Author Topic: Question to the parents out there...  (Read 4702 times)

zippyc

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Question to the parents out there...
« on: September 08, 2014, 12:09:37 PM »
Okay, I'm ready for some bashing!

I grew up foot loose and fancy free in a lower income part of town. I never did much in the way of extra curriculars. However, I'm raising my kids in a pretty fancy part of Seattle and foot loose and fancy free is not the way around here. You do not see groups of kids playing in the street and I won't send my kids out biking with the quick moving cars without me (way too dangerous).

My kids are in grade school and this is a very expensive time of year for us. Both kids are now playing soccer ( I swore I wouldn't be a soccer mom, but here I am). It has been a great source of exercise, friendship, and confidence. That costs us about $230 per year for the both of them, at this point.

I also have them signed up for Spanish class before school twice a week. I've always had a love of languages, but had a really crappy education when it came to them. I also wished I had learned Spanish, as it is so much more useful and my father now lives in Ecuador. And starting young is the best way to help a language stick. This costs us $1330 per year.

Now I have the opportunity to put my oldest daughter in a Creative Coding for Kids class one day per week. It is supposed to be loads of fun and, of course, educational. My understanding is that it is $195 for the quarter. He is looking for volunteers and if I could be one (I have zero experience), then my child would get a discount and I might learn something that I (and her father) know nothing about (and I'm working on a blog right now, so this would be excellent info for me).

My oldest might try Basketball through the community center after soccer is done, too.

We don't do any camps, classes, etc during the summer (just mom's summer school!), so that saves us a lot of money. We also usually take winter quarter off from any sport activities.

I guess my question is, will I regret spending this money? Will they grow up and all this will be for naught, or is it a valuable way to use our resources? I have two very shy, introverted kids and we've really worked hard to get them out of their shell and into the world (it's working, by the way). I worry about that fine line between over scheduling and missing out on excellent opportunities.

I'm especially interested in hearing from parents who have been there, done that. If you don't have kids, keep in mind, never say never. You just don't know until you've been there, what you would do.

Thanks!

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2014, 12:20:32 PM »
It sounds to me like you are making careful choices for your kids and their involvement load seems totally normal reasonable to me--sounds like one thing for the mind and one sport and during the summer you put in the effort to enrich them yourself.

When I was a kid in the late 80s and into the 90s, I was allowed to be in two activities. If it was good enough twenty years ago, it's probably good enough now :-).

genselecus

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2014, 12:32:07 PM »
As a 26 year old, with no kids, my thoughts may be of little value...

What is your income, or rather, what percentage of your income do these extracurriculars account for? It seems that people can set a reasonable expectation: that X% of income can go to activities (learning or otherwise) for their kids. If you have an expectation, and you are hitting that limit, you may consider letting your kids help make the decision. They seem like they are of an age where helping to be a part of that discussion would be a learning experience.

From my own childhood, my family was not well off and my parents spent a lot of money to let me play soccer almost constantly (maybe $500/year, and it would have been far more if I had decided to go up to the next level of competition). I would have taken that any day over Spanish lessons.

MicroRN

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2014, 12:48:01 PM »
If it's not limiting you financially AND the kids are actually interested, I don't see a problem with it.  I was in a lot of extracurriculars growing up.  Some were not worth it.  I had no interest in piano, but had to take it for 3 years, because my mom was trying to be efficient by having all of us in the same activities.  Waste of money, my time, my mom's time, and my teacher's time.

However, crew (rowing) was an excellent experience.  I loved it and I made a lot of good friends.  Same went for riding lessons.  Both were expensive hobbies, but they were ultimately worth it.  Everything is a balancing act - benefit vs money.       

TrMama

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2014, 01:08:38 PM »
My 2 cents, as a parent of a 6 year old and an 8 year old in a similar area is that no, I don't regret having spent the money on activities. I do regret sticking with activities that obviously weren't working out for the child, but I certainly don't regret having tried any of them.

In my experience, you can tell pretty darn quickly when either you or your child is overscheduled. At that point, start cutting the activities quickly, don't stick it out. Do the same when the activity turns out to be a poor fit for your kid. Make sure you ask about refund policies when you sign up for anything.

I love seeing my kids try new things and watching them mature into confident, capable people. If mustachianism is about saving on the mundane so you can spend on what you really care about, then I guess kids' activities is one of those things. I'll happily work a few extra years so my kids have have the chance to find out what they like to do and what they're good at.

As an aside, we also live on a busy, accident prone road. Since they were preschoolers I've been teaching them how to safely walk and ride their bikes on the sidewalk and how to get to the quiet cul-de-sac around the corner so they can bike. Do the same for your kids. They are perfectly capable and it will give them confidence.

MsSindy

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2014, 01:24:41 PM »
I don't have kids (but I was one, does that count??).  I think we have to admit that times have changed since we were kids, long gone are the days that all the kids got together after school everyday to play kickball/tag in the street, or learn 'street Spanish' from the neighbor boy, or the older sisters teaching us cheerleading, etc.  Sigh.  Anyway, I think activities are great as long as the kids enjoy them (does your kid have ANY interest in coding, or is this one of those things that you 'think they should learn').

The only thing that jumped out to me was the Spanish classes - they seem expensive when there are so many free/low cost alternatives and then maybe some 'immersion' trips to the local spanish grocer, spanish books from the library, or a spanish meet-up group.  Are you learning Spanish, too?  Could be a fun family activity.  I guess, if they are excited about getting up and going BEFORE school and seem to really being embracing it, then it's a good activity to continue, even if pricey.

Long and short - if they are receiving benefit for the money, they enjoy it, you enjoy it.....then everyone is benefitting and working what will probably only amount to another year or so would be worth it.  Of course, this assumes you're not in a 'hair-on-fire' emergency situation.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2014, 01:37:27 PM »
I don't have kids (but I was one, does that count??).  I think we have to admit that times have changed since we were kids, long gone are the days that all the kids got together after school everyday to play kickball/tag in the street,

I guess it depends where you live.  I live at the end of a cul-de-sac in a suburban city and my kids ride bikes, do cartwheels, and play games every day the weather is nice.  We also do some activities and sports.  We have developed a "one size does not fit all" theory to this.  We see what the kid really likes to do and let them try some activities around that.  Some of the kids do the soccer, football, basketball stuff and some do music, table-tennis club, and languages.  I think as long as you don't go crazy here it is worth it, however our favorite times are definitely unscheduled, so we leave a lot of time for that.

Emilyngh

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2014, 01:58:41 PM »
Okay, I'm ready for some bashing!

I grew up foot loose and fancy free in a lower income part of town. I never did much in the way of extra curriculars. However, I'm raising my kids in a pretty fancy part of Seattle and foot loose and fancy free is not the way around here. You do not see groups of kids playing in the street and I won't send my kids out biking with the quick moving cars without me (way too dangerous).

My kids are in grade school and this is a very expensive time of year for us. Both kids are now playing soccer ( I swore I wouldn't be a soccer mom, but here I am). It has been a great source of exercise, friendship, and confidence. That costs us about $230 per year for the both of them, at this point.

I also have them signed up for Spanish class before school twice a week. I've always had a love of languages, but had a really crappy education when it came to them. I also wished I had learned Spanish, as it is so much more useful and my father now lives in Ecuador. And starting young is the best way to help a language stick. This costs us $1330 per year.

Now I have the opportunity to put my oldest daughter in a Creative Coding for Kids class one day per week. It is supposed to be loads of fun and, of course, educational. My understanding is that it is $195 for the quarter. He is looking for volunteers and if I could be one (I have zero experience), then my child would get a discount and I might learn something that I (and her father) know nothing about (and I'm working on a blog right now, so this would be excellent info for me).

My oldest might try Basketball through the community center after soccer is done, too.

We don't do any camps, classes, etc during the summer (just mom's summer school!), so that saves us a lot of money. We also usually take winter quarter off from any sport activities.

I guess my question is, will I regret spending this money? Will they grow up and all this will be for naught, or is it a valuable way to use our resources? I have two very shy, introverted kids and we've really worked hard to get them out of their shell and into the world (it's working, by the way). I worry about that fine line between over scheduling and missing out on excellent opportunities.

I'm especially interested in hearing from parents who have been there, done that. If you don't have kids, keep in mind, never say never. You just don't know until you've been there, what you would do.

Thanks!

If I'm following correctly, you're thinking of 3 activities each for your 2 children in grade school?   That sounds like too many to me and entering over scheduling territory (eg., returns diminished if not reversed at that point).

bogart

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2014, 02:00:50 PM »
I've "raised" 2 stepkids (the quotes reflect the fact that I only joined their lives when they were teens, so wasn't there for all of the raisin') and am now raising one I got to start from scratch.

Really, if I could have done one thing differently with the one I'm raising from scratch, it would be to spend more money on paid care and activities for him.  He went to daycare/preschool part time as a little one, and we did part time summer camps last year (my DH is RE, so we've got options on where/how DS spends his time). 

We have great, kid-friendly activities around us, and are fortunate to be able to afford them.  DS loves them.  Many of his friends are in them, and coordinating activities with those friends is impossible (they are busy with the paid/coordinated activities) or difficult (coordinating schedules is hard). 

I have finally come around to recognizing this.  We put DS in afterschool care for the first time this year, at his request (we also made much more extensive use of summer camps, my decision, to good effect).  He loves it.  It's where his friends are.  Having him in it makes our lives easier.

(He has also done or is doing either after school or in the summer -- soccer, basketball, golf, karate, swim lessons, "outdoor" camp, assorted educational and arts camps.  The karate wasn't so much his thing, though he initiated it, but all the rest have been great.)

Looking back on my stepkids' growing up, I regret nothing of what we spent, or did, for them, including the ice hockey league, which was expensive and involved 6 a.m. practices.

Long story short, for us and where we live, and for the kids I've been (semi)responsible for, planned/programmed/paid activities have been a great thing and well worth it for us.

(We have *just* acquired neighbors who have kids friendly with DS who drop by to play.  This is a first, in his life, and a great joy.  I've put considerable effort over the years into getting other kids in the neighborhood to drop by and getting to know other families, so it's not for want of trying -- it's a cultural and/or preference thing, and/or reflects other families' interests and schedules.) 
« Last Edit: September 08, 2014, 02:02:54 PM by bogart »

Bobberth

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2014, 02:05:59 PM »
We try to limit our three daughters to 2 activities at a time.  So far that has been Girl Scouts and a sport of their choosing.  That is changing this year as my middle daughter wanted to do dance and that is a year long program so it will overlap with a couple of sports.  She will have 3 activities while her sisters have 2.  It does get-relatively-expensive.  Multiplying by 3 usually is.

From what I have seen, I'm not sure there is an answer for this question as every family is different and you have to do what works for you.  Also, the number of activities isn't the best measure of if it will work or not--Girl Scouts meeting for an hour after school once every 2 weeks has a smaller time footprint than 3 hours of lacrosse practice and 2 hours of games each week.  If Spanish or Coding has 'homework', that will have a bigger time footprint for you than if they just go there for 2 hours a week. 

My wife is leader for 2 of their GS troops and she is coaching their volleyball teams and I am coaching their basketball teams which makes some of their activity time also family time in a way.  So if you can get involved with them in an activity in some way, that is additional bonding experiences so I would look into getting involved with the coding class.  My daughters love to tell everybody that, "My Dad is a Girl Scout.  He REALLY is!".  You will also get to experience their victories with them as they work through the coding and finally get it to work or when they learn to shoot a bow & arrow for the first time.

I think you have to be in the right mindset with activities too.  If you're doing soccer with the end goal of a college scholarship so you "have" to be on 2-3 teams while also doing additional skill training practices-because if YOU don't, someone ELSE is and you WILL fall behind-that is probably too much.  I took over the basketball team for my oldest daughter last year and we entered a "select" league.  I felt bad that it was going to be $90 for each family for the games and getting our own uniforms.  That seemed pricey to me.  Then I was talking to some of the parents and they are paying $750 to be on a select soccer team and that doesn't include tournament or traveling expenses.  Plus the other teams they are on.  Plus additional skills training.  I have several players playing basketball that are definitely in the Too Much zone.  If your goal is for your child to do something they enjoy and to learn (mentally and physically) and grow and make friends, there is nothing wrong with spending the time or money on it.  If your goal is financial and you're putting lots of stress on your child so nobody else takes their scholarship, the money and time would be better spent elsewhere. 

I taught high school for several years and I had a soccer player in my senior homeroom that had decided she was going to go to college for the education and not to play soccer so she decided not to play her senior year.  She was a starter her junior year on a team that took 3rd in state.  Her dad was a former professional player that had started a school/league/team and was well known in the local soccer scene.  The team was rolling and was ranked #1 in the state.  Before school one day after a big win I asked her if she missed playing soccer since the team was doing so good.  She looked at me, and with the biggest smile I have ever seen said, "Not at all!"  I'm sure that was the first time since she was 2 that she wasn't pressured into playing soccer year around and she loved every minute of it.  I also witnessed other students going to tiny colleges a thousand miles away from home to play a sport because the school was willing to give them a scholarship and that is what all those years of sports were for so they 'had' to do it.  You don't want to go to either of those places.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2014, 02:52:01 PM »
I have a kid (10, developmentally younger). If money were no object, I would forgo kid school, hire a nanny to work 2pm-6pm weekdays, and ask her to sign him up for one cool class each of four days a week then take him to and from each. That would be my ideal.

In real life, I learned my son was very overstimulated by school, so I took him out, and then I learned that I was exhausted taking him to 4-6 community classes each week, so I stopped that too.

In our current circumstances, the optimal balance is that he's in 2-3 community classes or therapies per week, and in free play the rest of each day. (He voluntarily spends a couple of hours of his daily free play doing math, reading, science, etc.)

So, it just really depends: kid's age, capacity, temperament, as well as the caregiver's finances, energy levels, etc. But yeah, the kids show us when they're burning out in a day or week or month, and I propose we simply aim to have them in less than that. I don't really feel there's a formula beyond that, or indicators other than their level of joy, energy, and peace -and their chauffeur's. I can imagine that some kids would thrive in copious activities, in which case I would prioritize funding that. But I think for a lot of kids, especially those already in school all day, they are happier if we forgo excess.

My son is constantly being shorted opportunities -like, oh, school because our region forgot to support special needs kids- but I'm confident that if I focus on his joy, health, self-care, kindness, and relational abilities now, he will be able to pick up programming and algebra when things line up better for those.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2014, 03:10:45 PM »
I didn't have a ton of activities growing up, a 2 years of football, 4-5 years of guitar lessons, then mostly church youth group and boy scout activities.  Looking back, I probably wasted a lot of my parent's money on guitar lessons.  I was never really interested in playing the guitar (maybe because it was classical music vs campfire songs, which I think I would liked better), but enjoyed having something that was "my activity" if that makes any sense, so my parents kept sending me.  My son is starting clarinet this year and I am making him pitch in 20% of the expenses with the theory that will help him stay motivated.  If my parents would have made me contribute, I probably would have pulled the plug sooner, or possibly been more motivated to direct my musical education in a direction I liked better.  Can't say for sure, though. 

Kansas Beachbum

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2014, 03:26:07 PM »
Our youngest is now 16.  All three played (youngest still plays) competitive sports...mostly soccer.  I personally see it as a great investment in them all.  Sports teaches teamwork, exposes them to competition (real competition, someone wins, someone loses), keeps them fit, and when older tends to keep them running with a better crowd (athletes tend not to be the ones drinking, doing drugs, otherwise getting in to trouble).  Wouldn't change a thing.  A couple of pointers though.  Limit to one, maybe two sports...it becomes more time consuming, and more expensive as they get older.  Also, let the coach be the coach (unless you are, in fact, the coach...like I was for part of it).  Your job is to support them, be their (and all the other kids') biggest cheerleaders.  DON'T be a Little League parent...you know, the one always screaming at his kids, or the officials, or the other players, or coaches...don't be that guy, everyone hates that guy.  Remember also that none of them are going to play professionally...this is for fun and fitness.  When it stops being fun it's time to start doing something else. 

Spanish classes?  By all means.  Well worth the time & cost IMO.  I've told my kids half the world speaks English, the other half speaks Spanish, so if you can speak both you can talk to anyone...that's an exageration, of course, but you get my point.

Good luck, sounds to me like you are doing a lot of things right   

happy

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2014, 03:32:05 PM »
I'm another in the 2 activities per child camp. Its equally important for them to learn unstructured play  and be able to entertain themselves.  "Being out there" is possibly more important in American culture than in mine, but trying to get an introvert to be "too out there" all the time, is not necessarily helpful. Just enough so they have the confidence to know they can do it, but not so much they feel they must/guilty if they don't or somehow defective for being an introvert.

scrubbyfish

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2014, 03:45:14 PM »
...trying to get an introvert to be "too out there" all the time, is not necessarily helpful. Just enough so they have the confidence to know they can do it, but not so much they feel they must/guilty if they don't or somehow defective for being an introvert.

+1.

Reflecting on the original post, maybe zippyc you are aiming to resolve other issues, such as social anxiety, general anxiety, isolation, etc? Those are different than introversion. We can't change a person's temperament, and it is hurtful for the person if we try to, but perhaps it's one or more of these other issues you are successfully shifting with gentle introductions to additional activities and communities?

zippyc

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2014, 05:22:19 PM »
Wow! Thanks, everyone. This is great.

Mostly we are in zero to two activities at a time. There might be one month where we have one extra activity one day per week. I also do not like to be over scheduled, so I'm very conscientious of doing that. I do push "trying" new things, but never require doing it again if it isn't their activity. My kids would never do anything, but stay home and play video games (which are highly controlled in my house), if I didn't make them try things.

Not sure if my daughter will like coding, but I think it's worth a shot. She LOVES math and video games, so it seems like a good thing to try. This seems like a pretty easy way for her to try it so we know if she'll want to do it in the future.

My oldest was diagnosed with social anxiety in kindergarten (she's a third grader now) and, actually, pushing her into group activities has helped her immensely. She wasn't sure she wanted to do soccer initially (2 years ago), now she can't wait to play. She loves the game and her teammates. It really has been fantastic watching her blossom and grow. So, in our experience, some initial pushing has been great. I know she'll always be introverted, but it's important to me that she can function in society (she used to refuse to speak in class and the teacher thought she couldn't read and would refuse to answer "friends" on the playground when they would talk to her or ask her a question).

Mostly I start to question the amount of money we are spending on these things, but if it's a positive experience in the long run, I will be glad we did it. I appreciate the feedback from those who have done it.

I'm not sure we'll ever do Select Soccer. I have a friend who has the theory that if you take all the money you spend on that sport and put it into a 529 plan - there's your scholarship! My kids will have to beg me to participate in that. I also see lots of teens around me who are burning out right when it's time to use that scholarship. Mostly I'm looking for fun, exercise, and socializing in sport activities. If they do want to play this, I might require that they pitch in some money, as suggested by So Close.

Finally, my kids do bike on the street, but only if they are with my husband or I. We live in the city and the streets are just too risky (fast cars, lots of hills) for such young bikers to go alone. I am personally nervous for myself when I bike on the roads here and don't like it. My youngest just started biking this summer and still weaves a bit. This summer they biked with me while I ran, which worked out great.

Thanks, again!!

scrubbyfish

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2014, 05:35:36 PM »
My oldest was diagnosed with social anxiety in kindergarten (she's a third grader now) and, actually, pushing her into group activities has helped her immensely. [...] So, in our experience, some initial pushing has been great. I know she'll always be introverted, but it's important to me that she can function in society (she used to refuse to speak in class and the teacher thought she couldn't read and would refuse to answer "friends" on the playground when they would talk to her or ask her a question).

I totally get this.

Yes, social anxiety can be helped. That's why I figured you might actually be talking about that vs introversion. Introversion is just a temperament, how one recharges their batteries so to speak. But absolutely anxiety, etc, can be treated/supported/aided/resolved. (For what it's worth, extroverts can also have anxiety disorders, and introversion alone won't make a person mute or unresponsive.)

I know I'm speaking from the pain of having had people confuse my introversion with my anxiety, trying to "heal" both, when it was only my anxiety that needed help. As long as we as parents recognize the difference between the two, we can absolutely support our children to blossom with whichever temperament they have. I was a kid who literally didn't speak for all of kindergarten, but that wasn't because of my introversion, that was due to my intense anxiety. That was never cared for, but when a teacher (grade 3) finally recognized and celebrated my introversion, I felt happy for the first time in my life, believed for the first time that there might be a place for me on the planet. Hence my passion for us catching the very real difference :)

Hmmm... In terms of your original post, I guess what I'm trying to say is: Definitely put money and other resources into helping your children resolve anxiety/fear. In my experience (with both my son and I), it's TOTALLY worth it. Maybe even look at things that even get right to the heart of it, like CBT and similar approaches. But I would say don't put money, etc, into resolving the part that is just introversion, because introversion can be an incredibly joyful experience when its honoured and supported.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2014, 05:48:23 PM by scrubbyfish »

mozar

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Re: Question to the parents out there...
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2014, 05:56:20 PM »
I don't have kids but I think your expenses are reasonable.
I didn't realize the difference between social anxiety and introversion until I graduated college. It didn't even occur to me that I hadn't been speaking out loud until then. I definitely support pushing your kids out of their shell. I find that small talk at work is just as important as my work performance. I hate it, but now I know how to do it (mostly), and work has gotten easier.
I think debate team would be a great idea.