“But what about socialization?”
I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that question, don’t you? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions related to homeschooling, and in my mind one of the easiest to answer.
Our boys have participated in Cub Scouts, AWANA, Sunday School, Classical Conversations, ice skating lessons, swimming lessons, play groups, pen-pal match-ups, nature center classes, library workshops, and a host of group field trips. In fact, our first year of homeschooling, we were so social, that is involved in so many extra-curriculars, that we had trouble finding time for school. Surprisingly, nobody ever asked, “But when do you have time to school?”
Fast forward a couple of years. We had found a balance between socializing and academics, but then came a new question, one uttered with a combination of surprise and horror: “They don’t play organized sports?”
The implication: not only were my husband and I denying our kids a social education in the public school system, but we were also depriving them of the joys of organized sports because, no, they weren’t a part of any organized sports teams.
Now, please understand, my boys are by no means couch potatoes. We swim, we ice skate, we hike, we fish, we kayak, we bowl, we ski, we snowshoe, we play games in the park, but the boys had yet to be part of an organized team sport. The suggestion that we were doing our children great harm was so oft repeated that we began to believe we were indeed allowing them to miss out. And so, we signed both boys up for a local swim team.
Our youngest, Connor, loved swim team, on his terms. By that I mean, he loved to practice, until he got too cold, and he loved the meets, when it was his turn to swim. The rest of the time, he was miserable. He cried every morning on the way to the pool, he pouted (and shivered) during practice, and he complained while waiting for his races. He was a good competitor. He won a stack of ribbons, but he wasn’t having fun.
Our oldest, Ryan, enjoyed the practices, but he just wasn’t fast enough to do well in the meets, and as a perfectionist, this was extremely difficult for him. He quickly became frustrated and discouraged, despite our best efforts to point out that he was improving his time and repeatedly earning personal bests… that put him in 21st place. Clearly, as much as the boys enjoyed swimming, swim team was not for them.
Next, we tried soccer. We decided to play on a homeschool team. Ryan works hard, but he is just not an athlete. He is never without a book in hand, and is happiest when reading, conducting a science experiment, or wandering through the woods. We thought perhaps a homeschool team would be more supportive of his efforts than a more competitive league, and they were, when he was given time to play, which wasn’t all that often. As for Connor, he would have probably preferred rugby to his soccer experience. He’s fast, he’s aggressive, and he was constantly being pulled out of games “to give the other team a chance to score a goal or two” which left him frustrated and discouraged. It looked like soccer wasn’t for us either.
After much discussion, we decided that for our family, non-competitive, individual sports and backyard pick-up games may just be the best thing. We certainly want our boys to remain active, we want them to develop active skills they will use for a lifetime, and we want them to know the basics of sports that they may end up playing at the playground or in the park as part of a pick-up game, but for now, we won’t be signing them up for organized team sports.
Do we feel that our kids are missing out by not participating in organized team sports? Not at all. They are active, they are social, and they are happy, and that, more than anything, is what we pray for our boys. They are learning baseball at the park with their Dad, they play pick-up games of basketball on the neighborhood court, and they play soccer one on one. They are learning team spirit, cooperation, and good sportsmanship the old-fashioned way, in their backyard!
Organized team sports are wonderful, for some families. For our family, at this time, they’re just not our thing, so for now, we’ll just keep having active fun with our favorite team: OUR FAMILY and friends!
What are your experiences with organized team sports? How do your children keep active outside of organized sports?
When Jennifer’s not totally worn out from playing catch, swimming, hiking, boating, and chasing after the boys all day, she blogs about family-life, homeschooling, and living with boys at Adventures in McQuill-land. Join her on Mondays for a celebration of memories of the past, stories from the present, and making memories for the future: Making Memories Monday, a weekly meme for sharing memories and good times!