I don’t have the definitive solution to this conundrum, but I’m interested to hear how you decide what to schedule in for your children. And by that I mean, the decisions around whether they learn piano, sing in the choir, play football, ballet, the list is long and somewhat unrelenting.
(And I do have the definitive recipe for banana muffins, so all is not lost.)
Obviously this issue of scheduling depends in part on what your children are keen on and motivated to do – but left to their own devices; one of my children would want to do every sport and play every instrument, whereas another would happily avoid anyone with the title ‘teacher’.
Given that neither of these are particularly desirable outcomes, here are some of the things I try to rely on for decision making…
Rule one: all three year olds should learn to skate if only because the tiny skates are so insanely cute
1. The Realistic Bit
For better or worse, my four children are a large-ish crowd of competing – sometimes conflicting – needs. When my son wants to take tennis lessons twice weekly after school for an hour, I have to consider whether this can realistically fit in with the crowd.
They might wear coordinated rain gear but they have wildly different and often conflicting needs
Even if you have a slightly more socially acceptable number of children this problem remains one of those dull but unavoidable fundamentals.
2. The Balance Bit
A bit of sport, a bit of music, a bit to be social with friends, a bit to master an essential skill. I think?
3. The Before-it’s-too-late Bit
This seems to creep up on the decision making. One moment you’re wondering if having your 18month old join a language class makes you a pushy parent; the next moment you’re realizing that if they haven’t learnt to swim by now it’s likely to get even harder to master.
An essential skill means a summer of exceptionally unglamorous poolsides
There seems to be a window for these decisions and that window isn’t as forgiving as you’d like.
Too soon to start basketball?
4. The Not Putting Them Off Bit
For me, a fundamental. Am I trying to encourage my children to be professional musicians? Not particularly. Do I want them to be put off music forever by feeling pressured into something? Definitely not.
So all of these activities need to come with a caveat, that they are light and fun enough not to leave my children with an irrational hatred of gymnastics, or the piano. Not to mention, making sure the activities are bolstering their sense of self.
5. To Mix it up or Not?
That is – do you have your child try different activities or try and keep them focused enough to really see improvement and make the whole endeavour more deeply satisfying?
Some activities – and I’m thinking here about swimming, or even sports like tennis – some activities just aren’t as fun until you have mastered the basics. The first part is a slog, but once you push through the first couple of stages of learning then you really start to enjoy the results. But how to keep your children happy and motivated through the slog?
The plight of the fourth child: always watching someone, somewhere, in a lesson
6. Time to be bored
A final thought: I am really keen to make sure I don’t over-schedule the weeks. There are plenty of studies confirming Sontag’s description of the creative purpose of boredom and I’m inclined to agree.
So all of the above, with the caveat that an overly busy life has the potential to be profoundly unfulfilling. No pressure!
Be busy; but not too busy
So. Six thoughts on managing children’s schedules. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this hard in the eighties.