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On Kids and Clubs

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It’s the beginning of the school year, and that means clubs. School is easy; you get the kids into uniform and make sure you leave on time. But clubs are hard because there’s choice. And you make the rules. You can put a kid in two clubs a day or none at all. It’s a complex balancing act between what the kid wants, what you want, and what the schedule looks like.

I’m dead against overscheduling. I think we put too much pressure on kids as it is, and what they need more than anything is unstructured play, preferably in a mixed-age group. But the reality is that the school doesn’t provide nearly enough “other” stuff to help kids become well-rounded adults. Two hours of sports, most of it ball games is not enough to cultivate spatial awareness and the kind of confidence that comes only from knowing that your body is going to do exactly what you tell it to.

So, I have an “at least one physical club” rule. My daughter dances and my son was doing martial arts for two years, but this year he wants to play basketball. But, my daughter’s dance has morphed into five(!) different classes a week because she’s good and she likes it. And she also does horse riding lessons which I’m putting in the physical category because it’s an Olympic sport and we’re in England.

I also have a “no more than three clubs” rule, because I didn’t want them to be overscheduled, which is why we are counting ballet, tap, modern and hip-hop as “dance”. Both kids play a musical instrument because we’re that kind of house. They both love it and get a lot of positive feedback from it. So that’s two for my son and three for my daughter, but really, she has seven scheduled hours a week on top of school time. Luckily, most of the dance classes are on Saturday.

It’s important for me to stress that I’m not one of those moms who drags her kids to extra-curricular activities despite their protests. If anything, I’m the one protesting as I walk them to their different stuff. But that’s the thing. They are the ones choosing which clubs they want to take. We have an ongoing conversation about which clubs work and which ones don’t, and we talk about overscheduling ourselves vs following our passions. About trying new things vs not quitting even if it’s a little tough. About people liking different things and being considerate and walking your sister to her ballet class so that she would walk you to your basketball class.

So far, I haven’t had schedule clashes, but what I also still don’t have is the school schedule. Last year my son got invited into a "challenge class" which threw the meticulously planned schedule out the window and left us scrambling around the neighbourhood twice a week. I can only hope that if either of them gets invited, we can fit it into our schedule. And, for now, at least, I’m set on leaving one day open for play dates or just hanging out. But I’m well aware that the best-laid plans often go awry. Especially when it comes to kids.


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