Friday, January 21, 2011

Another parental balancing act

I'm doing this all wrong. I'm supposed to post Mama's Losin' It writing prompt on Thursday, and I'm supposed to answer one of her prompts, but instead, her prompt reminded me of yet another education rant I have in me.

So, the question was: It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?

When my kids were a lot younger, and someone gave me a copy of The Hurried Child, I vowed that would never be my child. And then I had children.

And I see my daughter light up when she thinks about the upcoming talent show auditions at her after-school program. I see her envisioning a life for herself. Even if all her dreams don't come true, I see the confidence she gains from winning an art contest, or a dance scholarship, or simply in those moments when she gets to shine on stage. Whether in an ensemble in a bigger venue or center stage in a smaller one, being involved in extra-curricular activities help make her who she is.

So my question is, should the extra-curriculars suffer for homework?

As much as I love Sylvia, I try to see all of her, and at this moment in time, I don't see her winning any academic scholarships or becoming a rocket scientist. She is capable of passing all of her classes, but it does not come easy to her. Nor does it seem to rock her world.

I see her go from dancing on air (almost literally) to deflating completely when the subject changes to school.

And yes, I know the arguments about homework and school teaching responsibility and all that, but there are also lessons to be learned about the responsibilities of getting the laundry done, being able to feed oneself, family obligations, managing a household budget. In other words, things they don't learn in school.

Let's face it: we're all dealing with limited resources. In our case, finances are limited (I make too much for her to qualify for financial aid scholarships, yet not enough to pay for college myself), time is limited (even if she didn't have extra-curricular activities after school, I still work a full-time job), and the childhood years are limited.

My job, first and foremost, is to raise self-sufficient adults. Is Sylvia really better off if she's sent off in the world, tens of thousands of dollars in debt for student loans?

As a former child actor myself, I know that her chances of making a living doing what she loves are limited, too, so I'm not saying that she should be focused entirely on these activities to carry her through. But I do think that she deserves to enjoy her childhood, and to envision a future that isn't bogged down with homework and debt. When we make school the focus of everything, the world of possibilities can decrease.

I have no idea what Sylvia's future holds.  I let her do as much as she can handle outside of school because she seems most free when she's dancing, drawing, singing. The freedom and the spirit and the joy are the real keys she'll need to a self-sufficient, and content, adulthood.


BigLittleWolf said...

This is so tough. I limited the activities of my kids for a long time. Purposely, so they would play a lot, and also, get into the groove of making academics a priority. Their other interests became clearer as time went on (for my little one, they were clear from age 4 - art, art, art).

I think we reach a point where we take our best guess - at that point in time - hoping to encourage a balance. Allow school to suffer due to extracurriculars? I guess that depends on seeing where your child's joy is coming from, and then applying the parental perspective to determine if there's a future in it or not. Even if the answer is no, suppressing that joy doesn't seem like a good plan. To me.

Isn't that what we want for our kids? Not only to be able to make their way and acquire many skills and follow many interests, but to know the feeling of passion in what they are doing and learning?

Tough tough question. No easy answer.

Vinomom said...

This is certainly a subject that I have thought about a lot. I am a firm believer that college isn't for everyone. And I've long been ad advocate for a required class in high school that teaches basic skills such as budgeting and that sort of thing, but also educates our kids on their credit and how it will affect them throughout their life.

In my opinion as long as Sylvia is passing her classes and isn't doing the bare minimum to do it, then she'll be fine. But it's imperative to teach kids that even though something isn't important to them, it may be EXPECTED of them, and thus, need to put forth effort.