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Advice for extracurricular activities

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Can I get advice for what to do for extracurricular activities? I'm stumped. My oldest is in 9th grade this year, and we are trying to figure out what to do for him. The only things that interest him enough to really motivate him are learning to program (he has been learning to use Blender and Unity using an online course we found on Udemy) and playing video games. He wanted to do First Robotics, but the local team we were planning to join requires a LOT of hours, most of which are done on the weekends because of the way the club structures things. It is more than we can commit to as a family right now (we have 4 other kids and lots of outside stuff going on). So we ended up encouraging him to sign up for speech and debate. We found a local team that we really like and he joined. They meet on a night of the week that works for us. But he just isn't that into it. He is overwhelmed by how much work it is, I think in part because he just isn't internally motivated to do it. But I also know that this is new for him so it's possible he could push through and enjoy it more as time goes on. I want him to pursue things that interest him so that he is driven to do them. I don't want to force him to do things at this age. But at the same time, I know he is young and still learning what he is interested in. So pushing him to try new things can be beneficial. I also would like for him to try things outside of the world of computers to help him really get a sense of his interests. Our homeschool group has a Yearbook club, too, which he could try out instead.But it's hard to know what will align with his interests. Would love input from people who have BTDT. How much do you let the student decide and how much do you push your student beyond their comfort zone?

 

Also, any ideas about how to account for his interest in coding? He really seems to have an aptitude for it and is doing some really cool stuff on Unity. He isn't a prodigy or anything, but he could end up pursuing a career in computer programming or game design. If we could somehow make this into his extracurricular activity so that we can show colleges what he has done, then that would be good too. But I feel like we can't put on his college applications that all he did was tinker on the computer at home, kwim? 

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Honestly, I'd try to figure out how to get him to robotics.

It is a huge time commitment, yes.

But it should be a drop off activity, right?

Can you carpool with another family to get him there and back?

 

The FTC program has been the highlight of my ds's high school years, truly.

 

He does also "just tinker" with coding at home and is in a few other groups (underwater robotics, & a group sci fair project last year with a robot that won a spot to the Intel ISEF, & video game design stuff)- but FTC is awesome in many ways.

So, there are other ways to encorporate programming as an extracurricular or classes.

 

Ds has attended a few college summer programs for computer stuff and has a portfolio of projects he's worked on at home on his own, for fun.

 

But yes, huge time commitment.

 

Eta- any passion filled extracurricular at the high school level will likely be a big time commitment though, be it dance, robotics, horseback riding, varsity soccer, etc.

 

And also, my Ds just submitted his college applications. His essay topic was how his robotics club helped him discover/ and then nurture his passion for coding & "what he wants to do with his life".

Edited by Hilltopmom

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Honestly, I'd try to figure out how to get him to robotics.

It is a huge time commitment, yes.

But it should be a drop off activity, right?

Can you carpool with another family to get him there and back?

 

The FTC program has been the highlight of my ds's high school years, truly.

 

Yeah, it is drop off. But it's 5 hours per week (on a Satuday)  until build season then 18 hours during build season. Most of those hours would be weekends for us because of when the workshop is open. It's not stuff he can do at home on his own time. It's an FRC team. There are also other requirements in addition to the build that add time. I heard there is another FRC team that might be a possibility for us - still looking into it.  My son has a full load of classes and he didn't want to commit that kind of time to robotics this year.  It would pretty much rule his weekends. He is an AYSO referee this year, too, which is a good experience that we don't want to give up.  

 

I am not sure how we would find an FTC team around here or whether that would be less time consuming. But if it would be more flexible then he would definitely be interested. How did you find your team?

He does also "just tinker" with coding at home and is in a few other groups (underwater robotics, & a group sci fair project last year with a robot that won a spot to the Intel ISEF, & video game design stuff)- but FTC is awesome in many ways.

So, there are other ways to encorporate programming as an extracurricular or classes.

 

Ds has attended a few college summer programs for computer stuff and has a portfolio of projects he's worked on at home on his own, for fun.

 

How did you find the summer programs?

 

But yes, huge time commitment.

 

Eta- any passion filled extracurricular at the high school level will likely be a big time commitment though, be it dance, robotics, horseback riding, varsity soccer, etc.

 

And also, my Ds just submitted his college applications. His essay topic was how his robotics club helped him discover/ and then nurture his passion for coding & "what he wants to do with his life".

 

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For robotics, see if there are other clubs around. My son is doing Vex this year, it meets for 2.5 hours on a Sunday. I found it through asking on local Facebook homeschooling groups. Idk if this year we could handle all that is involved for FTC, but it would be wonderful if we could. 

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I find great value in speech and debate, but it's a pretty heavy extracurricular for a kid who isn't particularly drawn to it. I would also probably try to figure out how to make the robotics work.

 

I have no expertise in computers, but I think the tinkering is fine. I'd probably look for supplementary camps/events to offer a bit of extra instruction and inspiration. It's hard to say where to look not knowing your area, but around here the university offers coding camps for youth. I'd search the internet for ideas!

.

If he is an AYSO referee, does he play soccer for a team as well? If not, would playing somewhere be an option? Could he help coach a kids' team? Or participate some other sport; it doesn't necessarily have to be highly organized youth sports. What about running in local races? You could add a volunteer component to that, but having him help out at events...they always need volunteers of all sorts at races.

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Our local 4-H has robotics and coding clubs for all ages and levels. Coding only meets one hour a week unless there is a special event like Hour if Code. Maybe your local 4-H has something similar? I know multiple teens who started businesses, like building websites, etc for real businesses with what they learned.

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On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

...learning to use Blender and Unity using an online course we found on Udemy)...

... If we could somehow make this into his extracurricular activity so that we can show colleges what he has done, then that would be good too. But I feel like we can't put on his college applications that all he did was tinker on the computer at home, kwim? 


These are things that could count as Computer credit, or Fine Arts: Digital Animation credit. Track hours (Udemy lectures, work spent on projects, etc.), and write it up as an independent study course.

As DS continues with his interest and does projects beyond what is needed for a credit, then you can write that up on the extracurriculars list as his self-initiated Computer and Digital Arts interest. Maybe somewhere along the line he will end up creating something that someone pays for, or that he does as a volunteering/community service project for a non-profit group -- add that in the description on the extracurricular list. 

Maybe somewhere along the line, DS will build his own computer, or fix some computers -- that kind of "tinkering on the computer" makes a great extracurricular, too -- DS learned through self-teaching, and made good use of his personal time by developing his hobby or interest.
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

...He wanted to do First Robotics, but the local team we were planning to join requires a LOT of hours, most of which are done on the weekends because of the way the club structures things...


I'd work hard to figure out a way to make this happen. This is his big interest! You have his buy-in! It's a fantastic extracurricular! I suggest talking to the other families in the group and see if DS can carpool each week with another family, and you pay them gas money each week for their help with transportation. Or, see if DS can ride a bike or take the bus to the location. Or... ?

ETA -- Disregard -- while I was typing up a response you responded to another poster who suggested the same thing.
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

...we ended up encouraging him to sign up for speech and debate. We found a local team that we really like and he joined. They meet on a night of the week that works for us. But he just isn't that into it. He is overwhelmed by how much work it is, I think in part because he just isn't internally motivated to do it...


Make it less overwhelming by double-dipping -- count his hours of prep for the speeches towards the Writing part of his English credit. In fact, let the Speech & Debate be the entire Writing portion of his English credit for this semester (or year, if it's a year-long Speech & Debate team).
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

... this is new for him so it's possible he could push through and enjoy it more as time goes on. I want him to pursue things that interest him so that he is driven to do them. I don't want to force him to do things at this age. But at the same time, I know he is young and still learning what he is interested in. So pushing him to try new things can be beneficial...


I agree. Stick it out for the semester. Also, his team is relying on him to stick it out. A few weeks is not enough to know whether or not you like something, or enough time to get over the hump of the learning curve. ?
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

... Our homeschool group has a Yearbook club, too, which he could try out...


Does he have a good buddy in the homeschool group who is perhaps a little more outgoing? Maybe together they could do the yearbook, or some other activity available through the homeschool group. Or commit to doing a monthly community service project or hours with a volunteer group that would give them friend time AND encourage extracurricular activities...
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:35 PM, happy7 said:

...  Would love input from people who have BTDT. How much do you let the student decide and how much do you push your student beyond their comfort zone?


Tough one, and only you can make the call, since only you know your DS and his limits or how much pushing he needs. And also only you know your family logistics of what is actually possible/not possible for everyone...

Our DSs would have likely wanted to just sit at home and play video games if we hadn't done a bit of pushing to get them started (church youth group, homeschool youth activities, volunteering), and if friends hadn't pulled them along (YMCA Youth & Gov't), and if we hadn't worked to support an interest they expressed (tennis team).

Ideally you DO want the extracurriculars to be "legit" -- your student pursuing an interest. But in the case of students who don't initiate or who aren't outgoing, it may take a bit more of encouragement.
 

On 9/25/2017 at 2:51 PM, Hilltopmom said:

Ds has attended a few college summer programs for computer stuff and has a portfolio of projects he's worked on at home on his own, for fun.

How did you find the summer programs?


Do a google search for "(name of your local university) summer high school student programs". Do a similar search for your local community college. You can also call the university and ask about their summer programs for middle school and high school students. Usually, the summer programs are finalized and advertised along about mid March or April -- many fill up quick, or have an end-of-April or start-of-May sign up deadline. In other words, no one may have info for you until Feb. or Mar.

Below are is a compilation of ideas from various WTMers for extracurriculars, and then some threads on that topic. BEST of luck, whatever you decide! Warmest regards, Lori D.

_______________________

Music Extracurricular
- private lesson providers (instrument or voice) and participation in recitals
- homeschool co-ops offering music/drama/performance-based classes and end-of-year performances
- some private, public or charter schools allow participation in their band/orchestra
- join a community youth band/orchestra/choir
- look into community classes or organizations for folk music, folk dancing, etc.
- community youth theater groups (example: Christian Youth Theater)
- class offerings of your local Parks & Rec department
- participation in a church choir, worship team, bell ringing group, etc.
- many large churches have special Christmas musical performances opportunities for youth

Fine Arts/Writing:
- attend student matinee showings of theater productions, concerts, etc.
- field trips to art museum, glass-blowing studio, pottery studio...
- art from a private lesson provider
- homeschool co-op offering fine arts classes
- Parks & Rec classes: arts and crafts, jewelry-making, print-making, etc.
- student writes articles for publishing in a local newspaper
- student writes own blog
- participate in NaNoWriMo

Sports/Athletic/Outdoor
- club sports (AYSO, Bobbysoxers, Little League, Pop Warner, etc…)
- swim team
NYS sports teams
- YMCA sports teams
- public, private or charter middle / high schools allow participation on their sports teams
- Parks & Rec classes
- after school bowling league
- weekly homeschool group PE day
- private classes/studios: martial arts, dance, fencing, horseback riding, gymnastics, cheerleading...
Orienteering
Geocaching or Letterboxing
- family or local group for weekend hiking / running / biking / tennis / etc.
- weekend "pick up" games at the park or gym of basketball, ultimate frisbee, etc.

National Groups, with local branches
4-H (not just animals! -- archery, public speaking; rockets…)
- Scouting
Math Olympiad group
National Forensics League (speech/debate)
STOA (Christian speech & debate)
National Christian Forensics and Communication Association
Christian Communicators of America 
DECA (high school business-career oriented)
FIRST Robotics (high school robotic team competition)
National Science Bowl (middle school/high school knowledge competition)
Youth & Government (model legislation program)
TEEN Pact (government and the political process; Christian
Junior State of America (civics and politics)
National Model United Nations or Model United Nations (mock U.N. session)
Teen CourtYouth CourtMock Trial (mock judicial)
Future Farmers of America

Community Opportunities
- community historical recreation group
Community Gardens
- volunteer student tutor to young strudents at local library
- volunteer work with an animal shelter, food bank, or other group of interest
- volunteer teen docent at the local zoo, botanical garden, museum, etc.
- after school clubs at local middle/high school: chess, robotics, book club, etc.
- homeschool geography bee, spelling bee, etc.
- summer programs for teens, offered through your local University or Community College
- join an air soft and/or paintball group and go out on the weekends
- organize monthly ballroom dances for teens at a local church or hall 
- host a bi-weekly club at your house for DC and friends: book discussion, jewelry-making, cooking...
- teen works a part time job, or starts own cottage business

High School Military Cadet Groups
Civil Air Patrol  (ages 12-18)
U.S. Naval Sea Cadets (ages 11-17)
Junior ROTC (grades 9-12)
U.S. Army Junior ROTC

Past Threads
Extracurricular activities for computer-obsessed introverted kid
Extracurriculars for college-bound students
Low income people and extracurriculars
Finding extra-curricular
What extracurricular activities for the high school years?
What kinds of extra activities for high schoolers?
DS is so, so lonely

Edited by Lori D.

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Ah, I'm no good at replying to quotes, it seems.

 

Anyways- an FTC team would be just as many hours as an FRC team. That time commitment sounds about right for a first year team member. (It's just a huge project to pull together, takes a lot of time). Ds is head coder so there is stuff he works on at home outside of meeting time. I'd say he probably spends minimum 20 hours a week on team stuff during the season, in meetings or out of them. Many more the last couple weeks before competition.

Younger team members, not so much. they usually come to basic meetings for a few hours ( there's not usually as much they can do & they aren't as into it yet). Ds is usually there for a few other times per week in addition to regular meetings. (We turned a homeschool families basement into our work area, they sponsor the team through 4H, so we can meet anytime they're home, as late as we need to & during school hours)

 

They have fundraising commitments, lots of public speaking to civic groups about the team, & run several workshops for younger kids and schools about robotics during the year.

We have FLL teams here, the younger version, and thise kids will move up to fill our teams as they age.

You could also look for an FLL team, at 9th, he could do that team one more year if he wanted, iirc. Or go and observe just to check them out.

 

Once ds really got into coding, not just for the team, it pretty much rules all his time not spent on coursework. But he goes way above & beyond and its his passion.

 

We do arrange coursework around robotics season, as much as possible. Harder now that most of us classes are at the community college.

 

Maybe try to get him to a meeting just to explore it as a visitor & see if he's really interested in it for next year do you can plan ahead.

 

We (homeschool group) started our FTC team when there wasn't one here. Now we have quite a few for our little rural area.

I'll second calling your local 4H to see if they have a stem club (we started that too), I bet they do. And they just rolled out for this year a big comouter science curriculum.

 

For summer programs, we lucked into a few that were announced at robotics competitions held at colleges. After that I started googling "summer high school academic programs at colleges" . There are a lot of engineering ones & we found a couple for programming and cyber security.

4H sends kids to Cornell for a summer career exploration program too, they have comp sci & engineering options.

We're in the Northeast if you want my list, I'll give it to you.

 

We've also had luck recruiting tech type homeschooling parents to lead projects, classes, and groups (our underwater robotics group is run by a dad to little kids who is great with our teens, we gave a mom who worked for IBM who teaches coding at the 4 H group, etc)

 

Hope that helps!

Good luck

Edited by Hilltopmom

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...We do arrange coursework around robotics season, as much as possible...

 

Agree. Going lighter on your academic subjects during the time a student is involved in a time-intensive extracurricular, and then heavier in the semester when the extracurricular is not happening allows you to either work ahead or catch up in the academic subjects.

 

There's also the summer for finishing off a credit or two, if you had to go light during the school year to make time for an awesome extracurricular -- the beauty of homeschooling flexibility. :)

 

We have done both of those options and it worked out fine to get all of our academics completed, and get to participate in some extracurriculars.

 

 

...(We turned a homeschool families basement into our work area, they sponsor the team through 4H, so we can meet anytime they're home, as late as we need to & during school hours)...

...We (homeschool group) started our FTC team when there wasn't one here...

...We've also had luck recruiting tech type homeschooling parents to lead projects, classes, and groups (our underwater robotics group is run by a dad to little kids who is great with our teens, we gave a mom who worked for IBM who teaches coding at the 4 H group, etc)...

 
Agree. While I know it's not an option for everything or everyone, I was also able to volunteer to be the advisor or the host home for a few extracurriculars to make them happen. Volunteering to be a parent assistant or overseer, or volunteering to host in your home for a weekly meeting might be the thing that makes an extracurricular possible, and it's worth the extra effort and time. You can often get the rest of the family to pitch in to help with house cleaning or set-up/tear-down, or being responsible for dinner that night.

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