Extracurricular activities

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Extracurricular activities



So, the other thread I started was about homework and how too much of it takes away from extracurricular stuff kids might be involved in after school. So I thought, why not have a thread about extracurricular activities? [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

I'm thinking about it right now because my little one has a swimming lesson this morning at 11. It's nice having him so close by now and here every Saturday because then I can sign him up for stuff. He's never been signed up for any sports or lessons at his Dad's place, which I've always thought was kind of a shame. I guess his dad isn't into it.

So, what kind of extracurriculars are you (if you're a teenager) or your kids (if you're a parent) or kids or teens close to you involved with? How much do you think is too much? (You hear about parents "overbooking" their kids with lessons and stuff.)


As a 23 year old, I wish my parents had signed me up for more. There wasn't enough money though so I did a bit less than most people. Some of the advantages I see in young adults of having done ECAs as a kid is having skills or hobbies to last them for life. For example, those who know tennis have a sport they can play as a hobby for fun forever. It's much harder to learn skiing, skating, basketball as an adult. The one sport I did do with my dad was that he'd take me to the track, and also swimming, and so now I'm getting into triathlons and that sort of thing. In the case of some kids it can also lead to a career, such as martial arts instructors or musicians. Parents should also be very attentive to new trends. Anybody i know in my generation who got a computer very early on (around 1990), in other words fortunate enough their parents could pay for it back then, now has some very secure job skills.

Benefit I won't elaborate on here, but ECAs are a great way to make friends outside of classes, which is always good.

I worked at a Kumon Tutoring Center a few years ago for some time. I'm not sure if I'd recommend it. Overall, I certainly think the education system can have a devastating impact on many children and teenagers with respect to their educational attitudes. The experience among people I know who are in university programs is more often than not one of resentment against their elementary and high school teachers, who taught them at the wrong pace, and often left them bored from the tedium or feeling as if they were stupid. Kumon provides the advantage of leting kids learn these basics at an individualized pace. My only concern though is that it might be too much and lead to saturation. When I worked there I saw some really overamibitous parents. Kids would come in with wearing there karate Gees, meaning two hours of stuff in the night. One time a mother was hovering over her six year old son because he was taking too long with his addition and subtraction, pointing that out... he was like six! Of course it doesn't make sense to compare him to whoever else is in the room, they may have been there longer, coming for more years, working at a different grade level, have a different differential between their grade level and their age... I think if I was a father I would expose my kids to maths and counting at an early age on my own time. A friend of mine has been babysitting her friend's 3 year old daughter out of curiosity *she loves to see how children develops). She says she's managed to teach her how to count to ten, basic arithmetic and multiplication, and is working on explaining her prime numbers. Prime numbers to a three year old! wow!

Anyhow, the more parents put their kids in ECAs, the greater the median skill sets rises. And thus kids whose parents can't afford many of these activities will fall further behind. That's the tragic side. For whatever reason, many Canadian HS in my observation don't offer many ECAs.

Michelle, sorry for the incoherent rant.


Yeah, I know what you mean.

I wasn't all that into sports as a kid, but my parents did enroll me in other stuff, so I can't complain. I did figure skating, swimming lessons, and lots of music stuff.

Since I can only book stuff for my guy on Saturdays, I've got him signed up for swimming lessons in the morning and and intro cartooning class in the afternoon. He is excited about both.


Our son is now 12 and over the years, he took swimming lessons -- he reached Aquaquest Level 8 and decided that was enough instruction but he still loves to swim.

He took skating lessons and still likes to skate a bit but never showed an interest in hockey -- thank the goddess!

He played organized soccer but it was always conflicting with baseball and baseball is his true love so he dropped soccer. (Soccer and baseball are mostly in the summer -- just the beginnings of the season, I think, start before school closes.)

He plays basketball all winter which involves one game and two practices per week. He curls and belongs to a chess club and has taken tennis lessons over the past three summers.

At school, he takes violin lessons in Halifax's acclaimed string program and he plays drums in the school band.

Oh yes, and he goes to Scouts which is one evening a week and frequent outdoor activities.

It sounds like a lot but I think he does better when he's active and busy. He still seems to have time to get together with friends, go for bike rides, do MSN messaging and emailing, playing video games etc.


I think Sharon is right. We need to be guided by our children, and not put them into so many things that they are tired or missing out on free time fun. Personally I told my children they could have minimum of one and maximum of two activities running concurrently. Mostly they had one. They also played soccer all interval and lunch time at school, and having two boys they played different games together after school on the lawn. As a parent you can't wear yourself out running them round, and you also may need to consider the costs. I like the idea of them doing at least one winter and summer, and also I think they should have at least one afternoon a week with nothing. Mostly I'm annoyed at my youngest cos he said he was interested, you pay up and then.........

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Our older daughter, who is 9, takes kung fu classes twice a week and cello lessons twice a week -- one private lesson and plays with a strings group. Our younger daughter, just turning 6, started violin lessons this year -- one private lesson and a group lesson. She wants to take kung fu, too, but we'll hold off until summer or fall before we add anything.

This is usually a full threshold for activity, but they both wanted to learn how to skate, so we're taking skating lessons for a short while. We'll put off swimming lessons until the summer.

I sometimes worry that we've got too much on the go, but we manage to get it all done and build in some family time where we can ski and toboggan and play around for fun. I've broached the idea with Ms B that she might want to give up the strings orchestra or one night of kung fu, but she loves both activities and doesn't want to. She still has time for friends and down time.

One thing that I do notice is that we're a little less intense than some of the other "music parents" when it comes to practicing or performing. Some of them are a little scary. I once heard one of the mothers critiquing her son's performance on the way out of a group recital, and it just left me sick at heart. We're in it because it's fun and the girls love music -- when it becomes about performance and "going professional" (as some have said in my earshot), I've given instructions to the godlessparents to conk me out with a dart gun and send me for deprogramming.


It doesn't sound like you're overinvolved to me, Timebandit (keep wanting to call you Zoot!). But I think that's because you have the right attitude towards the activities your kids are in.

I think activities become high pressure when, as you say, parents become stage mommies and daddies, or the proverbial Sport Parents (the kind who freak out when their kids play wrong notes or make a bad play during a game). It's supposed to be fun, folks! Sure, if your kid is the one in many who happens to really shine at a particular sport, then definitely get them involved in the competitive ones or give them private lessons or whatever. But don't freak out if they don't become a star. Most kids never will.

I think being involved in a myriad of activities is fun for kids as long as they're not feeling a bunch of pressure for each activity to be the best and brightest at it. I mean, sure, you want them to get better at it, but on their own terms and at their own speed, not yours. Your kid is probably not a superstar even if he or she is the light of your life and the best child on the planet to you. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

2 ponies

My “baby” (2 year old) isn’t in anything yet, but is going into some “combo” dance class for kids the fall after she turns 3; it’s not a competitive class, but a class that teaches, balance and starts them on the basics – I’ve seen the classes and mostly the little ones just bounce around and look really cute  My baby is a brat, so it’ll do her good to socialize with other kids and realize that she’s not the centre of the universe.

My older girls are each in 3 activities; guiding, dance, 1 is in piano and the other in figure skating. It’s good for them I find because it gives them something to do other than sitting around watching television. It’ll teach them to incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle which will be good for their health. I think it also helps them with their confidence, learning how to socialize, making different friends and that sort of thing. I’m not sure I agree with the competitive aspects involved in dancing and skating, but the kids don’t seem to mind. I just remember competitions and tournaments being such stressful weekends when I was a kid; the schedules were so heavy, the places you went to were so crowded and unfriendly, the logistics of the whole thing were overwhelming for me and still are. My kids don’t seem to mind though, so that’s good.

My problem with extracurricular activities is that a lot of people seem to think that’s the key to success and I’m not convinced that it is; well I should rephrase that. A lot of people seem to think that sports are the key to success and I’m not sure that’s the case. I think it’s key for a physically healthy lifestyle but I’ve yet to see how my years of hockey, wrestling, rugby and cross-country provided me with any practical skills for life apart from some physical activity skills. What I remember about sports is mostly negative to tell you the truth. I remember a lot of “circumstantial” camaraderie; guys I played football and rugby with and wrestled with who didn’t have the time of day for me when the season was over. I remember a lot of the kids who played sports being jerks too; I think it was the competition, people wanted to win and it made them assholes. I’ve been adamant with my kids in explaining to them that sports are about having fun, keeping physically fit and doing something active so they don’t zone out in front of the TV all day.

My oldest had a bit of an over-competitive/sore loser streak when she started soccer; she started carrying on about how her team sucked and how she was one of the best players on her team. And I told her, “Look, it’s not about who is the best, it’s about working hard, having fun and improving. The only competition that matters is with yourself, not with other people.” It didn’t take long to show her that she doesn’t have to be “better” than other people, she only has to set standards for herself and live up to them, then try to improve if she feels she can do better. But I teach them that with everything; I tell them I don’t expect A’s and A -pluses in school, I tell them I expect them to work hard, improve and to do their honest best. Unfortunately, I don’t see sports doing a lot of that, and I don’t see most sports parents talking about “keeping fit and having fun.” The encouragement only seems to come when they score a goal or the team wins, which I think is bullshit. In the communities I’ve always lived in, sports have always been the be all and end all of everything.

People seem to think that if their kid is spectacular at some sport it’s going to translate into life success; and in my experience with skilled athletes as a kid, there’s no connection. One guy I grew up with was a skilled debater (starting at age 12!) and he’s gone further career-wise than any jock I knew as a kid. The “nerd” I used to date in grade 11 is a six-figure lobbyist and she never started sports until she was like 20 (she got into rowing). Both of them are physically healthy and I can almost guarantee that the “professional” skills they acquired through diligent learning regimens far outweighed any skills they picked up in sports. They were also not at all competitive; they constantly sought to improve themselves and didn’t worry about how they measured up against others. To me, that seems to be the right combination to strive for. Any how, I think the best thing about extra-curricular activities is that is teaches kids to set priorities, manage their time a little, to earn “lazy time” rather than just expect it.

Guiding and Scouting seem to be fabulous programs as they’re “socially” focused and involve learning various types of skills to earn badges. It seems like a highly meritorious program that also has the ability to incorporate diverse teachings and learning into the program; my wife is a brownie leader and she’s started to push some diverse programming in our mostly wheat fed Bible belt troop.

I think a reasonable combination of sports, arts and other learning activities is a good combination of extracurricular activities for kids. My kids and I also used to go to the library every Saturday to read, but that was before I started a professional program and we won’t be able to do that until the summer again.


As a kid I was involved in a number of activities, but was never pushed into one particular activity/talent that took up too much of my time, with the exception of maybe swimming lessons. This meant, I was a Girl Guide, and active in many of the programs at the local YMCA, and I realize now why my parents did this. Both organizations gave me a well-rounded taste of many different avenues, whether it be drama, sports, cooking, music, art etc. etc. etc.

These things were fun for me and free of pressure to achieve greatness in each and everyone of them. And though I do wish I were a great pianist or an Olympic diver, I was able to get a well-rounded look at many of the options out there for me, and take a little bit from each one.