How do you choose outside classes?

Dear Homeschooling Reader,

How do you decide which classes you child(ren) should take? It is almost September and we are struggling with this issue again. With 4 kids, there is only so much each can do. I love things that more than one kid can be in. But sometimes they just have their own interests. My 8yo dd is a born artist. She has been doing art classes for a year and a half. They are near us, well-priced, and she really seems to be learning a lot. Many times I have signed my kids up for things that sound great, but in the end it is hard to tell what they have learned. It can be hard to tell before going in to a class how profitable it will be. Here are the things I look for in a class or activity:

1. Something I can’t give them at home easily

2. Something more than 1 of my kids can do at once. If it is a field trip, I look for things all 4 can do. This is a little easier since the youngest is now 5, but some things still seem to be ages 6 and up. Some museums or libraries near us will have things for the whole family. I wish more did!

3. Not too far from us. We live between 2 big cities (Providence and Boston), and I will drive for unique things but if something can be found within 20 minutes of my house that is even better.

4. Well-priced. Around here I expect classes to be $10-15 per hour of instruction. If special equipment is needed that they provide, I can see paying more. Pottery at the Y was a good example of this. I can’t provide real clay and glazes and a kiln at home. (I’d love to hear if this is standard; if you live elsewhere, how much do things cost where you are?) I love when things are priced per family. That always ends up being a deal for us!

5. Something where they really are going to learn something new. This could be building up an existing skill like my dd’s art class. It could be something totally new.

6. Something where we get to meet new people or hang out and get to know old ones better. We are interested in socializing, but at this point I won’t do an activity (other than free weekly park days when we are available which hasn’t been often lately) just for the social aspect unless it also meets some of our educational goals.

7. Timing. This is a new criteria for us this year. I am really trying to protect our homeschool time as the kids get older. It is too easy to fill up the schedule with outside things and I find I don’t actually have time for homeschool. Or we have to rush through it and it is no longer quality learning time. My older 2 are going to do an 8 week writing class in the fall but I am hoping that will be our only regular morning commitment.

So, what about you? How do you decide what to do? How many things do you end up doing every week?



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