As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, November 6, 2015

Finding our Family Niche

Long before kids are actually kids, parents (or at least we did) dream of what kind of family they'll be. Never having been too sporty myself but recognizing the importance of sports to a child's development (and honestly, just seeing that the cooler kids growing up were generally the more sporty ones) I thought for sure we would steer our kids in that direction.  As the kids have grown we've tried several different things over the years, some of which have become mainstays in our family life, and others which have fallen into the category of "not for us but we gave it a shot".

In the case of sports, we've made gracious attempts at soccer and baseball.  I thought we'd love soccer, most parents do.  And in the beginning, we sure did.  But it was more of a social thing than a passion for my kids.  They got outside and tumbled around the field for a bit, but didn't rise to any astonishing heights, and honestly didn't do anything they couldn't do at home.  And as our children increased in number and the sport likewise increased in cost, we had to re-evaluate our commitment to it.  The final straw for us was when it just became too much effort to drive all our kids to the soccer field twice a week in the summer months, and when what I thought would be a family event turned into Mom shuttling kids to a sport they only sort of like when she'd rather be soaking in lazy summer evenings around the house.  We tried, and we moved on.

As far as baseball goes, we would have stuck with this one longer I think if the program had continued.  It was cheaper, closer, only once a week, and unlike soccer, the kids really did show a genuine interest for the sport.  But after a few unsuccessful attempts to drum up interest in the community, our first and only season of baseball was cut short because they were unable to get enough players to form a team.  Too bad.

We've also tried ballet (more about that in my wrap-up post from last year, here.) For both the boys and the girls.  But due to time and financial constraints we let it go for this school year. It was easily the most expensive thing the kids were involved in, and again, only sort of interested in.  Except the girls I guess, I kind of wish they could still do it.  But we're maxed out for time and it just doesn't work.

But I have to say, after five years of kids getting bigger and trying new things, we are finally starting to get a sense of what works for our family.  And much to my delight, they are the things my husband and I were passionate about as kids.  You may think we push our kids towards the things we like and that might be true a little bit, but they all genuinely enjoy the activities they are involved in. And there are other reasons these things work for our family, besides the simple fact that we like them.

The first is Scouts.  More specifically, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts.  This year we have five children in all three levels, and while it's not cheap, family discounts allow us to continue to take part.  When the three boys were in Beavers and Cubs we sought out a more feminine activity for our daughter (enter ballet), but found that since girls are encouraged to join Beavers it made much more sense for her to join her brothers (since they could all go on the same night and be eligible for family rates). Jeff was in Beavers, Cubs and Scouts when he was younger and is a leader with the kids.  I love the organization and the kids are thriving and making good friends in the community through their involvement.  Scouts works for us because all the kids can be involved together at the same time, and we can take advantage of family discounts.

The other thing that is taking up a large part of our lives these days is music.  We started with piano in our first year of homeschooling on the encouragement of my mother in law, who saw a gift in my oldest son.  We found a teacher ten minutes away from us that offered lessons at a really reasonable rate, and had the blessing of staying with her until she retired last year.  I love that our kids take piano lessons, and while every other activity we do is based on their interest, piano is the one thing I see as a mandatory.  Music is part of their curriculum, and I can't tell you how many adults I know that quit after a year or two of lessons, and now say they wish they had continued.  Plus I see piano as a foundational instrument.  It works with both staffs at the same time, uses chords and melody, and encompasses all the theory necessary to learn any other instrument they would like to down the road. All the others are extras but piano, to me, is essential.  Piano works for us honestly, because I make it work.  It's easily the most expensive thing our kids are involved in - especially since our dear teacher retired and we had to find a new one, which doubled the cost for our family but also helped us to find our new teacher, who comes to our home (yay!) and is challenging the kids and bringing them to new and wonderful heights with an instrument we all love.

Last year we picked up violin for the two oldest boys through the school district.  They have a wonderful program that is really inexpensive and run by the same people who taught me violin almost 30 years ago!  My kids go to the same school and learn from the same teachers as I did, it's wild!  And I was so impressed with how much the kids learned in just their five first months of lessons.  When we do any activity I tell the kids they have to stick it out for a year at a time, and they can decide after that if they want to do another year.  I don't want them quitting mid-year, because I want them to know what it means to make a commitment to something, and not just give up when things get hard.  My oldest had said all summer that he didn't want to go into violin again which made me a little sad, but I kept my opinions to myself and in the final week before school he changed his mind.  Much to my delight :)  Two more of our kids will be ready to start in January, and they are eager to follow in their siblings' footsteps.  Violin works for us because, like Scouts, all four kids go to their lesson at the same time.  And it's really cheap - far cheaper than private lessons.  And the experience of playing in an orchestra is second to none, and something you don't get from private lessons.  Our kids are learning that they need to practice not only for themselves but for the sake of the group, and that while they might sound great on their own, when they join with other people the result is simply amazing.

Finally this year, my two oldest joined the band program, again through the school system.  My husband and I both played in band when we were in school, and it was so exciting for me to watch the music teacher take them through each instrument so they could pick their favorite.  They had their first band concert this week, and it was so thrilling!  I liked orchestra, but there's nothing like the sound of a big band - all the instruments booming and coming together.  You work so hard on your own piece at home, and get it sounding just perfect, but when it all comes together it's magic!  The kids are really loving it, and I love watching them grow and expand their musical horizons.  Band works for us again because it's cheap, and also that the lessons are offered once a week through the school day, which means it doesn't take another evening away from our busy weekly schedule.

I know it's not set in stone, and of course there are things I wish the kids could do that they can't. Sports teams never worked for us, but we found an amazing gym program through a local school that was cheap, so we signed up. I wish they could join the amazing choir at our Cathedral, but that would mean another evening out.  I wish they could join a drama group, but that would mean a Saturday commitment (Saturday is currently the only day in our week that we don't have anything to do, and we are verrrrrrrrrry reluctant to schedule anything on that day - for the sake of our sanity!)  I really wish we could put the girls back into ballet, but again - money and time. But for now this is working really well for us, and it's beautiful to see.  Music is something we can all share as a family, and I look forward to many years of making sweet music together.

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