I used to be a homeschool kid, back when it was less mainstream and more unusual. Most people hadn’t heard of homeschooling, and when I tried to explain it to them, they’d give that look. The look that said, “Why aren’t you doing it like everyone else?”
Then the questions.
“Do you wear pajamas all day?”
“Do you get snow days?”
“How is your Mom qualified to teach you?”
“How could you stand to be around your parents that much?”
“Don’t you like having friends?”
“Are you being socialized enough?”
“Are you getting a good education?”
“How will you get into college?”
Turns out my Mom was plenty qualified, I made it through college just fine, and I made lots of friends. And yes, some days we did wear pajamas all day.
In the 1990s, the options for homeschoolers was a little more limited. Our school district in Pennsylvania was hesitant to let us participate in extracurricular activities at school.
I remember my brother wanted to play school baseball. He presented his case to the school board and they rejected his request. I believe the principal at the time was uncomfortable with homeschooling and he may have influenced the decision.
Either way, many public schools are now more open to working with homeschool families.
Now that homeschooling is a more widely accepted, there are a ton of options for extracurricular activities.
Why are Extracurricular Activities Important?
Before we explore the different activities available to homeschoolers, it’s important to discuss why they are necessary for your child’s education and development.
Better Academic Performance
While it may seem like extracurricular activities can be a distraction from academic work, quite often the opposite is true.
Activities like music, sports, art, and community service, are actually found to have positive effects on academic performance. Studies have shown that students who participate in these activities have better grades and a more positive view of education.
Additionally, when students participate in activities that they’re interested in they improve brain function, concentration, and time management skills.
Broaden Their Horizons
Children and teens who join in extracurricular activities have a much better idea of what life has to offer. They’re able to explore the world around them and discover the things that they’re truly passionate about.
This will help them know what career choices they may want to pursue in life, but it will also help them find out what things bring them joy.
Additionally, the more kids know about life the more they can relate to other people. This would especially be true for extracurricular activities that include community service. With a broadened view of their communities, kids will be able to develop empathy and grow important character traits.
Provide Social Opportunities
It’s no secret that many people bemoan homeschooling because of the lack of social interaction.
Despite popular opinion, many homeschoolers enjoy plenty of social time. In fact, some argue that they have more organic social experiences because they’re able to maintain relationships with people outside of their immediate peer group.
At any rate, extracurricular activities can be a prime opportunity to develop those ever-important social skills.
Team activities like sports or theater can be a great chance for your kids to learn teamwork. As mentioned above, community service is an excellent way for kids to develop an understanding of people in need.
It Looks Good on a College Application
One good reason to take your kids to extracurricular activities is to add it to their college applications. The Princeton Review writes, “We know you want to impress colleges with your accomplishments in the classroom, but your academics aren’t the full picture to who you really are. Yes, colleges want bright students. But even more, they want bright, well–rounded students. That’s where your extracurricular activities come in.”
It can’t be overlooked that one of the biggest perks for extracurricular activities is for the fun of it. Your kids will look forward to it and it will be a good reason to get out of the house and do something that they really like doing.
What Kind of Extracurricular Activities are Available?
There are a number of opportunities available to homeschoolers these days. Below are a few ideas.
Join a Co-Op
If there’s a Co-Op in your area you may want to consider joining it. They may offer additional classes for your kids, field trips, and extracurricular activities.
Joining up with other homeschoolers will also give you and your kids the chance to get to know other like-minded people in your community.
If there isn’t already a Co-Op, you could consider starting one yourself. There’s a good chance that there will be other homeschooling parents who would be interested. If you get enough families, you could go on group field trips, plan community service events, create a sports team, or offer something that involves music or theater.
Get your kids involved in helping plan the activities. You may be blown away by the creativity your kids are capable of.
When I was growing up my family was part of a local homeschooling co-op. One year one of the other moms taught a video class. We were given a lot of freedom to create what we wanted and even as adults we all look back fondly at the movies we made.
One of my fellow classmates had a true passion for it and went on to start his own successful filmmaking company.
Public School Extracurriculars
Many public schools will allow homeschooling children to join extracurricular activities at school. This may include art, music, theater, sports, clubs or more. Some schools even allow students to come in for certain classes and use their resources. For example, your local school may let your child join the science lab classes.
This may be a really neat opportunity for your child to meet other kids in the community while still enjoying a homeschooling education.
Last year HLSDA put together a list of state laws concerning the participation of homeschool students in public school activities. Those who live in the United States can scroll through to see what their individual state law is.
Private School Extracurriculars
If you’re unable to join your public school’s activities, or if you’d rather your kids not participate be part of the public school environment, your local private school may be an option.
Some local private schools team up with homeschoolers to let them attend part-time (usually for a lower cost than attending full time). This might include regular classes or enrichment classes.
This can be a great option if you homeschool because of religious reasons. A local private school with similar values might be the perfect place to pick up some extracurriculars.
Participating in sports might be one of the first things that come to mind when people think of extracurriculars.
And it’s no wonder why. Sports are great for teaching teamwork, dedication, and hard work. Exercise is important, and it’s absolutely thrilling to score a goal, hit a home run, or beat your personal best.
Public school offers a lot of different sports, but it may not be available in your area. If your public school isn’t an option, there are a number of ways to introduce your kids to sports.
Private School for Sports
As stated above, your local private school may be a great option for your kids to join in sports. Many private schools are small and therefore struggle to make up the numbers to fill out a sports team. If you haven’t already, call your local private school and see if they accept homeschool kids in their sports program. They may be happy to hear from you!
Join or Create Your Own Homeschool Team
If there are enough homeschoolers in your area, you might consider creating your own sports team! Your local co-op might already have some kind of athletics in place that you can join. If you’re from a more populated area, there might also be a homeschool association that puts together teams that compete against private and public schools.
If your numbers are low, you could come up with creative solutions like sports that include entire families and not just kids.
Or you can start a program for local homeschool kids that focuses on general physical activities and games as opposed to a more organized sports team.
Join the City Sports or Rec Center
Schools aren’t the only places that offer athletics. There are often leagues that are unattached to the school district, such as the little league we have available where we live.
Your local Recreation Center might also provide classes or seasons of sports. This is a good way to see what sports your kids might be interested in such as soccer, dance, football, volleyball, baseball, softball, or basketball.
If none of these options appeal to you, or if they’re not available where you live, there are also options for paid lessons.
Your kid may really enjoy horseback riding lessons, karate lessons, or swim lessons.
Community Service and Volunteering
Homeschoolers have an advantage when it comes to community service and volunteering because they generally have more flexible schedules. Many volunteer opportunities happen during school hours and that gives homeschool kids a lot of options to choose from.
In addition, a lot of homeschool families have values that support giving back to the community and caring for others. This makes community service a great option as an extracurricular for homeschooled kids.
Here are some volunteering ideas you can do in your community:
- Visit seniors or a retirement home.
- Help elderly people who live in their houses but may need help with certain chores.
- Make blankets for organizations like Project Linus.
- Make cards for people.
- Write letters to service men and women through programs like Soldier’s Angels.
- Organize a collection for supplies for a homeless shelter, or volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Volunteer helping reshelve books or read for story time at the local library.
- Go on local mission trips.
- Help in a church ministry.
- Pick up litter or adopt a highway.
- Help at the local food pantry or food bank.
- Volunteer with a political party or to help with a campaign.
- Volunteer with Meals on Wheels.
- Help walk dogs or play with puppies and cats at the local animal shelter.
- Help at a local hospital.
- Volunteer at a local historical society.
- Volunteer at a local rec center like YMCA.
There are loads of volunteer opportunities — just pick the on that appeals to your kids!
Music is an excellent option as an extracurricular. Music increases coordination, helps kids master memorization, and helps them develop language and reasoning skills. It also helps them fine-tune auditory skills, build imagination, and it boosts their spirits.
If your child is interested in music, try your local public or private school to see if they have any opportunities for your child to learn music. Another option is joining the chorus or band at a church, taking lessons on an instrument, or getting voice lessons.
From LEGO camp to robotics, there are more and more opportunities to join extracurriculars in science, technology, engineering, and math.
In our community, the local rec center offers science camp every summer. Our local library hosts a LEGO club, and the 4-H club has a homeschooler led robotics group.
Your kid could join a coding club, math club, International Mathematical Olympiad, Science Olympiad, STEM summer camps and so much more.
STEM is an increasingly popular field — especially because there is a growing tech talent gap as the world relies more heavily on technology.
Farm Animals, Pets, and Tractors
Depending on where you live, a farm animal may be a really great option for your kids.
If you have a local 4-H charter in your community, your kids can team up with a local farmer and take on a pet project. One homeschooler girl I know has helped at the local sheep farm for a number of years. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and she’s been able to get loads of hands-on experience.
If your kids have an interest in agriculture, they can also work or volunteer at a local farm. Farmers always have loads of work and they may be grateful for the help. In exchange, your kids will be getting that wholesome feeling of putting in a good day’s work. They’ll also be less likely to take for granted the food on the table after they’ve helped produce it.
If farming isn’t their thing, consider getting a pet dog for your kids to train. Pets teach kids responsibility and give them a reason to get more exercise Pets also provide comfort and companionship.
Extracurricular for Days
The truth is there are LOADS of extracurricular activities available for kids. If they have a passion for something, there’s a good chance there’s something available for them.
Your kid can get involved in politics, law, library science, history, sports, music, theater, art, music, animal husbandry, writing, community service, and so much more. The possibilities are endless.
If there’s not already something available in your community that fits your kid’s passion, be the person to start it. Maybe other kids will be interested as well!
Wow! That’s a lot of ideas! One you didn’t mention specifically was martial arts. I know some judo programs have classes during the day for homeschoolers. Also, I love the library.