The extra-curricular conundrum

Posted on October 28, 2010

Mr6 is tired. He loses it at the slightest provocation – particularly at around 8.30am, when I’m asking him, for the 500th time, to put his shoes on. His normally friendly disposition has gone up a ‘strung’ level or two.

I’ve been waiting for this. This term, we’ve added swimming lessons to his schedule. Not in themselves a problem, but when you’re at Little Ninjas twice a week and guitar lessons once a week, it all adds up. At the start of the term, we discussed dropping Ninjas. He loves Ninjas. He is never happier than when he’s running around in blue pyjamas wearing his belt du jour (currently orange). He didn’t want to drop Ninjas. “I’ll be okay, Mum,” he said. “It’s only half an hour.”

True. But half an hour, twice a week (they have a rule that you can’t just go once, I checked). Plus half an hour of swimming. Plus half an hour of guitar. Swimming is not-negotiable – he’s just beginning to lose that drowned labrador stroke. Guitar is something I want to support and encourage for as long as I can. If he’s willing to go, I’m willing to take him. Ninjas, he loves.

Clearly, he’s doing too much. He’s tired. But what do you do? Take away the thing he loves. The thing he needs. Or the thing that, when he’s 40, he’ll regret giving up?

I call it the extra-curricular conundrum. No answers here. Not yet.

Do you have an extra-curricular activities policy at your house? Any tips?


  1. katepickle

    We’ve been trying to juggle this conundrum all year.

    It’s our girl’s first year at school so I’ve tried to keep the after school things to a minimum. But they keep creeping up on me, and when they just love doing them it’s so hard to say no.

    This term I’ve reined it in though and only continued with ballet and tap – but this is concert term so there is extra hours of dance. Plus swimming lessons at school, and a birthday…. when do we get time to just hang out and play?

    For us I just try and keep a lid on things as best we can. I’ve planned a day or two off school here and there to keep us all in check, and am crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

  2. Tricia Rose

    Children have the gift of being able to catch up on sleep – can you bring bedtime forward a bit and let him sleep in on Sunday (if he will)? Or even have the whole day ‘off’. It is the end of the year.
    I wouldn’t stop any of his activities. I remember how touched I was that my mother always indulged me gently at the end of the school day (I had a long bus ride), I knew she understood I was tired.

  3. Maxabella

    If they have a ninjas rule for 2x a week, I would consider paying for 2 classes but only going to one…? x

  4. Bodaciousboomer

    Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the best you can. If when they grow up they’re not serial killers, you did just fine. Seriously, they’ll probably let you know. You just have to be open to seeing the answer.

  5. BlondeMomBlog (Jamie)

    No advice here, but it does sound like it might be a bit too much. My oldest does soccer (as you know!) and we just signed up both girls for Girl Scouts.

    It all seems really manageable. Two activities, for us any way, aren’t too bad.

    But it’s tough to decide which activity, if any, to cut when they love it so much.

  6. ClaireyH

    As you know I mentioned this the other week too, we are finding that going to the pool when it suits us is going great. It has meant changing some playdates from the park to the pool and everyone loves it, we spend so long in the pool it seems to be no problem that miss 4 is not in formal lessons. You could drop,swimming for now and pick it up more over the holidays, lot of holiday swimming programs around.

  7. River

    Are these activities on school days? Could they be switched to weekends to even out the load? Or maybe even just one of them? I personally think that at 6 one extra curricular activity is plenty, but as you’ve said he loves all of them. As long as he’s coping with school and home, I’d say keep on with them, but if either starts to suffer, (meltdowns, tantrums, acting out…) then some discussion on which to put aside until next year might be in order.
    Not saying you have to do this, but just a for instance; swimming is an important skill, maybe that should come first and once he’s proficient, then take up guitar again. Or something similar that you could work out.

  8. Crazy Garden Lady

    Mr 6 seems like a kid who knows what he wants – don’t you think if he was really that tired he’d ask to stop one of his activities?

    If he does, give him the choice of one of the non-essential activities (Aussie kids have gotta be able to swim) and see what his thoughts are then.

  9. allison tait

    Thanks everyone for leaving such thoughtful comments. Y’all have given me much to think on. 🙂

  10. Jodie at Mummy Mayhem

    I agree with Mrs BC – being the end of the year, it won’t help. I always find my boys are tired.

    But yes – we are often an overscheduled lot these days. But in this house we say that swimming is a must too. My 8yo does guitar lessons at school and cricket during summer, soccer during winter. We gave him the option of tennis (which he has done for the warmer months since Kindy), but he said ‘no’. Fair enough. We can play that with him. The 6yo doesn’t do cricket, but has opted for the tennis.

    All three do swimming and the 3yo does a sports-based class once a week that he LOVES.

    I think sport after school is kind of good – especially for boys – because they really need to burn off some energy anyway.

    See how he is next year. Term 4 – it can all come crashing down. They’re just over it all. The break will do him good.


  11. macsnorky

    I agree with Thea on this one. But then, I’m also a terrible parent because my kids don’t do swimming lessons.

    Mr 9 does tennis once a week. He started in Year 1 because he asked and it’s the one thing he loves that gets him away from electronic devices.

    Personally, I run a mile from places that dictate to you (and your very young children) how many times a week they *must* attend, in the way that your Ninjas does. Who are they to tell parents how often their kids have to do an activity? My first option would be to find another “club” where he could attend only once a week. When he’s 12 and training for State titles then they can say how often he should be going. But that’s just me.

    One concern I have with kids who do a lot (and I’m not saying this is your situation) is that they have no idea how to be idle. Kids need down time too. We had a friend’s 7 yr old daughter visit for the holidays and she was bored senseless because we weren’t out every day “doing” stuff. Her weekends at home are so full she’s rarely there.

    Personally, I’d be dropping something. Kids need sleep and rest to grow and avoid getting rundown and sick. They can learn guitar at any age, it doesn’t have to be now.

  12. Thea

    I almost published a post about this just the other day. I ended up deleting it because it sounded too ranty.
    But I do NO extra-curricular stuff. My boy is 6 and my girl only 3. They haven’t asked to do anything and I don’t think they need extras at this stage…if ever. I’m going to follow their lead with this one…if they’re really keen to do something, we’ll give it a go. I’m not suggesting or putting them in anything otherwise, including swimming…that’s a whole other ranty post!

  13. Cate Bolt

    If he wants to do all the activities then let him do them. This phase of melt-down magic is essential to learning how to manage ones own emotions. It seems like a harsh burden at that age but it won’t last *that* long.
    It’s the end of the year, most primary school aged kids are starting to be tired and cranky (including mine) – make sure he’s getting as much sleep as he possibly can – at least 10 hours/night at that age.

  14. x0xJ

    I wouldn’t drop anything. You’re right in putting him in all imo.
    Instead i would try and bump up bedtime half an hour and hopefully that would help?
    Master B is too young for most things (he is 4) but if he goes well at school next year, at the end of the year i will put him in music lessons if i think he can handle it. Then maybe the year after i will add something else.
    We did swimming lessons with him but stopped those at the start of the year when his very awesome teacher left. But honestly, he was up to perfecting strokes, not learning them, but perfecting them (like turn your head to the side and breathe after 3 arms, and learning backstroke, which he can do for about a metre at best?) and i felt that we didn’t need to keep paying for that and face getting screwed around with dismal teachers (as was common at this place). He can swim so long as he remembers this summer i am happy to wait and send him with school.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, i think it’s great you are exposing him to so much!

  15. Green Mama

    I’ve dropped swimming for the last two terms- third term because I was sick of watching the cherubs shiver on the side of the pool waiting for their turn to jump in, and this term because it’s full on enough as it is. We have a fantastic summer school program here where the cherubs go every morning M-F for 30 minute sessions for two weeks- after we get all the Christmas hoo-ha finished with I think we’ll all be feeling a bit more refreshed. This is a tough time of year.

  16. Kelly

    Maybe if you dropped your sons extra curricular activities it wouldn’t make any difference he would still be tired.

    My son Phoenix has recently turned 7, he is in grade one this year. We don’t do any extra curricular activities with him and he still is so tired at the end of day.

  17. Deer Baby

    It’s hard. I worry we do too little. He does keyboard, steel band, basketball and that’s about it for actual paid, extra curricular things although he does swimming and football for pleasure. I’d like him to do drama, tennis and a writing club but they clash.

    We stayed with friends the other weekend and they were running through their week which was stuffed with so many activities for all 3 it made my head spin. I had a sudden crisis of conscience that mine didn’t do chess or drama or gymnastics. But then I thought it’s also good for them to chill out sometimes.

    I’d say power on through for now – is it nearly a holiday? – and then maybe reassess if he is getting really pooped.

  18. Pamela

    My kids are older (teenagers), but this is the bane of our existence. We err on the side of “all we can physically handle,” but with 3 of them, we have to limit it somewhat to what we as parents are capable of supporting. Eat more Spinach, as Popeye would say!

  19. Lucy

    We have a similar issue. Art class, cricket and AGC. Olivia(also 6) is pooped. (Swimming is dropped for the next two terms.)

    Plus end of year “stuff” at school.

    I am kind of thinking that by riding the storm of cranky tiredness, that her stamina will pick up.

    Then a long warm summer at the beach to chill for weeks and weeks…to recharge?

    Push through it?

  20. shauna

    Mrs BC has a good point but that failing, Id consider postponing guitar till hes a bit older and more able to handle the ‘load’.

  21. Mrs BC

    It is the end of the year, maybe he is just tired? I think they all are a bit over it around now. He might feel a bit refreshed after the summer holidays. As will I, I hope!

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