Are any parents reading this starting to stress out about back to school? I know I am!
We need to shop for clothes because summer has a way of making kids grow. And supplies! What do they need: folders, pencils, highlighters, notebooks or a three-ring binder? Do they still make Trapper Keepers? (FYI- they started making them again, I looked it up.)
And what about extracurricular activities and schedules? What time will you be getting dinner ready on Wednesdays? And the list goes on and on!
Well, rest assured, we are not the only ones thinking about it. This week I was having a conversation with one of our 10-year-old 4-H members. She comes to a sewing club and is excited that this fall she will get to sew pajama pants. However, to stay with sewing, she had to make the choice to give up two other activities that she likes.
To me, this brought up several, sometimes contradicting, thoughts. At this point, if you are looking for a solution or an opinion to children being over-scheduled, stop reading. I only have my pondering.
Thought one: I sometimes wonder why we (the extracurricular/youth development/dance and music educators) are so attached to regular attendance and hold on to our dates and times like children with Halloween candy.
But there is a reason. We are educators and our content usually builds on previous content and our aim is for the child to achieve the level of mastery they desire.
Thought two: Since I am not the parent of the young girl I was having the discussion with, my opinion was of no importance at all. I have learned in my yoga class that “life is about choices” and that is certainly true. And while we, as adults, expect to have to make choices, is it correct for 10-year-olds to have to make so many choices?
Obviously, they can’t eat all of the Halloween candy at one sitting and need to make choices about what to eat first. Where is the line drawn between trying fun new things and learning a skill?
Thought three: If adults struggle with work-life balance, how can we possibly teach our children about school-life balance? I keep a weekly time schedule with different colors for work and family. Theoretically, if the colors are in proportion, I have achieved balance.
I would like to say this works perfectly, but it is often that only when I am falling behind in one area that the balance becomes restored. I’m a grown-up, so it is pretty easy to recover. A child may fall behind in school and the recovery may take a little longer, with the possibility of tears.
Thought four: Reflection vs boredom vs overscheduling. There is easy reflection: after you eat too much Halloween candy, your stomach hurts. Ideally, the result is a change of behavior.
Reflection works the same way for any new content: threading a sewing machine, math, reading, reading music, etc. Sometimes that means making a mistake, then corrective action. When we are overscheduled, we often don’t take any time for reflection and miss the important lesson. Practicing reflection is a skill and if we don’t teach kids how to reflect, they cross over to boredom. I also believe that no one, likes a bored teenager! (But that is a whole other article in itself!)
So, if you’ve read this far, you know that I kept my promise and I do not have lots of thoughts that are contradicting. However, I did lie a little. I have four possible solutions for you.
One: Only you and your children can make the choices you make. Listen to your kids. When they lose interest, let the activity go. And kids, no, you cannot quit homework.
Two: Let go of expectations. Your kids may not like the same activities you did when you were their age. They may not get the highest grades in the class. You may have to learn something new yourself so that your child can try it. Enjoy the time with them.
Three: Keep a positive attitude and teach your children to keep a positive attitude. Look for the lesson when obstacles come up, and they will come up.
Four: Take time to rest. Let it be OK if all you do is breathe and watch movies for a day or night.
Administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, 4-H is a community of more than 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. Penn State Extension 4-H youth development educators in all 67 counties throughout the commonwealth administer local 4-H programs through non-formal education and outreach. To find your local program, visit the Penn State Extension at extension.psu.edu/programs/4-h.