As our toddler is approaching the 2nd year of life (terrible twos?), we have been contemplating various school systems and activities. We have thought about educational day cares, Montessori schools, ballet, Karate, piano, French immersion, swimming, soccer and the list goes on.

soccerkid

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I have to think about what is the purpose of all these extra curricular activities. I’d like to think that we doing what is best for our children. However, if you look a bit closer, are we simply training a super human kid? Are we, as parents, compensating for what we didn’t have as children? Perhaps we want our offspring to look better than the next kid?

In addition to the purpose of over stimulating our kids, these extra curricular activities are big business and can cost a lot of money. For example, I just found out that our area is about to get its first Montessori school which is a new age way for toddlers to learn. I’m all for optimal learning, but the “tuition” is heavy on the wallet. The cost is $595/month + tax for mornings OR afternoons 5 days a week. I guess one could argue that the cost is approximately the same as daycare (in NL), but at least daycare is for the whole day, not a partial day. To put it in another light, the cost of Montessori is more than what I paid for University tuition. Throw in some piano lessons, a sport, swimming and you’ll have a monthly bill approaching the cost of a mortgage. Oh, and get this, that’s just for one child.

I see some young children with schedules so busy that they practically need a personal assistant to keep track of it all. It makes me wonder how much the extra activities actually benefit the child. Of course as parents, we want the best for our kids, but at what cost? When is it too much? When I was young, I was involved in a few sports but most of my time was playing outside with my friends (or inside playing video games). I’d like to think that I turned out alright.

Perhaps the proper mindset is to get them involved with many activities as possible, and see which ones they enjoy most. Drop the ones that they don’t, and gently encourage the activities that they do.

Those of you with kids,  do you put them in as many activities as possible?  Where do you draw the line?

60 Comments

  1. Ms Save Money on September 24, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    This is a very interesting article – but in a way “YES” most parents are trying to train their kids to be “SUPER HUMAN KIDS” in a sense.

    I believe that it is in our natural makeup (genetically) – or in otherwords – survival of the FITTEST. :)

    It’s all about the competition – if you don’t get them started now – they’re not going to have as much advantage over other kids.

  2. Ben on September 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I have no kids as yet, but ruminate on my own upbringing…

    I grew up in a very “free form” home where I learned independence at a young age. I loved it then, and love thinking about it now. We were 9 kids living in the country, surrounded by forest and water, and blessed with safe, fun and competent public schools. Parents didn’t schedule us for anything – if we wanted to do sports, choir, band, then we did, and we’d get picked up at school after practice. In many ways, a recipe for success.

    Reading ‘Outliers’ this week, and came across a bit of of a contrary viewpoint in the discussion of Chris Langan, who had no one around to teach him how to capitalize on his talents. Specifically, it is the example of the 9-year old on the way to the doctor, and how his mother teaches him to speak up for himself and direct the course of the event. These kind of life skills, not taught in the “free form” environment, are important. I do OK in this department, but it’s probably been learned in the decade since I left the nest.

    So, to reach the obvious conclusion, there is a happy medium:
    -between letting kids choose the activities they want to “play” at and ensuring parents provide some direction and recommendations
    -allowing sufficient space to develop independent thought and decision-making abilities, and engaging in an active parenting style, with open debate and discussion.

    I lean a bit more toward the “free form” approach overall, but that’s just my bias – I turned out OK!

  3. Joe on September 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Wow, what diversity in comments. I have two boys. Both play competitive hockey and soccer because they want to and they earned it. Both do well in school as well. We don’t compete with the rest of the “Jones” with regards to training clinics or lessons of any sort. I tell them success doesn’t come over night and it requires hard work. If you work hard it will show when it really matters. Both boys train together or on their own. These are lifetime lessons. It seems that today’s parents rather pay someone to teach their kids or watch their kids for them. Parents should spend time with their kids; afterall they really just want to be like you. You are their hero. You really want to be remember as the person who just transported your kid from one event to another.

  4. ioana on September 28, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    My son has been in a Montessori daycare for the past two years (he’s three now). It is across the street from our house. It was by far the best daycare that I could find in the area. He’s doing yoga and learning french (why?? I have no idea). It’s a very nice, safe place with lovely teachers. I feel good about having him there.

    However, after school, he’s all mine. I don’t want to send him anywhere because I hardly spend any time with him except for those hours in the morning and after 6pm and before 8:30 when he goes to sleep.

  5. zud on September 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    i was a child who was probably over scheduled by today’s standards. i was put in figure skating, swimming, synchrnized swimming, piano, gymanstics, trampoline, ballet, jazz and the ubiquitous saturday chinese school. i did not love all the activities however i can sincerely say that i benefitted from all. i stopped most except piano by age 13 in lieu of school team sports and school band. i grew up loving sports and activities while seeing my female peers shy away from gym class.i really believe i gained my sense of rythym and hand eye coordination from taking classes at such a young age.

    parents will be worried about their kids feeling ‘stressed out’ or not having the time to “just be a kid”. i remember clearly my schedule – back in the day (i am 30 now) elementary school ended at 3pm, my (SAH) mom would pick me up and lessons at the local Y or community centre would start at 330. i remember lessons would never be longer than 45 mins-60 mins, we’d be back home by 5pm. i would be left to my own devices until dinner time, then do a bit of homework and further goofing off until bed/bath time at 8-830.

    i realize not much of this would have been possible had my mom not chosen to be stay at home and i realize what a great life she provided for me. this is not the decision every parent can make but i really feel the impact now of all the activities i did as a kid

  6. Gaufrette on October 1, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    My daughter (15) would be content to languish in front of the tv and computer so I’ve directed her activities in spite of her initial objections. It’s been transformative as now she’s playing competitive soccer at a high level, working toward her lifeguarding certification and is heavily involved in school activities such as the musical, student council and cross country running. Her confidence has soared, she’s expanded her social horizons and consequently is much more motivated now she knows how good it feels to be engaged. My son (19) has always had a passion for soccer, and I indulged him by years of driving to practices/games – that required lots of juggling of time/money as I’m a single mum. However, he now plays varsity soccer at university which keeps him fit, forces him to effectively manage his time and cemented lifelong friendships.
    On another subject, my daughter recently started Kumon maths. I’m too soon to judge its merits. My objection, however, is that the business model encourages franchisees to hamper the student’s progress.

  7. learn piano songs on October 6, 2009 at 11:08 am

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  8. Abonnie on October 9, 2009 at 10:34 am

    My son is three and we have him in swimming as I feel that is a necessity for safety reasons and a little gym class. We do all classes on Sat/Sun mornings. This is the first time I am doing two classes and we will determine in the end of it was too much. The benefit is he is exhausted at the end of the class and is ready for a nap. Bonus for us. It also gets us as a family out of the house doing something together (I participate with our son in the classes and my husband cheers us on). My plan, is to only participate in classes on weekends. After school/work would be too stressful and the idea behind the classes is fun. The classes are not cheap but, as they are sports we actually will get a bit of a tax break from them. My son as a result of the swim classes is not afraid of the water anymore which is the whole reason we decided to do this to begin with. I think people need to step back and make a realistic plan on how much they want to spend and how the class will fit into their every day activities. If it becomes too much of a chore, you won’t go and you wasted your money.

  9. Lisamm on October 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    My kids are 10 and 12 and are really great kids. They’ve been exposed to a wide range of activities over the years. My oldest is in honors classes and band this year so she has a ton of homework and must practice her instrument daily. We scaled back on her activities so now she just has gymnastics once/wk and girl scouts once/mo. She also goes to the church youth group one evening a week. My 10 yr old is in basketball (2 practices/wk after school plus games), gymnastics (once/wk-evening) and cheer (once/wk practice and games a few times/mo) plus girl scouts. She’s also a worship leader at church (singing, etc). SHe is a bundle of energy and we cannot slow her down.

    I guess my point is you have to take into consideration a child’s energy level, interest, workload at school, and personality. I would never push my kids to continue in activities they didn’t care for but I would encourage them to stick it out when the going gets tough, because any new skill will eventually require practice and work to master. If they want to get really good at anything, they will have to push through that time when it gets hard and they’d rather quit, because it’s easier.

    Even with everything my kids do, they still have plenty of free time to hang out with friends and with us, do creative stuff (they love to cook and paint), walk the dog, listen to music, play with the neighbor kids. Probably because they don’t watch very much tv and we limit screen time to one hour a day (with exceptions for special programs on tv, etc.)

  10. Alex on February 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Swimming lessons are good, since that’s a skill that it’s pretty easy to die without.

    The first thing I’d try is to see if your kid likes any of the same things you enjoy. That way you could give the lessons yourself AND spend time with your child at the same time.

    For other lessons/activities etc, I’m still trying to figure that one out. My parents’ approach was to basically not spend anything on extracurricular activities, so I had to wait until I was making money on my own to get into things like music (which I still can’t afford real lessons for) or sports. Personally I think there’s a balance somewhere between the two extremes where you can give your child opportunities without making them obligations.

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