My oldest daughter Kelsey started marching band this year, and she has loved every minute of it—well, almost. If you’re a band parent or if you were in the band yourself, then you know that the typical season starts out with summer band camp—a grueling two-week process in which you attempt to learn the entire show for the season, under the blistering sun no less. Once football season starts, there’s practice after school nearly every day for two hours, games every weekend (some of which you have to travel across the state to attend), and Saturday competitions, which also require some degree of travel.
Needless to say, all of this takes a lot of time and effort. Although Kelsey has adjusted to the rigorous schedule of school and band, it took her a while. At the beginning of the year, she struggled to stay on top of it all. There were even a few tears, and I know that more than once, the thought occurred to her to simply throw in the towel. She and I are both so glad she stuck with it because it has been so rewarding for her and has truly enriched all of our lives.
Can you tell I’m a band advocate? I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. I’m sure that there are many parents who sing the praises of the other activities their children are involved in. No matter which activity is your favorite, there’s really no doubting the value of extracurricular experiences. Even so, there will be times when you and your child wonder whether you’re striking the right balance. Here are a few tips for teaching your child to juggle it all and succeed both inside and outside of the classroom:
Don’t Take on Too Much
How much is too much? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all regimen for extracurricular activities. The answer will depend on your child’s personality and capabilities as well as your family routine. Many students are quite ambitious when it comes to the number of clubs and activities they participate in, and they are to be applauded for it! Having said that, I know that if we had thrown in just one more club meeting per week in addition to Kelsey’s already crowded band schedule, she would have been a wreck. It’s not because she doesn’t have the capability to keep up with a busy schedule; it’s simply because she has many other interests outside of school including art and foreign language, which she pursues on her own. She cherishes this time when she can study the subjects she’s truly interested in and actually went through a bit of a mourning period when she realized she would have to sacrifice some of it for band. If you realize that your child has taken on too much, then let her know that it’s okay to scale back. When academics start to suffer or when your child shows signs of becoming overwhelmed (i.e. fatigue or moodiness), then it’s time to make some decisions and free up some time for study or relaxation.
Make a Schedule
When your child takes on a major extracurricular activity such as a sport or band, or several smaller activities such as clubs and organizations, then you’ll both want to take the time to make a schedule. It may even be a good idea to do it together. This will give you the opportunity to teach your child the importance of being organized when it comes to how she spends her time. Encourage her to write in required events as well as school-related deadlines first. Instruct her to add to her calendar as she becomes aware of additional meetings or assignments. Knowing when she needs to do what and when she can simply chill for an afternoon can prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed or fearful about how she’ll manage to get it all done.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do when juggling school and extracurricular activities is learning to prioritize. As your child becomes more involved in school activities, she’ll likely be forced with some tough choices. Although it can be tempting to make these choices for your child, you’d really be doing her a disservice if you called all the shots. In my opinion, children need to learn the consequences of both good and bad choices (e.g. hanging out with a friend instead of studying for a test), so that they’ll gain the ability to choose wisely on their own. Of course, you need to be there to offer a healthy dose of guidance, but if you let your child learn the hard lessons, they’ll be much more meaningful than if you had simply managed her life for her prior to releasing her out into the “real” world.
Do you have other tips for managing school and extracurricular activities? We’d love to hear how you’re juggling things at your house!