Using Extracurricular Activities to Learn Life Lessons

I recently spent the weekend at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort at the Tremaine Dance Convention with my oldest daughter.  I also attended dance conventions when I was in high school.  I know, that was a long time ago.

tremaineWhen I was a kid, I loved dance.  I had a wonderful dance teacher, Miss Linda.  She had beautiful long black hair, and she passed a love of dance and music on to her students.  In turn, I searched for a dance studio for my girls with the same love and values I had grown up with.  I found it at The Danceworks.  Michelle Arndt has a dual personality.  She’s ‘MissChelle’ to her young dancers who delight to dance for her, and she’s ‘Miss Michelle’ to her older dancers who are unswervingly loyal to her.  All dance teachers go by “Miss”; it’s a southern thang.

I prefer a classical approach to dance.  My girls start with ballet and don’t take anything else until they have shown some mastery for the foundation of dance principles.  Isabel moved on to tap from ballet, but when she expressed an interest in becoming a dance teacher I told her she would need to include ballet in her training.  Lots of dance styles come and go, but ballet cannot be taken out of the equation without causing a breakdown in the fundamental aspects of technique.  Alyssa and Olivia both take ballet, and Emma takes a combination class of ballet and tap.

Yes, that’s right, we have four girls taking dance.  Some days I question the wisdom of introducing them to dance. It seems like I’m constantly taking somebody to a class.  But then I think about the benefits that dance has produced in my girls.

1. As homeschoolers, dance provides two bonuses for us.  One, it answers the ever-present question of socialization. Two, dance provides a healthy and fun physical education opportunity.

2. For my two extraverted daughters, dance is the perfect balance of activity and social interaction.  For my two introverted daughters, dance has given them a safe place to express their creativity and break out of their shells.  In particular, one of my daughters struggled with anxiety and had an extreme fear of group settings.  However, she loved watching her older sister dance.  When it was her turn to start dance, her love overcame her anxiety and fear.  She marched right into her first class and put her entire being into dancing.

3. My girls have made friends with a variety of young girls from different backgrounds in a safe and well-supervised setting.  I don’t want to only know people who look like us and act like us, but on the other hand children shouldn’t be left to their own devices.

4. Dance does more than develop the body.  It develops the brain.  Dance exercises and routines help with memory, coordination, grace, and self-awareness.

5. Dance develops discipline.  You can’t quit when it gets hard.  You have to keep trying.  There is a healthy competition that dance, in particular, promotes.

6. Being involved in an activity, like dance, gives a child something to dream about and aspire to.  There is no end to the development of a skill like dance.

I’ve often said that we homeschool to remain the primary influence in our children’s lives, and that hasn’t changed.  Our girls have other influencers, but they are people we carefully pick, like Miss Michelle.  I was concerned about the culture shock that The Tremaine Dance Convention would give Isabel.  I don’t want her to be desensitized to the inappropriate aspects of how some people treat dance, yet that would be true in many, if not all, activities.  Instead, I’m using it as a training experience to show her why we set boundaries in place for how we dress and how we dance.

Laurie Johnson is an all-around awesome person, from teaching tap to being a Longhorn.

Laurie Johnson is an all-around awesome person, from teaching tap to being a Longhorn.

The dance teachers also gave valuable advice to the students that transcends dance.  Tony Bellissimo told them to never give up.  “When you’re cut, go work harder and come back to try again.”  Jeff Amsden told them to dance tall, even if you’re short.  That’s very practical for Isabel since she probably won’t be any taller than me.  Laurie Johnson, my favorite, said that everything they do is a choice for tomorrow.  Live today for what you want to be in the future, in essence.

I vaccilated between coming to this conference and not, but I’m glad we came.  For Isabel, it will be a ‘coming of age’ event that will likely define her focus and motivate her, whether it be to continue dance or pursue other passions.  It’s too soon to know for sure what path God has for Isabel, but He will use this weekend to teach more than I could in a year.

What activities do your children participate in that will do more than teach a single skill?

Georganne

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