Thursday, January 30, 2014

Extracurricular Activities… Educational or Distraction?

This past Friday Miss A had her very first gymnastics competition. 


It was during the day which meant that a lot of the girls competing were missing school.

There were grumblings about that little fact.  I overheard a couple of conversations.  One mom said, “I just don’t agree with this.  When it interrupts their education I just don’t agree.” 

Ok, I understand where she is coming from.  Sort of.  I used to be in a ‘school’ mindset also.  And way back then… ;)  I might have felt the same way. 

And yet, I completely (and respectfully) disagree with her. 

Call me crazy but I don’t look at it that way.  I see the extracurricular activities that my kids participate in as part of their education.  I don’t feel that it is an interruption at all. 

There are so many lessons to be learned.  Miss A in particular has learned far more from her time in gymnastics than I could have ever taught her on my own.  I’m not talking about all the tricks and flips she does, either.  I could have taught her all of that… easy peasy! 

Ha!  That was funny, right? 

Seriously, I’m talking about the life lessons she has learned.  One of the main reasons that my kids are involved with anything at all is because of Miss A.  Life lessons are the ones I am most interested in.  It is one of the many reasons that we homeschool. 

Miss A is a great kid and she has got a huge heart.  But she displayed very early on that she has got a major case of ‘middle child syndrome’.  Woo-ee!  That girl has got the guilt tripping down to a science and the manipulation she can swing is stellar!  From the time she was tiny she displayed a need to be active.  Sure, that’s absolutely possible to do at home.  Run around and play outside, right?  But she needed more. 

We already knew she had a gift for singing, drawing, and picking up on piano pretty well but anytime she tried anything sporty or active with neighbors, friends, or at family get togethers she just picked up on it right away and was naturally good at it.  It didn’t matter if she was kicking a soccer ball around or turning cartwheels.  It was apparent that she was very coordinated and picked up on things very quickly.  This is something we may not have noticed had it not been for the fact that Miss K was the opposite of this. 

No matter how hard Miss K tried to pick up on things they just didn’t come naturally to her.  She was quite clumsy and not very well coordinated, to be honest.  Anything she tried to do required her full, undivided attention and even then it didn’t come easily for her.  This has been proven to be true as she has grown into the beautiful young woman she is even now.  She has had to work really hard for every bit of success she has had with her dancing and her drawing.  Both are things she was very interested in and has a deep desire to be good at.  And she is! 

Miss A just hasn’t had to work as hard which was somewhat of a downfall in many ways. 

How could that possibly be a downfall, you ask?  Well, it’s like with anything in life.  Human nature.  It seems that if we don’t have to work for it, we don’t appreciate it as much. 

Miss A needed something to challenge her.  She was bored at home and I was having a hard time keeping her busy.  She needed a challenge. 

So, even though I knew that Miss H and Miss K would have been fine and content to be home, we found somewhere for them to go.  Somewhere to be busy.  Because how could we do that for Miss A and tell the other girls, I’m sorry but she needs this, you don’t.  And besides, they wanted it, we just didn’t have the money to allow the kids to be a part of anything. 

There came a point when we decided (irresponsible or not) that it just needed to happen no matter what. 

And so… along came the extracurriculars! 

I think I got a little off track here.  The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t consider these activities to be an interruption in my childrens’ education.  I think of them as PART of their education. 

They have learned so many life lessons such as:

  • How to work with others.
  • The importance and payoff of hard work.
  • Being happy for others and their accomplishments.
  • Working with a leader.
  • Making great friends.
  • Being a good friend to others.
  • How to be your own cheerleader in life.
  • Realistic goal setting.
  • And who knows… it could mean scholarships down the road. 

I’m interested to find out what all of you think.  Are extracurricular activities an educational distraction (if held on a day when school is in session) or an education in itself? 

P.S.  More to come about the competition. 



Cari said...

Congratulations, that is so great! I think extra-curricular CAN get in the way of education IF it becomes the top priority in life or requires a huge investment (time, not money). I definitely think there are valuable lessons to be learned and it's important to develop talents and not just academic ones. I think it's good to expose your children to lots of different activities to see what they're interested in and what they're naturally good at and it provides a well-rounded education. I'm holding off as long as possible though because I hate having regular commitments- I love my flexibility especially with a baby! (we used to do taekwondo and swimming but haven't started up again since we've been in Germany...)

Sanz @ From The Mrs. said...

I definitely consider extracurricular activities to be a part of my children's learning. However, I'm not big on running a million different places and having them all sorts of scheduled all the time because having free time is way more important for them (and me) than all the scheduled-adult run activities.

Good job to your girl! :)

Brooke said...

Absolutely! If it becomes the only basket that a child (or parent) puts his eggs into it can definitely become a problem. Exposing kids to lots of opportunities is important. I see lots of kids at gymnastics who have never tried anything else. Little tiny ones! We've always started the exposure early and tried a bunch of activities. Around age 8 is when I feel they are ready to choose something they love and stick with it. However, we are always ready and willing to allow for change if they decide at any point they no longer love what they are doing.

As for regular commitment... Oh man, I hear ya! We have had to get creative when it comes to juggling activities and school. I long for the simplicity of being home sometimes.

Brooke said...

I am not a big fan of running all over either. And I absolutely agree that down time is a necessity. I try to cater to each child's specific needs and this particular child thrives on being busy. It might sound crazy but it's true. She just needs to be active and doing something. She enjoys her quiet time as well but goes a little stir crazy sometimes. However, I have to say that I LOVE Thursdays for this very reason. It's the only day of the week that I have absolutely nowhere to go. And I love it!