How Many Activities Is Too Many?

In my previous (and inaugural) blog post I hinted at students not having time to practice due to the number of activities they’re involved in.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m all for active kids and letting them have a go at lots of things, but where should that line be drawn when deciding enough is enough?

 

Recap 

 

Some years back when I was doing the music lesson runs with one of my (now grown up) children, I sat as every parent does, diligently waiting for our 30 minute slot. My young Mozart had learned his scales off perfectly (for once) and was eager to show off to his teacher - so it was imperative that we were early lest we miss a minute of this lesson. Sitting there, I chatted with another parent who was waiting for their child to finish.  This of course is not an unusual occurrence as you can imagine, so why am I writing about it? Conversation is one thing, feeling inadequate is quite another.

 

An Inadequate Parent

 

Learning an instrument was something that my children wanted to do and I was always happy in the knowledge that they loved learning their chosen instrument. That I didn’t have to drag them kicking and screaming to this ONE extra curricular activity always made for a pleasant journey. In fact, through these music lessons, delivered by Donegal Music Education Partnership, they had fantastic learning experiences having had the opportunity to play with both a chamber and junior orchestra, performing with both regularly. My eldest even had the opportunity to perform in Italy which we still chat about to this day.

Anyway, back to feeling inadequate - in chatting to the other parent, we discovered our young musicians were approximately the same age (10 years old) and in the same year in their respective schools, so the chat was about school work, extracurricular activities and of course, their chosen instruments.

The other parent was very proudly regaling me with the list of music lessons they drive to EVERY DAY for the various instruments this child was learning, and then the obligatory sporting activities on the weekends. I was exhausted just listening and yes, back then I did feel totally inadequate (not anymore though I can assure you).

But although I know this parent was very proud of their young star, and I was probably a bit envious too (in my naivety) it got me thinking about when was the child allowed to be just that, a child?

 

I pondered...

 

  • When, I wondered, did this young maestro just chill on the couch and watch TV?
  • When did they go out to the garden and kick the ball without worrying about their practise schedule?
  • How in the future would they cope without someone to organise for them and schedule for them?
  • Was it always the case that their homework had to be done in the car on the way to/from lessons?
  • But ultimately, what about family time? That feeling of just being with your siblings (yes there were siblings in that family too) and chilling, chatting or just being able to sit with each other and be happy.

I didn't come up with any answers by the way, but it played on my mind for a long time. And obviously writing about it all these years later it still does sometimes.  

Time to chill and reflect

Having ‘time out’ to think and reflect without constantly being busy, is important for children.

In an article  published back in 2012 (one of many such articles) Michael Ungar Ph.D. wrote that " Simply amusing our children endlessly may actually do them more harm than good. They will never learn how to act autonomously, accept responsibility for their own well-being, seek out challenges that interest them, or learn how to self-motivate"  

The article further went on to say that

“Children who experience a lack of programmed activity are given an opportunity to demonstrate creativity, problem solving, and to develop motivational skills that may help them later in life. Are we really doing our children a service by removing quiet, unstructured time from their lives? “ 

Finally 

Parents cannot live their lives through their children. Our offspring need to grow, develop and mature as their own individuals albeit with plenty of advise and guidance from us. It’s hard, I know. We all want what’s best for them, to let them experience things that we never got the chance to, but there has to be a line also where the child is allowed to just be a child.

 Give them space to make mistakes, you'll be doing them a favour in the long run.

P.S. Since posting this blogpost, I came across this article on the World Economic Forum So I definitely don't feel inadequate anymore.