Amidst arguments of how unstructured play is beneficial for kids and ‘I-want-to-play-netball-because-all-my-friends-in-school-are-doing-it’, where do you draw the line when it comes to after-school activities?
What purpose do after-school activities serve? Aren’t we burning a hole in our pockets with the school fees as it is, asks one. As the name suggests, these are activities a child engages in after school, with the intention of acquiring a skill not necessarily taught in school. Think music, drama, sports, foreign language classes and so on. In exposing children to a variety of interests early on in life, we can only hope for a more well-rounded development. More importantly, given the iPad generation they belong to, paying for a 30-minute swimming lesson probably makes more sense than letting them spend that time staring into those screens. There is an abundance of after-school programs and providers today; and still, somehow the law of supply does not apply here. Most of them are pricey, so it is imperative to invest wisely.
I want my child to excel. Besides, she enjoys playing tennis and golf, as much as singing and dancing. Who am I to stop her, says another. The thing with after-school activities is that there is no perfect number. Going with your instinct when it comes to your child is probably a good mantra. Maintaining a calendar and reviewing schedules from time to time is necessary. Feel free to drop activities one term if it gets too much only to take them up in the next. Most importantly, do not get pressured by so and so sending their kids for xyz number of activities each week.
My son is ever-so excited to enroll into an activity only to start disliking it soon after. Why does this happen, asks a third. I’d honestly like to believe it could be one of two reasons. First, the kid might be genuinely over-scheduled in which case there would be other symptoms: neglecting school and homework, frequent aches and pains, difficulty sleeping/waking up and the like. Second, the poor child might not have a sense of what he/she likes or dislikes just as yet. In both cases, I’d choose to be the easy-going parent and let loose. You?
For a real life perspective on things, I had a chat with some Mommy Bloggers in the UAE on what they feel on the subject. Here are their views:
Tarana from Sand in my Toes has a 6-year old. My son isn’t in any after school activity and we prefer it that way. He might join a sports club next year but we’ll only do that on weekends. They have early morning coaching in school but I can’t rob him of precious sleep.
Abigail at Cuddles and Crumbs is a SAHM of two. Kuya V (9yrs) has piano on Mondays & Wednesdays and basketball on Saturdays. Chloe (5yrs) goes for ballet every Friday. Our kids chose the activities they wanted to do after school. It is important for me that they are not forced into something they do not enjoy. For Kuya, we make it a point to take some time off when he has exams at school.
If given a choice, my 10-year old son will refuse every after-school activity, be it swimming, guitar, basketball, karate or anything else we might suggest. And since we don’t believe in imposing, it means his free time is spent in front of the television. For now, we’re ‘encouraging’ him to attend guitar lessons with swimming being next on the agenda. My reasoning is, how will they ever know their interests if they do not try? says Lynjoy, mum, wife and dreamer at Filipina Expat.
Mum of 4, Edwina who blogs at Seashells On The Palm believes that as parents we should discipline ourselves to give our children some free time. That is an underestimated activity in itself. I need to remind myself of that – to block that time, to protect it like I do the other paid activities, to let my children discover, explore and create or just be a kid. It is more important for them to be home with us as a family, and to interact together as a unit. Do I really care if my son isn’t the next Mozart? No, not really. So what is important to you when your child is an adult and aged 30? Do I care if my children as adults respect and love time together as a family? Yes, more than anything. To read her blog post on the subject, click here.
Helly, mum of 2 (plus bump) and blogger at My Little Loves tackled the issue through a post last September. Only a week and a half into the school year, my anxiety is high and this is all I’m thinking about. I literally asked myself today, are you happy being Taxi Mam! I have decided to allow term one to be as it is, the start of the school year. Who is forcing us to start all the extra curricular activities at once? No one! It is just about what you can handle at any given moment. Between Little Red doing Guitar, Glee Club, Musical Theatre, Irish Dancing, Camogie, Football, Swimming Lessons and Home Work – When exactly was down time? When was Aoibhie’s turn at an activity?
As with everything else in life, balance is essential. I quite like the term Taxi Mum; the minute you feel you are turning into one or your child is becoming a slave to afterschool activities, it is probably time to take a breather anyway.