Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Games and Other Things

The Exchange - Games and Other Things

I homeschool my kids. My kids are involved in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities.
I found this article in the Epistula newsletter I receive from Marlin Detweiler so interesting I reproduced the entire article on my blog.

Games Matter

"An interesting and problematic phenomenon has arisen in classical Christian educational circles, schools and homeschools, and I fear I may have contributed to the problem. It’s the idea that curricular endeavors are more important than extra-curriculars.

There have been many instances where I have been asked to speak or consult and was asked about the role of these extra curriculars—sports, musical performance, drama, etc. Until recently, I have responded by suggesting that “we must gain substantial ground and stability in the curricular realm of educational recovery before thoroughly addressing the less important extra-curricular.” At the same time I was critical of parents who removed their kids from these classical schools with already dwindling school population in upper grades. Many times these parents would indicate that the schools lack of extra-curriculars was the reason for leaving. It seemed a misplaced sense of priorities.

After all, of my four boys I have one who will start at North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem this fall with an interest in drama and musical theater and another who played golf at Old Dominion on a golf scholarship last year and is transferring to North Carolina State University where he also will play golf. Yet another son, my 11th grader, hopes to play basketball into his college years. We’ve been able to make it work. Others certainly could, too. But that’s not really the whole story.

Difficulties and weaknesses still remain. Team sports are the biggest challenge. Small schools, let alone homeschools, will always have great difficulty fielding a championship football team. Then, throw in basketball, football, orchestra, band and soccer and there will never be enough participants or resources. My boys would have loved to have more options.

How many homeschooled or classically schooled student-athletes can you name that are or have played Division 1 College sports on a scholarship, let alone professionally? Not many. Initially, we might be inclined to say, “So what?”. Well, here’s what. Sports (and the arts) are a big part of life in America, in fact the world. Taking back culture will certainly involve having sports operate under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, there are things we learn from functioning as a team in athletics and the arts. Look at Congress. How many senators and representatives do you expect were athletes, even stand-out athletes earlier in life? Remember Jack Kemp? Bill Bradley? Jim Bunning? The list is quite long. The things we learn from competing are both hard to learn elsewhere and very important in leadership.

Let me concede that sports are not for everyone. Neither is drama or music (except singing, but that’s another subject). Leadership isn’t for everyone either. However, Christian community is. What I failed to see, when previously downplaying the importance of these activities, is what they do to the building of Christian community. Debate teams and mock-trial teams are wonderful. They challenge the student to apply what he has learned in important ways. They create a sense of camaraderie and connection. But nothing brings a group together like a football or basketball game. And nothing builds character like the tense moments of the games we play for the players and fans.

As we observe the marketplace we see some trends—some good, some not. The first is the one already mentioned—we underestimate the value of these activities and suffer the consequences of not keeping our schools filled and not developing the whole of our children. The second is our culture can be quite separatist. We don’t want our kids associating with bad kids and being influenced by them so we avoid contact at all cost—even the sports teams. My observation of folks in this extreme is that they produce effeminate men who are hardly ready to be like David or Daniel for the kingdom.

There’s another trend. Homeschool organizations and organizers bring kids together in highly competitive teams. I was thrilled to learn of some of them. Still in early stages, yet making great strides, these organizations stand ready, willing and able to make a difference. Schools are getting to it, as well. Some are realizing that planning for graduating classes of 30 may not cut it and are putting strategies in place for 200 instead.

We should also mention the trend on the other side of the ditch. It’s the one that thinks too much of sports and other extra-curriculars. Golf, football and the like are far more likely to be our idols of the day than a wooden Baal kept on the mantel. We need to stay away from that one, as well.

This is an enormous subject and much can be said. Suffice it for now that you should be aware of opportunities and avoid the ditches. Your children will thank you for it. And our God will be pleased to see His people called after His name ready, willing and able to do that which they are called to do."

Marlin Detweiler

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