into the store. They talk about what the latest trends are and what is new. We won’t get to curriculum today, but that’s ok. She is figuring pricing and working her artistic magic on some earrings! Letting her explore her creative interests and how she can make money has been a great lesson in budgeting, work ethic, people skills and art. I don’t know of a curriculum that could do that!

  11. Our oldest is 10. He absolutely adores gardening, just like his father. However, my son also enjoys flower gardening a lot, whereas my husband sticks to edibles. So, we let my son dig up flower beds, and choose what to plant where. He has a mix of perennials and annuals. He’s also responsible this year for our corn planting, and a few other areas in the veggie garden.

    Gardening is definitely something he would pursue extensively as an adult at least as a hobby, and is a potential source for side income or a main career if he chooses. Your post has also inspired me to get him some well-reviewed books to expand his knowledge on this topic. I just ordered used copies of

    * The Ever Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color by Lee Schneller
    * The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
    * The Southern Living Garden Book

    And soon, I will get him a copy of Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners – Suzanne Ashworth Heirloom varieties are a topic that interest my son and myself, but not as much my dh.

    I’m now going to be on the lookout for my next oldest over the next couple years to find some passion to develop in her. She adores babies and toddlers, so something related to that is possible. Of course, she also loves when we study history. She’s only 8; it’ll be easier to tell with time!

    Heather (mom to six children, ages 10 and under, with #7 due in June)

  12. We had an opportunity to meet James Watson, one of the co-winners of the Nobel Prize for determining the structure of DNA. It was more of an extra for me! (since my training is in science).

  13. I struggle with this a lot because I love the extras – but there never seems enough time for both (or money). My middle child is an athletic kinesthetic who desperately needs to be in sports, but sometimes we are so overloaded (or don’t have the money, or she has a bad attitude) that she doesn’t get to do it. I feel like maybe we need to suck it up and give her what she needs….

    • Sports don’t necessarily have to be expensive or a drain on the family. Look for ways to give her the athletic outlet without one person’s schedule ruling the entire family.

  14. I have really appreciated this series of posts. God has used you to tell me what I’ve been needing to hear. Thank you for your willingness to be used by Him in this way!

  15. My oldest DD, who just turned 9 writes songs and can even put music to them. We are so excited about this God given talent that we praise her ability. She knows every step of the way how proud her father and I are. We along with other friends at church encourage her to sing her songs in church. It is truly amazing this gift that God has given her to praise him. We are also seeking piano lessons because that is what she wants to do.
    She is the only one of my 4 children who has shown A true love of something, but when the day comes for them we will stand behind them also!

  16. Amy,
    I have been following you for awhile now and although I love all of your blog. This one is what I am all about. I have a 17 year old son, now taking CC classes who has been able to go beyond anything I could have imagined if we had kept him in public school (still regretting sending him at first). He has been able to follow his God given talent in math and engineering. I know this doesn’t sound like fun to me either! But he thinks it is!
    He joined a F.I.R.S.T. robot team and has been able to learn how to design,work in a machine shop, work with a team,travel and compete graciously. If these ‘extras” are what learning is all about I don’t know what is. He also has had time to just be a kid,volunteer and teach himself to play guitar. Reading, something he said he hated when he was in school is now an enjoyable past time.
    We didn’t plan for him to “graduate” early and go on to community college but again that is the direction God lead him and as proof of successful homeschooling he is thriving and teaching other students how to write an essay (who knew?).
    Thanks for encouraging others in this direction, I give such advice when asked about homeschooling and am a proud mom who know this works!

  17. My oldest is interested in gardening, so I had him do a good bit of the planning this year. He’ll be doing the potatoes, watermelon, and most of the green beans. His main passion is history, so when he saw that I had Cherokee Trail of Tears green beans in my seed stash-it was a double win!
    My dd is 11, and she’s doing Beautiful Feet’s History of the Horse curriculum while she saves all her pennies, nickels, and dimes for her own horse.
    My younger two aren’t showing any strong leanings yet, so my job is to help them do that.
    This post was really helpful, Amy. I tend to let these slide if I’m not careful.

  18. My oldest is interested in gardening, so I had him do a good bit of the planning this year. He’ll be doing the potatoes, watermelon, and most of the green beans. His main passion is history, so when he saw that I had Cherokee Trail of Tears green beans in my seed stash-it was a double win!
    My dd is 11, and she’s doing Beautiful Feet’s History of the Horse curriculum while she saves all her pennies, nickels, and dimes for her own horse.
    My younger two aren’t showing any strong leanings yet.
    This post was really helpful, Amy. I tend to let these slide if I’m not careful. Which reminds me…I sure would like a follow-up post on Art! I was so intrigued by your post on See The Light. Would you be willing to review some of the other curricula that you have used as well? I have some that we’ve truly enjoyed, but I don’t see my dc really doing much drawing outside of “art time”.

  19. Excellent post!

    My oldest dd was/is passionate about music, and we adjusted her homeschool schedule to allow for Many Hours of practice each day. She ended up getting a significant Music/Academic scholarship to college!

    My second oldest dd pursued her various interests in high school — sign language, photography, and children’s ministry. She spent a LOT of time during her high school years creating Children’s Character Camps and writing teacher guides and student books. These were unbelievable!!! She got her friends involved and directed CCCs one week in the summer for several years! She had as many as 75 children in attendance. This was a huge undertaking for a teen, but she learned sooooooo much!!! She also went from someone who hated writing to an excellent writer as she wrote her own teacher and student handbooks for her Children’s Character Camps. It makes all the difference in the world when something is a passion!

    My oldest son’s passion was/is History and he read every history book, biography, GA Henty book, etc. that he could get his hands on!

    These are just three examples . . . definitely invest in the “extras” when possible!

    blessings,
    Elizabeth

    • Your daughter’s CCC’s sound wonderful and much like something my 7 year old might be doing someday..hmmm…food for thought! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Great post, Amy. One of my biggest struggles as a homeschooler is letting go of the curriculum for any reason (not a good fit, something else that is passionately driving the children, etc.). I still get stuck in the mentality from my teaching days — gotta get through it all before XX time because you’re “supposed” to. I remind myself *constantly* that one of the reasons we chose to homeschool was the freedom it brings to develop our children’s gifts and talents and nurture them as learners. I appreciate the reminder from you as well.
    Blessings,
    Colleen

    • I struggle with that as well and I never was a teacher, so I can only imagine. I think we have bought into the reasoning that there is only one way to do this thing called education and it is very difficult to break free from that mentality.

  21. This is something I have struggled with, & am still figuring out how to implement in our home. I have 6 kids from 12 to 1, & so much of life has been centered on just getting the essentials done in between pregnancies & finding a new normal with each new child. There’s a quote by CS Lewis that opened my eyes to how I’d limited our lives by just sticking to the “essentials”:
    “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
    ? C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
    I hope to find the balance between essentials & extras!

  22. My six year old has been obsessed with chess since he was four. He does monthly tournemants, studies tactics, plays live games online, and attends a club weekly that he and his dad started. No, it’s not part of curriculum, but he learns tons about logic, looking ahead, good sportsmanship, etc.