Homeschooling doesn't have to mean holing up at home and hiding from the outside world. It doesn't have to mean you never leave the kitchen table or have adult conversation.
Leigh Bortins describes "home-centered education" in her book, Echo in Celebration.
The family unit is strong, and home is the base where we launch learning from,
but other people and instructors can be a big part of our children's lives too.
For the CC family, the weekly community is a huge part of the home-centered education. Having positive peer-pressure among their peers in class and reinforcement from other parents about school expectations is delightful.
Going to weekly worship and church activities is a vital part of our children's lives and therefore, a part of their education.
Children benefit from music lessons, and/or sports teams, dance, hobbies, clubs, and extra-curriculars.
We are blessed to have a local library that puts on all kinds of fun events, like Lego Club, Reader's Theatre classes, Creative Writing groups for kids, Origami Club, and plays.
The Missoula Children's Theater comes to town each year and puts on an amazing show; Ali enjoyed being a part of it last year and hopes to do it again
The sky is the limit when it comes to extra learning opportunities for our children. One of my friends has a child who is a die-hard historian. He volunteers weekly at the local Pioneer Museum and cleans the Trapper's Cabin. Another friend's son is obsessed with mushrooms. I didn't know anything about mushrooms until I met him and now I take notice of them when I see them. He would love to intern on a mushroom farm 40 minutes away from here and he collects them wherever he goes. Other kids are in orchestra, 4-H clubs, or nature camps.
Leigh talks about how important it is to find quality friends for your kids and also wonderful mentors. She says when she finds a godly person that she wants her children to emulate, she would be willing to pay that person just to have her children haul dirt for them if it meant they could hang around that person and learn from their wisdom. As children grow older, they begin to search knowledge outside of their relationship with their parents and it's important that there are excellent people in their lives to enrich them. I firmly believe this, as my mentors in Child Evangelism Fellowship were some of the biggest influences in my life and people I have utmost respect for and still want to emulate. I hope my own children join the CEF team when they are teens and travel around the state teaching 5-Day Clubs!
Don't ever think that because you are homeschooling your kids that you have to be all things for them. If there is an area where they are struggling, it is wise to seek outside help. I am so thankful that my mom is not teaching school this year. It is so nice to see her more often and have her emotional support. Once a week, the two older kids ride their bikes to her house for handwriting lessons. It is amazing how much that one hour helps us out and boosts my own teaching in that area with them, as handwriting has always been something I intensely dislike teaching! If you have the ability to hire a tutor to help your children with a certain skill that is difficult for you, then by all means, do it! If you'd like to but don't have the funds, consider a bartering arrangement. Maybe your "Math whiz" friend would give your children lessons in exchange for you teaching her children to sew/bake/garden/write/play piano, etc.
Some school districts allow homeschoolers to participate in part-time classes and also to join in public school sports. Many homeschooled high schoolers take community college courses. Internships and apprenticeships are valuable learning experiences for teens that could help jump-start their career goals. Having your teen get a paper route, a job, or start their own business are also opportunities for them to mature and build character.
In previous posts I've talked about simplifying homeschooling and maintaining consistency. I realize that taking on too many activities sabotages these efforts. Activities and learning outside of the home can be great things so long as they are done in moderation, taking into account the child's age, abilities, your own "busy-ness threshold" and finances. The challenge is to keep the "home" in home-centered, without making it home-bound!