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I am trying to research what extracurricular activities are most valuable for grade school aged children and really not finding anything that's compelling. I have a few months before I have to choose, so I am trying to spend the time finding reasons why to choose one over another.

We homeschool and live in a an area where there are no day classes offered for such things. As such, I have to select what we can do based on how times overlap. For instance, we cannot do the dance classes we have been doing and find a workable situation to take music lessons for all the kids. I don't have other people to assist in transportation currently as my spouse has to work on call. He usually is available, but I can't really plan for that, as last minute he may not be.

I want then to do at least a foreign language and am thinking that is of more value than dance long term. I can make language lessons with music lessons if dance is out. The concern in dropping dance is that it is more social than either of the others and they enjoy it and have friends there now. None of them show any interest in any sports either, so it's the only physical activity any of them have other than general playing, bikes, etc.

The biggest obstacle is that everything starts at 6pm or later and with different kids at different levels, it's hard to coordinate and I can't seem to find a way to make all 3 types of the classes work. So we need to decide what will be most beneficial and when I research that, I am not finding anything definitive. So I know it will be opinion, but I thought perhaps those that have taken such classes (I never did) or have raised kids that may have taken them, might offer their experience to what they felt was the most benefit. Putting them into school wouldn't make any difference either as none of this is available in our local schools at their ages.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Catija, Stephie, Rory Alsop Jun 19 '17 at 8:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • What do you mean by "most beneficial"? There are lots of ways to define that and it probably depends on the child. For a kid who wants to grow up to do international business, a second language would be invaluable. On the other hand, if you child aspires to be a dancer, the foreign language is less important. – Becuzz Jun 15 '17 at 17:53
  • Well I should quantify, most beneficial for age. My thinking is that since we are talking grade school ages, there is time to add language later for instance. I am not convinced that if we can't do it all right now means we can't do more things later. I am meaning it more in the sense of what helps a kid to get a more well rounded life enrichment sort of experience at this age. My intention is that they will all have at least one foreign language by graduation & know at least one instrument. So at the younger ages, I am not certain if I should even worry about that yet. – threetimes Jun 15 '17 at 17:56
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    Have you considered giving your kids a few options and letting them choose? – Pascal Jun 15 '17 at 20:32
  • Pascal - Currently they would all choose dance, as they've been doing it & have friends there. They do a few classes, including gymnastics, & don't want to cut any classes to fit anything else. My concern on language is my understanding is that it is easier to learn a language at a younger age & if they started now, they could maybe learn 2-3 by graduation. I also happen to have a linguistics prof friend who is available to teach this year only, then he will take a position overseas. I doubt I will find someone with a masters after that in my price point. He's taught children before too. – threetimes Jun 15 '17 at 20:46
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    You can see from the answers so far that this is entirely opinion based. Me, I'd go with things that lead to better career prospects (i.e. Languages) but Pascal has the opposite view. Opinion based questions are not really suitable on Stack Exchange... – Rory Alsop Jun 19 '17 at 8:14
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From personal experience, I never liked any classes and saw zero benefit in them at the time, and I still see it that way 30 years later. Having kids now, I direct those activities with them and nurture their interests first hand. Not too dissimilar to home schooling.

Most of these things are free or close to it, but obviously some cost.

We rock climb. All indoors at the moment, but eventually want to get into more natural bouldering in the mountains. General skills for balance, grip strength, etc. Could have probably helped that girl in the well in Silence of the Lambs.

Swimming. Public pool is pretty cheap, but we know a few people with pools. Arranging play times where you structure the swimming activities like challenges and participate, they may not realize you indirectly taught them to hold their breath longer, kick off the bottom of the pool, etc. We hide swimming lessons in each play time in the pool and they're taking to it pretty well.

Not sure if you have boys or girls or both, but if they like beating you down, you can hide self defense into some game like reaction battles. Not my favorite per say because they always last much longer than I do in these cases but it is good to exercise with them. I'm not a fan of martial arts classes because it's hard not to directly associate it with fighting. I'm talking about natural reactions to dodging, blocking, etc with use of pool noodles, foam sticks, pillows, etc. Kids get quick reflexes pretty well and leading them into something closer to being attacked later might make a smoother transition in my opinion.

Learn a language with them. If you already know another one, quiz them throughout the day, and in repetition. Well, you home school. You know how you teach then. But I would integrate it in normal daily life and not specifically restrict it to a class. I sometimes say things wholly in Japanese and ask my girls if they can figure out what I said based on when I said it and why. I can't guarantee this would lead to fluency, but it could help ease things should they decide to learn it in greater depth later.

In general my point is togetherness. You can psychologically twist any lesson into a fun activity, get to spend more time with them in various ways, and have them all learn at the same time. Maybe their social development would be best served in a non-educational environment. But assigning the role of "most beneficial" to strictly classes or extracurricular time is what I'm saying to sway away from. Or pay close attention to how each child reacts to know whether or not classes are really their thing. You don't want to accidentally build resentment because what they really want to do is stay home and draw or go camping in the mountains instead of spending all day jumping over imaginary barrels in some valueless self defense class that is ruining their summer.

Today is archery day for us. Just to give an example. No class, it costs us nothing, and they seem to enjoy battling paper beasts with us.

  • Love this. What I learned was Latin & I have leaned away from teaching them that because it's not terribly useful other than in science/biology, etc. I have been thinking I would take the language with them so we can all learn it & my spouse knows German, so I was thinking to start there since I do not & a couple we are long times friends with live there. They have offered to host our children on exchange when they are old enough. – threetimes Jun 17 '17 at 2:24
  • Because we do homeschool, the only time they aren't with me already is during dance. That amounts to 3 classes of 30mins each for each kid, and they mostly overlap in timing, thankfully. Some of it for me too is also wanting them to learn how to take instruction in a group setting from someone who doesn't tuck you in at night. For summer we have nothing happening except horseback riding & that is 90mins once a week. The rest is open. This is all planning for fall stuff. Dance is even off for summer unless you want to enroll in the summer program & most kids don't here. – threetimes Jun 17 '17 at 2:26
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In this situation I would suggest joining your local Boy/Girl Scout Troop. They have outings during the after noon of the weekends. This program also build social skills and loving the outdoors. Have your kid attend a troop meeting to see what they think.

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Have you considered martial arts for your children? Karate, tae kwon do and jujitsu offer plenty of benefits that go beyond physical fitness. They are a fun way to teach children self-discipline and socialization skills. Typically clubs offer classes for various ages, so you can have your children in a class together.

  • I have, but they don't seem to be interested so far. We had sat & observed classes as the largest local place is directly below the dance studio & we share an entrance & small lobby with the kids that go there. So far, despite close proximity & familiarity, they don't show an interest in it. They like to play fight at home as if they know what they are doing & we do have an upright kick boxing pole to use, but that is as far as their interest has gone with it. My older 2 are boys & their dance interest I believe is learning enough to qualify for entry to Parkour lessons. – threetimes Jun 16 '17 at 3:37
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I was in a similar situation with my two kids. We go to public school, but as you mentioned, the issue isn't 8- 3, it's the hours between 3 and bed and then the weekends. We're on a limited budget.

  1. Local Park District. This depends greatly on where you live, but most offer a wide variety of activities for kids +/- adults. This often includes options for education/languages, physical activities, and art.

  2. Swimming. Again, this depends a lot on where you live, but a family membership to a local pool, health club, or beach is generally fun for the whole family.

  3. Church/faith-based activities. This can create a lot of social contacts as well as engaging the family in charitable ventures.

  4. Museum memberships. Every year, I think we've grown out of our children's museum, but my kids keep finding new things to like and play with. We also do our museum of science and industry.

  5. Boy and Girl Scouts (or your country's equivalent). Meetings and events are usually open to the whole family.

As for foreign languages, there is no doubt that exposure to foreign languages before 6 can lead to relatively rapid acquisition, but you may be setting your goals too high unless you live in a multi-lingual society. To learn 2 foreign languages between 1st and 8th grade would take a great deal of time and effort, at least an hour a day. There's nothing wrong with this, but I would be cautious about using extra-curricular time in this regard.

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