Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Balancing Outside Activities with Time Spent at Home

As a home educating parent I often find myself re-calibrating the balance of time spent between outside activities and home. Some families stay home all the time and some seem to be out every day! It can be very tempting, with the exciting opportunities on offer, to spend every day going out taking part in outside activities, and this can fit with the home educating philosophy of many families, such as the autonomous route, or of those that want to make use of tutors and classes. From reading the many blogs of families that live a self-sufficient life on abundant land, staying home all the time can seem like the ideal also, and the best thing to do for your children. This may suit families in small, close communities or those that are very structured in their days and need to cover a lot of material so have not the time to go out. Most families will fall somewhere between the two!

The truth of the matter for us is that we live on the outskirts of a city with a 'large for the city' sized garden that doesn't fulfil the energetic, outdoors loving natures of my children.  And whilst I embrace some aspects of simple living, I don't want to automatically discount all outside activities and then miss something that will enrich their lives or fail to support the children in developing their passions and talents. Our girls happen to be sporty and it is difficult to nurture swimming, gymnastics and canoeing within our home!!

There have been times when I've panicked that we don't do enough and signed up for everything going then hit exhaustion point about three weeks into the month and cancelled the rest of the planned outings and activities! I have come to learn that for us, a 'busy day out' must be followed by a quieter one at home. Neither I nor the children operate at our best when tired and it is much easier to keep on top of household jobs if I am home half the week or more! On the flip side, I would go stir crazy if I never went out at all. I need the company of other adults and I enjoy the occasional bit of head space when the children are running free and I am not needed for a short time!!

So what do we do right now? We have a good balance at the moment. We go to the 'Tuesday Club' from ten til two on (you guessed it!) a Tuesday. There are lots of great opportunities there where other parents and grandparents give of their time and talents for the benefit of all. The girls enjoy History artifact handling sessions, French, Choir and an 'around the world' session there currently, as well as art tutorials, science and cooking activities, crafts and plenty of time for socialising and play (both structured and unstructured). I have not been brave enough to put myself forwards to run a session there yet!!

On a Thursday afternoon we meet with a couple of other like-minded HE families for a few activities, a run around the park and a supportive chat with the other mums. We have done this for about 18 months now but it is beginning to fade off as one family prepares to return to America. We probably won't meet regularly with them after the summer which is OK with me as Fridays are beginning to shape up with some lovely opportunities also and I am happy with two days booked up a week! One of the families we meet quite often at our favourite places to go and I am good friends with the mum so we will stay connected!

Fridays currently have a few things happening. Eve has joined a creative writing group that meets monthly for two hours and she loves it..... an old HE group has been resurrected once a month in our home city by some fresh and energetic mums and it had a really good vibe last month with a few families that gel really well so I have high hopes for it...... and we go to the art gallery once a month for a fine art session on a Friday also..... I am really enjoying the new possibilities that Fridays are offering and hope that they will develop further into some great sessions and activities.

There are also the sports that the girls take part in. Most of these happen at the weekend which suits us at present as Dewi works nights every weekend and I would rather those days were tied up with lessons and coaching than the weekdays when we can spend time as a family. There is gymnastics on Friday evening for both girls then gymnastics for Faith on Saturday afternoon and synchronised swimming for Eve which slot nicely in between each other for drop off and collection times! Sunday morning is Eve's swimming lesson (used to be both but Faith has moved up a level and I wanted her with a specific coach so had to move times/days) followed by church. Monday is Faith's swimming lesson then Tuesday evening is her third gym session. We share lifts with another family for the gymnastics which is a wonderful gift!!

How do I choose what we do and what we pass on? I have a few criteria that I go by:
  • Is it high quality?
  • Does it fit with what we are currently interested in or could it offer new avenues or ideas to explore?
  • How far away is and how expensive is it? (I have an entry cost limit I stick to unless something really special and I tend to stick to things no further than 30 mins away, again unless really special!)
  • Will it suit all the children somehow at some point and will I enjoy taking them?
  • Is it with families with a similar philosophy of life/education as our own? (Whilst we value our HE friends and acquaintance from all philosophies, if I am paying for something that includes a talk/activity/other guided session then I want to ensure as far as possible that it won't be disrupted and we will get the best out of it)
I usually make fairly split second decisions over the trips and activities on offer at any one time but some I do discuss with Dewi and some we try before we decide! Like so much of HE, you have to make it fit with your family circumstances. I see the mother of four children facilitate four times as many sporting sessions as I do and wonder if I should stretch my children more but then see the raw deal her toddler gets and realise we are just right for us. I also see the face book posts of the mother who is at a different outing every day and wonder if I should try to afford to do more but then remember why we need down time at home too and relax again!

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