Since all of our kids are roughly two years apart from each other, John and I had to make some decisions early on about how to handle activities. It's very easy for homeschool families to get sucked into so many outside activities that they're hardly home enough to do school! What's really ironic is that the general feeling among public school advocates is that homeschoolers are too "sheltered", i.e. our kids don't get enough socialization.
I generally try to stay off my soapbox on this blog, but I just want to say two things:
1) Every parent should be sheltering their children. That's your job as a parent. No child is ready to face all of the things that life is ready to throw at them and public school teachers daily face the daunting task of dealing with children who ought to be a lot more sheltered than they are. Each family will make different decisions about how and when they want to expose their children to different types of people and situations. Homeschoolers understand the importance of letting our children experience the difficult things in life. The only difference is that by spending our days with our children, we have more control over when and how it happens.
2) On socialization: when most people ask "What about socialization?" they are really asking, "How will your child learn to interact with and get along with others if they spend all day at home?" There are a lot of homeschoolers who address this by pointing out that having your 13-year-old spend 7 hours a day surrounded by a few hundred other 13-year-olds is probably not the best way to insure that they are learning positive social skills. I believe this is the primary reason that, when asked, most adults would say they would rather eat dirt than go back to high school again.
But that's not the argument I'm going to make. I'm just going to point out that most homeschooling families are highly involved in their churches and communities, as well as community sports leagues, clubs such as Scouts and 4-H, and a whole slew of other activities ranging from the theater, dance and chorus to academic and service clubs.
As I mentioned before, with five children, we had to make some decisions about how to handle outside activities. After watching our friends spend every evening and weekend running from ballpark to ballpark to watch their children play ball on different teams, we decided to pursue activities that mutiple children could do together. This automatically precluded sports, since the kids are grouped by age. Instead, our kids joined AWANA, 4-H, Scouts and the Children's Chorus, in addition to piano and church youth activities.
During the summer, our activities include a variety of camps (Space Camp, Carpentry Camp, Bible Camp, Sports Camp...) as well as community service at the local pregnancy crisis center. Believe me, this is plenty! All of these activities have the added benefit of having a great deal of adult involvement by parents. In addition, this year, John and I talked it over and decided to allow the three little boys to play Upward Flag Football. All the practices and games are in the field at the end of our street, so this is do-able for us: no driving involved, and an older sibling can walk the younger ones back and forth.
And now you can see why one of my biggest challenges as a homeschool mom is not Getting Out There but Staying In Here!