These days there are articles talking about the stress that our kids go through being in school and being held to these high expectations. I think a lot of the time we set the expectations because society sets these expectations. We preach to our children about not following the crowd and being individual but I constantly see parents who are stressed out running around all day dropping a 6-7 year old to 15 different activities. Why? because Anna Grace’s daughter does tap, ballet, gymnastics and piano so we have to. We don’t have time to stop at home we have to run 5 days a week to activities and the Saturday we are spending all day on the soccer, football or baseball field doing an activity the child will probably hate before they are 9 years old….and you will too.
Being the mother of 5 I ran my self crazy with driving and keeping up with activities especially at the end of the school year. My husband finally stepped in and said, ” take a break, they don’t have to do something EVERY year”. So, I did. It felt wonderful to get kids off the bus and then not have to go anywhere. They enjoyed it too. Does it seem as if I am getting off topic, well I am coming back.
When my kids got into the 4 and 5th grades they were introduced to more activities through the school system. So we took full advantage of them . When we did so, I learned a couple of things.
1) They were cheaper!! It is so much easier to pay $15- $40 for an activity ONCE than $65, every. single. month.
2) Birds of a feather flock together. The kids who are involved in before or after school activities usually have parents who care and are willing to put in the extra time it takes to transport the kids when it may not be so convenient.
3) Kids like to be around their friends and what better place to have them hanging out than at school. The 4-H program goes all the way to high-school. If they know that their friends are there they are more likely to stay involved. For example, I have a child who is lazy as heck but she decided to take band in middle school. Then, she decided to do jazz band ( with a little convincing for me). She is now in high school and participates in marching band. Will she do anything besides band? Who knows but if one of her band-mates convinces her to join another activity she will be more likely to do it than if I suggested it. In other words, if you begin at an early age to move kids into a positive direction you can guide them into the right crowd and they are more likely to stay with that crown through high-school and even beyond
4) It looks good on college applications. I just got my oldest daughter into college. She is autistic but she still had to fill out applications for school and all sort of scholarships. As we began to look at the applications, some of them wanted a resume. Huh?? It has been 20+ years since I filled out a college application and this was all brand new to me. But unlike 20 years ago, I had Google to guide me and there were plenty of templates to choose from. Since my daughter is autistic we concentrated so much on her academics that we really did not push the extra curricular activities as much. But, she had things she could put on her resume. She participated in bowling, chorus and other activities, but man I could not help but think…could she have done more? Well, maybe some volunteer work would not have hurt but the application was not too shabby in the end. It did teach me that even if you have a straight A student; colleges and scholarship committees want the all around student. They want a well rounded resume of that child such as volunteer work, church groups, clubs and local organizations. These are not hard to get. I just had no idea about the need for them at such a young age.
I hope I have not overwhelmed you with my findings. Don’t get me wrong ballet, karate and all the extra activities are great for kids. But sometimes the most influential things are right under your nose in your community and local school or church. I have placed some links below to get you started. Also, check you local school district’s website for more ideas.