Friday, February 25, 2011

Extracurricular Activities

Tonite, the chillens had a piano recital. Short and sweet, just like I like 'em. But I am proud of how they are progressing. It was fun to watch them play. I was especially happy to see how well #3 did. She's been a bit stressed about piano lately, and I thought she hit the ball out of the park tonite.

I am of the opinion that extra-curriculars need to be carefully monitored and controlled so as not to take over too much of our family's life. Piano, however, is for us a required thing. We both feel strongly that having some musical training can enrich one's life and also enable one to be able to serve others. I also just know too many people who regret quitting piano when they were young.

Of course, if we felt inspired to do something differently, we would, but that is currently our modus operandus.

Not long ago, I asked our Young Men leader about advice he would give to the parents of youth. His response interested me. He said he wished more parents understood that sports or other extracurricular activities have taken over so much of the young men's time than many don't participate fully in the youth programs. And then he said something that has really stuck with me, which is that spiritual growth that can come from the Church's programs can't be found in the same way through sports or other activities. Yes, discipline can be learned, but there are things that can be missed.

I also think about the counsel from Mormon Church leaders on these things. For example, consider this from Elder Oaks:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.
Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. [See the full talk, "Good, Better, Best" for some sobering statistics]

The flip side of this is that there are statistics that say that teens who are involved with extracurricular activities have higher levels of self-esteem. And I can speak from personal experience that being involved in sports in junior high was something that helped me through a very difficult time in my life. I don't want to swing too far to the conservative side of things and have my children miss out on some important opportunities or experiences. I really think that ultimately inspiration from God is the answer, but I'm always interested in others' thoughts on topics like this.

So, what say ye? How do you find the balance between giving children opportunities and keeping priorities and family life intact?


  1. I was over-scheduled as a kid, and, honestly, I liked it that way. I loved to be busy, and when summer came, I had a rough time keeping sane. Dance, violin, student government, children's choir, etc.

    Those things did boost my self-esteem, for sure. But at the same time, I sort of became a jack of all trades, master of none. I wish I had honed in on one or two skills and concentrated on them.

    One problem I've had from all my activities is that a lot of my self-esteem came from accomplishment in these areas, rather than from knowing who I was inside and why and to whom I was important. I never got my Young Womanhood Recognition and I've always been sad about that.

    As a result of my experiences (and also a result of being poor), our kids have had virtually NO extracurricular activities. Peter and Lily each played soccer for one season, but neither was sold on it. We intend to have them play piano, at least, but haven't forked out the cash to do so yet. Their school ends at 3:59pm, and, honestly, I can't imagine losing another minute with them.

    So... until they ask, I won't push anything on them. How's THAT for a blog comment? ;) Love you!

  2. Rachel, thanks for the thoughts. You capture another reason why I think caution is warranted. Our time with them is so limited. I hate the fact that they get out so late in the day.

    For the record, I, too, was a master of none. (Except maybe school. I was such an intense student!) But I actually liked that -- I think that was what my path in life needed to include. I'm such a mishmash of so many interests, and it's made my life rich.

    I still think you have master talents, though. Please, will you sing for me sometime? ;)

    Love you back!

  3. I like all of these ideas, but have no solutions for myself.