Okay, I don't really mean extra-curricular, but I couldn't figure out a better concise way to talk about out-of-the-home-passionate-interests-that-take-up-a-lot-of time. If she were in school, they would be extra-curricular, but obviously she is not--and I don't consider them distinct from her other learning activities.
But the thing is, they do take up a lot of time.
Just over a year and a half ago, my almost 11-yo daughter started dancing. She loves it. She's good at it. It's clearly her "thing." We have a great studio and everything about the dancing experience is wonderful for her. She is currently dancing 5 days a week and starting in the fall she will be dancing 6 days a week, 2-5 hours/day (closer to 2-3 on most days).
The thing is, that's a lot of time spent dancing. And frankly, she can easily fill the rest of the time reading and playing and generally puttering. She currently does what I would consider some skills practice work (handwriting, math, and French) several times a week (this is a plan we worked out together), but other more involved/longer projects have more or less been squeezed out. Given the fact that my girl is a highly intellectual, thinking, exploring kind of kid, I want to make sure that the dance is not crowding out other important work, simply because we no longer have the same luxury of long uninterrupted days and weeks where all sorts of interesting things just emerge.
I would love the perspective of BTDT parents who have had a child so intensely involved in an outside activity--especially one that they are not likely to pursue as a career. Part of me wonders if the combination of these demands and my particular child's personality mean that we need more structure (she tends to like structure if we can strike the right balance, I think in part because she is likely on the ADHD spectrum and is very easily distracted). I am entirely committed to supporting the dancing she is doing--and consider it an important part of her education in a zillion ways!--but I also want to provide support for a wide spectrum of learning, to help all of her learn and grow. And I'm thinking that our more intense schedule means that we have to be more intentional about doing so.
I am of course planning on sitting down and talking with her about this--she and I regularly have discussions about homeschooling and her goals and how I can support them. I'm just trying to think this through first, and would love to hear the perspectives of families who have already walked this path.
My eldest was in a situation a few years ago that was similar in some ways, with respect to her music studies. She had started violin at 4, and piano at 6, and done both with a fair bit of parental / motivational support. By age 11 or so the time demands had mounted considerably, and gradually it seemed like the whole ball of wax became a passion for her. With chamber ensemble and group class and practicing and lessons and community orchestra and special concerts and recitals she was often devoted 30 or more hours a week to music.
Her situation was a little different because she had put years of work into it already, and it seemed likely she could make a career out of music performance if she wanted. Yes, it did seem to put the squeeze on her schedule, and there was little focus on other skills for a few years. But we chose to continue along with the intensive music focus, to the exclusion of much else, because it felt right for her.
By the time she was 14, things had shifted a little. She had outgrown violin teachers in our area, and we ended up making the decision to drive her 8 hours one way to a city for lessons once a month. That put a further squeeze on her schedule, and she decided to start attending high school part-time in order to structure the rest of her life more efficiently to fill in academic needs. (I know it sounds a little funny to talk about school being a more efficient way of learning academics, but with our tiny public high school she was able to sign up for courses to do by independent study inside our outside of the Independent Learning Lab classroom. So that gave her accountability and a place apart from home to work intensively on academics, with deadlines and such. She was able to do things like complete her 10th grade science requirement in 3 weeks, and generate a robust portfolio for a creative writing elective in 72 hours. It was efficient for her.) Unschooling parents had often told me of a shift towards a desire for more structured academic style learning in mid adolescence, and I am glad I endured those three or four years of what seemed like an imbalance in her learning, and let that shift take place naturally. She realized herself that while she wanted music in her life in a big way, she was willing and able to make room in her weeks for other things too.
Anyway, she ended up with a pretty full schedule and not a lot of down time, but it was what she wanted, and it happened very much on her terms. She made some good decisions about focusing her attention, and we looked way way outside the box for ways to support her musical and academic education as well as her growth as a person.
The upshot is that she has got a well-rounded education, an almost-free-ride scholarship to her university of choice to pursue a music career, a very impressive high school transcript and an incredible amount of maturity and drive. My only niggling regret is that she has not put much time or energy into things other than those which further her own ambitions: she has done scant volunteer work in areas other than music, she is not involved in community-building projects, activism, societies or agencies, political groups or other such endeavours. But she's had a lot of obstacles to overcome in her music studies (mostly pertaining to our geographic location) and I know one can't have it all.
Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
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