Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Extracurricular Activities

Here is my question: what do you think about children and extracurricular activities? Right now we've got 7 year old Eli taking piano lessons. He practices at home and has a 45 minute lesson every Saturday morning at his teacher's house, here in our neighborhood. He has 2-3 recitals a year. This seems very do-able, and I'm glad he's involved in this. He seems to love the piano and is doing well. I do not feel overwhelmed by the committment. Adam is not involved in any activity right now. I feel extremely hesitant to sign my kids up for things. Having to be places at certain times is stressful for me. I want them to be able to play and hang out at home. I don't want to spend Saturdays at various sporting events. On the other hand, I worry that if I wait too long, they will be too old to get the hang of various things. Here is what Dan suggests: 1 activitiy at a time while they're in elementary school, and 2 at a time in middle and high school. For Eli, that would mean just piano until grade six. Adam is sort of planning to start piano when he starts first grade, like Eli did. But what about sports? Eli played soccer after school in kindergarten, and I did not like having to be at the practices and games. I signed him up for several activities after school when he started first grade, but he asked me to cancel them because he was too tired after school, and I was relieved because I felt the same way. He did enjoy a non-competitive after school basketball program last year that he did once a week for an hour. I liked that, too, because there were no games to go to. When I was swimming today, I was thinking about what a valuable skill swimming is, and how grateful I am that I can swim for exercise. I would really like to pass that skill along to all of my children, both for safety and enjoyment of water-based recreational activities, and as a way of exercising throughout their lives. You may have noticed in my narrative that a lot of my hesitation about the boys' activities is because of my lack of energy and desire. You may be thinking "she shouldn't keep her boys from having these important experiences because of her laziness." While I do worry about this, I'm not sure how important these extracurricular experiences really are at this age. I know I've read things about kids being over-scheduled and about the importance of unstructured play. I know that I got burned out by the time my high school years were over from all of my activities, and I wish I had spent more time at home with my family (this is not meant as a criticism to you, mom and dad--I'm so grateful for all of the opportunities you gave me, and I did have wonderful experiences with swimming and dancing). When I joined the swim team, I think I was 10 or 11 years old. The kids who had been on the team since they were 8 & unders seemed to be a lot better swimmers, but that didn't prevent me from being a decent swimmer and now I enjoy swimming for exercise as much as they do, I imagine. I don't know if I would have been more competitive if I had gotten started earlier. If I don't get Eli and Adam into sports soon, are they never going to be good athletes? If they wait to do serious sports until they're offered by the school (6th grade, age 11), will that be too late for them? I'd love to hear what you think about these things.


ronin1516 said...

While one has to worry about kids being overscheduled and overwhelmed, I think participation is sports, in particular, is quite important and necesary. Boys learn what it is to be male, theylearn important life lessons, like how to be strong mentally, and they learn how to be social, and interact, in a positive manner, with other kids their age and adults.
Sometimes, if one waits till the kids are in high school, it might be too late. Being socially inept can really make a chil's or teenager's life hellish.
What is important is to have the kids participate, but, keep a good balance between academics, sports and hobbies, andimportant activities like Church etc.
Andrea - i will talk to you in oerson about my opinions on this matter.
tea-man Sid

potato girl said...

Sid, thanks so much for the ideas--i look forward to talking more at Thanksgiving

Anonymous said...

Andrea I think it is all very person specific. My main problem with being a Dewey is no exercise then you get fat fast and die early! We got nutty enough with Karen that at one time she was doing three sports at once! That was not my idea. One sport at a time seemed to be enough. Most of the sports you all did initially you seemed to want to do at the time. What do your boys want to do? Dad

potato girl said...

Good question, Dad. Last night I asked Eli what sport he would like to do, and he said Soccer! or maybe tennis, but not basketball because he can't make very many points with the big baskets.

potato girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lessie Louie said...

This is a difficult subject to comment on, mostly because I don't have any kids and I'm not you. But I think I was a child once and these are my impressions: Unstructured play is important, but so is structure. Sports teach things like leadership, responsibility, teamwork, discipline, social interaction and that it feels good to be physically active. That's what I learned from watching The Mighty Ducks, anyway. I often wish I could have participated more in sports growing up, even though it wasn't very practical with my other obligations (aka music). I still have that desire but now it feels like I'm too old and it's impossible.

Anyway, I think you can have sports participation without a load of time commitment, especially when they're so young. There will still be plenty of time for unstructured play and I think it's worth the effort. At least then you might not have to make Adam run laps just to get some energy out. :)

marizasmom said...

I have similar angst. I think activities are good for kids in many of the ways mentioned, but I cannot keep up with unlimited activities for four children. Our rule has been piano plus one, which really feels like a lot. Piano is a requirement--they may or may not enjoy it, but it is good for them and I want them to be useful to the church. (And I don't even know if that is a good rule to be set in concrete.) Is this laziness on my part not to do EVERYTHING? Maybe. Maybe not. (Check out my blog post about packing and see what you think.)

Al is a firm believer in the benefit of sports. They were defining for him and I think he agrees with much of what Sid said. We have used elementary school as a time to order a "sampler plate" of many different kinds of activities (roughly one per season). That way they are at least exposed at a young age to many different things and can be informed when they choose what to do in more depth, and they have at least tried the skills of different sports, which might make them easier to come back to later. I only did one organized sport in elementary school--softball for one season and I HATED it. I often wonder if I would have felt more confident playing sports if I had tried more. I also wonder if I could have done more with dance if I started before age 13 (which, as you know, is positively geriatric for a ballerina). I don't know if my life would have turned out any differently as an adult though. And I don't blame my mom for not having us do more. She had 5 kids in an 8 year span and believed in unstructured play. She "went about as fer as she could go."

ronin1516 said...

Got iunto an argument with a "literary" friend yesterday over this topic. He has never done sports, is gay as can be, so, he obviously spouted anti-sports stereotypes.
What I realised after the argument is how much having participated in sports has helped me deal with what I have had to deal with over the past 9 years or so. (I have had to deal with very serious health conditions, and a couple of near-death experiences, all alone, without having any family to help )

participating is sports instilled certain values and certain psychological traits and coping mechanisms, that have allowed me to survive and keep my sanity.
By contrast, I see folks like the friend I argued with and my neighbors, who are so very weak, both psychologically and physically, that it is contempible. All they do is whine, whine, whine, and then complain some more!!!

Janie said...

I am so glad for the activities I did growing up. I was the youngest of eight so I know it was not easy for my mom to get us to all the activities. I remember hanging out under bleachers at my brothers baseball and basketball games, this actually provided a way to get some playtime with other kids playing under the bleachers. I watched my sister in gymnastics and diving competitions (she won state and got a 4 year scholarship to BYU). I watched my brother play hs and college football and wrestling and he won at the national level in wrestling. My point in telling you all this is that it really pushed me to want to live up to their standards.
Sports is a way (not the only way), but a good way to build self confidence. I heard some statistic on the radio the other day that really impressed me (don't quote me on this, but it was something like this) 95% of Fortune 500 company President's and CEO's were high school athletes.

I certianly think it's important to have kids in many activities, that is the most consumming part of most my days. But, if it stresses mommy out to the point of mommy not being a good mommy then it's not worth it. I say let them decide if they would like to try a sport and focus on fun, probably similar to piano for Eli.

I think starting them young is a good idea, you can't throw a kid onto a middle school soccer, football, or swim team who has never had any lessons or competed and expect him to like it at all. He will hate it, because he will suck at it. No one likes to do things their not good at. If they start playing for fun when they are 6,7, or 8 and all the other kids aren't very good either it's a fun experience for them and a confidence builder.

Exercise in general is also a great stress reliever at any age. I say go fot it Andrea! You will learn to love watching and cheering on your little kids in their Saturday games!

potato girl said...

This is actually the email my mom wrote b/c she could not figure out how to comment on my blog:

About the extra-curricular thing--I thought we had to keep you kids busy and give you lots of opportunities to meet other kids who were doing positive things with their lives and give you opportunities for success so you would have feelings of self-esteem among your peers. We were afraid that since you weren't growing up on a farm and learning to work hard, you needed to learn to have structure and commitment in your lives through other programs. We were also worried about the whole drinking and drug culture of youth, and we had the feeling that kids who weren't involved in extra-curricular activities were more likely to be aimless, have too much free time on their hands, and get into trouble.
As things have turned out, we seem to have overdone it with you and Nathan and James, although at the time you seemed to thrive on it. I was pretty blind to your need in particular to have some boundaries set for you by your parents in order to protect your childhood. You were so competitive and determined and organized that I thought you liked your whirlwind life. And remember--you were very popular in spite of your feelings now that you missed out on friendships.
Mark and Karen were better at saying, "Whoa! Enough is enough," and by then we were able to let them say that. I thought I was being a good mom, sacrificing my own time to provide all these opportunities for my children. In some ways yes, but in other ways, no.

That said, I do think that your kids need some sports or organized physical activity, whether ball teams or gymnastics or swimming, to develop more strength and physical coordination. One of the scariest things about modern life is our almost total sedentary lifestyle. Our children really need to develop a love for exercise and using their muscles so they can be healthy. Children also need to learn to value work.

potato girl said...

I want to say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all of you for your many wonderful comments about extracurricular activities. I really appreciate your insights. Because of you all, I have decided to sign up Eli and Adam for YMCA basketball in January. I also discovered a really cool lacrosse program they could both do, but it is kinda pricey. I've been worrying about this topic for many weeks now, and writing about and hearing back from you all has helped me sort things out in my mind. Thank you again, and keep those comments coming!

Teresa Dewey said...

One thing I like about you, Andrea, is that your questions are not just rhetorical. You actually value the input of your friends and family in helping you make important decisions. I think that is a healthy attitude whether in personal or work decision making. But in the end we will respect your choices. NanaTeresa

ronin1516 said...

Well, Andrea, lacross isnt the only thing available in our town. There are many sports/cultural activities to choose from. Our Bishop has his kids doing soccer. I think you and I and dan will have to discuss options on Turkey day!!
Tea-man aka Sid

P.S : under no circumstances, should you let your kids attend Community HS when they finish middle school!!!

James said...

Word. I am about to leave a comment on your blog for the numero uno time.

Here's my two cents. There are a few types of environments/activities--outside of my parents'/siblings' homes--where I feel I am most myself. Those environments include swimming in a pool, the ocean, a lake, or a river and hiking on a trail.

I started swimming competitively when I was 6 or 7. I loved it, but it was hard sometimes--for some reason, I struggled to feel successful if I wasn't the winner of my age group. However, looking back, I'm so grateful that I know how to swim so well. It allows me an awesome release; I now consider lap-swimming an activity of sanctuary. And just about anytime I'm in the water, I love it.

Now my favorite sport is Ultimate Frisbee--which I didn't play competitively until college. However, if I hadn't played basketball growing up and soccer and other sports, I don't know if I would have had the coordination and physical fitness to participate. The friendships I gained through college from Ultimate will continue all my life. Not only that, anywhere I move, I have an instant friendship infrastructure if I want it. I just show up where the local Ultimate leagues play pick up, and I play and get to know people (case in point: playing Ultimate on the National Mall in DC). Bueno.

Karen said...

Dear Andrea, I know that whatever you do will work out well. I love you and my adorable nephews and neice.
Love, Karen