Monday, August 3, 2009

How Much is Enough?

Super Boy is six. Since he was about 12- or 18-months old, we've had him in classes of one sort or another, in part for education and in part for pure enjoyment. Obviously, as he's gotten older, the number of things he's interested in has increased, so choices often have to be made about which classes to "invest" in and which to leave for another time. The question is, how much is enough?

I found myself in a tough spot a few summers ago after signing Super Boy up for too many activities and classes, to the point where I felt like I had to schedule the rest of the summer around the classes. NOT good.

Then last summer I pretty much went too far in the other direction with not quite enough to do to break up the monotony of the normal day-to-day stuff. I can't even tell you how many times I heard the phrase every parent dreads and despises: "I'm BORED!"

This summer, I think I finally hit the sweet spot, so to speak. Hooray for me!

Super Boy has had a few all-day education classes - three, to be precise - on neat topics at our local zoo, and he took a martial arts class through the local rec department that was twice a week for six weeks, and now this week he's enrolled in a nature class through the parks department that takes place each morning for three hours. It's literally been the perfect mix of opportunities for Super Boy without dictating every minute of our days. After this week, he has absolutely NOTHING on the activity schedule until the start of school, and that's just fine by me!

We've been somewhat lucky, in retrospect, that June and July were cooler than average in our area. That's not to say that we haven't been to the pool or beach at all, but I will say that we've been there less than I originally would have liked. That said, with the bulk of Super Boy's activities taking place in July, I'm actually glad that now we'll have the month of August to just play and fly by the seat of our pants without classes interrupting the day. And I have a feeling that the temps will heat up a bit this month, making journeys to the beach and pool much more enjoyable.

As I look ahead to fall, however, I find myself wondering if my luck will hold up in terms of knowing just the right balance of activities to complement school and normal life.

Super Boy is already registered to participate in U7 soccer for the '09-'10 season; he's been playing since the ripe old age of 3, but the '08-'09 season on a U6 team was the first where actual games were played, and it's only going to get more technical and time-intensive as Super Boy advances through the ranks. I'd also like to get him back into swim lessons, which thankfully are only once a week, but the trick is registering for the prime class (the weekday afternoon) before all the slots are full. I'm usually woefully late and miss out on that class, and we end up either passing on that seven-week session or taking a spot in the middle of each Saturday afternoon, which I loathe.

But I have NO IDEA what to expect in terms of homework with Super Boy entering first grade this year. He rarely had any in Senior Kindergarten this past year, but he had occasional homework in Junior Kindergarten the year before, so I'm at least expecting some this year. I just want to be sure that we set the right tone now that school and homework come first, and if activities must be cut to keep up, then so be it.

We've witnessed first-hand Super Girl's struggles with finding the right balance, and we really hope to avoid that with Super Boy. Super Girl's mom has always enrolled her in multiple activities at a time, and that's fine while kids are trying out different things to figure out where their interests lie. However, a few years ago when Super Girl got into volleyball, basketball AND softball, there was significant overlap in the seasons, particularly when she started playing on a club (or select) volleyball team on top of the school and/or Y team(s). It got to the point where she rarely had a free afternoon after school or a free weekend day to just be a kid and relax or spend time with friends, and it was also having a major impact on our schedule with her, seeing as how we only have her every other weekend and she was in select tournaments or had practices to attend nearly every weekend. It also started to affect her grades in school for the worse, and it ultimately boiled down to making Super Girl choose which sports to invest her time (and her parents' money) in going forward, based on which activity(ies) she enjoyed best and showed the most talent at. Volleyball is her clear favorite, followed by basketball, so that's what she's focused on now, and it's helped tremendously for her to pare back a bit and really work on growing her technical skills, etc. instead of participating in a lot of different things without full effort.

I'm curious to hear from you readers about how you find this balance with your children, and how you help them manage their responsibilities to school, sports and other activities and still enjoy a normal childhood.

Thanks again for reading, and enjoy the rest of your summer!!

Your pal,
SW

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