The REVIEW - November 2013 - page 28

by Lisa Pennington
ne thing you may notice about
our family if you ever come to visit
is that we are not running around
town much. We like to keep close to the old
When the kids were young I watched my
friends rush from one lesson to another,
hurriedly dropping son #1 off at soccer while
trying to pick up #2 from karate. 
They would have a fast food, drive-through
dinner, go back to the house to throw a load of
laundry in, and head off to bed because there
were piano lessons first thing in the morning. I
thought home schooling meant you were at
Once our kids were old enough to participate
in these opportunities, we looked at the price
tag that goes with many of these activities and
were stunned.  No way could we do all of that
without building up debt or sacrificing in
other areas, like electricity. It was not the life
we wanted for our family.
We made a drastic decision. We were not
going to enroll our children in any outside
activities when they were young. Yes, it was a
shocker. There was pressure from all sides to let
our kids get some socialization, learn to play a
team sport, or an instrument—you name it. 
What I found funny was that I had no opinion
about the choices my friends made to be
gone from home every night, but they all
had a strong opinion about our choice to opt
out. Apparently we were going to be the ruin
of our children. Well, time would tell, right? If
they grew up feeling ruined, they could just go
get themselves on an adult softball team and
figure it out.
As time passed and each of our kids began
to exhibit individual talents and interests, we
looked for ways to help them explore them. We
have occasionally joined groups, and our oldest
son was in a scout troop for a few years. That
meant the rest of the family sacrificed and
picked up the slack for the chores and absence
of father and son on scout days. We could not
do that for all of the kids at once or we would
never see each other, so we chose carefully.
Now we have a houseful of older kids and a
plan for managing outside activities. We put
family time and the running of the home over
lessons and entertainment, but we do have
some wiggle room occasionally to do things. 
If one of the kids wants to participate in an out-
side activity, he comes to us with the idea. Then
we look at all of the costs: financial, time, family
effort, and effect on the character of the child. Is
the cost in these areas somethingour family wants
to spend? If so, we parents share the idea with
the rest of the family for their input as to how
it will affect everyone. Probably more than half
the time, by the time we have gone through
this whole process we decide not to do it.
When we say “yes,” then the real planning
begins. Our older children, for example, attend
a Bible study outside the home once a week. To
make this work we carefully plan the meal for
that night and give them the night off from
cleanup. We make sure there is a car available
and that the schedule is running on time.  
Music lessons are another example. It was
always difficult for me to drag the rest of the
children along for lessons, so we found a
teacher who will come to our house. Currently
we have three children taking piano and two
taking voice lessons from her. This is financially
costly, but for now we are able to work it into
the budget. Every year we revisit these lessons
and decide if we should continue.
My goal in sharing our ways of managing
outside activities is to encourage you to think
about these activities as a whole, for the
entire family, and not simply do them because
everyone else is doing it. It is OK to tell your
child “no,” no matter how important an activity
feels to him at the time. We have three adult
children now. I can say they turned out great
and are following their passions despite their
lack of extracurricular activities.
Sometimes it is healthier for the family to skip
the lessons and spend that time together.
Lisa and her husband James live on a family farm
outside a little Texas town with their nine kids
and a whole herd of animals with which they
have no idea what to do. It’s an adventure they
never expected, filled with moments of greatness
and moments of won-
dering why no one can
remember to put their
shoes away. In addition
to home schooling and
doing laundry, Lisa runs
an Etsy shop with her
daughters and blogs
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November 2013
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