Do extracurricular activities make your kids more efficient?

Last year, we resisted picking up extracurricular activities, other than church school, because Rose had a ridiculous amount of homework every day, including the weekends.

We knew the homework level would be about the same this year but they need something else in their lives other than just school and homework. Also I wondered if we picked up the level of activity if their work would become more efficient.

I know that I am the type of person who works much faster and more efficiently the more I have on my plate. I wondered it the same would be true for kids.

So this year Rose has picked up swim team. They only practice one-hour twice a week and have four meets on Saturdays during the fall. It’s fairly low-key and  I can take the other two swimming while Rose swims.

We’ve only had one-week of practice, but thus far the theory seems to be proving out. Both practice days she got her work done very quickly knowing we needed to leave. When she got home from swim team she was free to play for the rest of night until dinner and bed.

Walsh and Lilina have picked up activities on Saturday. There are no practices for their sports. You just show up and play. I’m all for that because I think it would be stressful dragging three kids to three different practices during the week and church. So I think you have to choose carefully so you don’t overload everyone.

I do think you can reach a point of too many activities and too much time devoted to it. There are only so many hours in the day and if you have three hours each day in practices then that doesn’t leave much time for homework or playing.

So I am not advocating over-scheduling kids but I am questioning whether a little bit of extracurricular activities can help them get their homework/housework done faster. The deciding factor may actually be: how much do they like the activity.

So what do you find at your house? Does an activity later in the afternoon, help increase speed and efficiency of homework or housework? Or does it just stress them out and add too much to their plates?

40 comments Add your comment

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
7:16 am

My daughter (7) would do something every afternoon/evening if we’d let her. Right now we’ve “limited” her to Brownies, dance, and gymnastics.

My son (4) wants to do nothing but watch, play, or practice baseball. That’s one night a week and a Saturday morning.

It’s time consuming, but these activities are important to my kids. My daughter has about 20 minutes of homework a day, and my wife practices her math or writing skills for another 20 or 30 minutes a couple of nights a week.

Our house is spotless, our laundry is done, and we eat at home as a family together almost every night.

Do the activities contribute to the efficiency? No. Teamwork does, and my wife’s chosen profession of teaching is also a great help. Her hours run inline with our kids’ which gives us some flexibility that others may not have.

zeesmama

August 24th, 2011
7:26 am

@jarvis Your wife doesn’t get much sleep!

Me

August 24th, 2011
7:41 am

I wake up every morning thanking the Good Lord that my 22 and 18 year olds are on their own and that only the 16-year-old remains in the house. For the most part, he can handle his own extracurricular activities.
I know I’m getting old and grouchy but, darn it, I’m ready for the wife and I to have some “US” time!!

mom2alex&max

August 24th, 2011
8:02 am

Me: you sound exactly like my husband…and I don’t blame you! But we made the decision to have kids and they are our responsibility, so “us” time is scheduled! ;)

homeschooler

August 24th, 2011
8:02 am

My kids take music (which I consider part of their education, not extracurricular) and usually one extracurricular activity each season. For the next 8 weeks we are doing 2 extras and, in my opinion, I am overbooked. They are fine and not over scheduled because, being homeschooled, they have plenty of down time. But I don’t.
I agree that a certain level of “busy” makes me more efficient but I don’t like to pass that on to my kids. Honestly, I think I’m a bit dysfunctional that way. Basically, I don’t do anything until I have to so I’m constantly in “gotta get it done now” mode. I want them to complete the tasks they need to complete efficiently and to the best of their ability and then enjoy their down time.
I think parents with kids in school need to be careful to make sure that several nights a week and at least one day on the weekend are spent winding down. I see so many kids who don’t ever have time to stop and think for themselves. They spend every waking hour in some sort of scheduled setting or with some sort of entertainment. Sometimes they just need to play quietly in their rooms or explore outside and be with themselves.

mom2alex&max

August 24th, 2011
8:04 am

And on topic: I have tried to limit it, but it gets away from us. I tend to pick activities that limit themselves. Only exceptions is scouts which is all engrossing. Other than that, my kids play in a non-competitive, laid back church flag football league and they get to pick one after school enrichment program through the school. This semester is art for one and chess for the other. Once a week, right after school on school premises, so it’s not so bad.

ali

August 24th, 2011
8:05 am

My daughter is on a competitive gymnastics team and they practice 3x a week – two during the week on once on Saturday. Since my daughter goes to ASP – most, if not all of her homework is completed before her 5 pm practice starts. I think encouraging hobbies is great for children! It allows them to make new friends and instills the importance of accomplishing goals. Not to mention that they are doing what they love!! I’m all for encouraging hobbies…perhaps because I was never allowed to do any extracirricular activities as I was growing up.

iRun

August 24th, 2011
8:21 am

My son plays football in the Fall, which is practice Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 6:30-8:30pm. Saturdays he has games, which are about 2 hours long but take up about 3 hours of Saturday. On Tuesdays he has a piano lesson, right before football practice. So, in the Fall his only free afternoons are Wednesdays and Fridays. In the Spring he plays soccer, which is 2 days a week of practice, lasting 2 hours, and Saturday games. The games are longer than an hour but not full regulation time (I think, I could be wrong). Also, he’s in a kid rock band and they generally have a 2 hour practice once a week, usually on a Sunday.

He’s 10, in 5th grade and in the “honors” program at his school. So he does have a fair load of homework to do. But he manages to get it all done.

I’m not one who thinks children need hours upon hours of free play time, especially as they get older. He gets plenty, anyway. He plays at recess at school. He plays at his aftercare program until I pick him up. He plays at football (he LOVES playing football). And he plays on Wednesday afternoons, Friday right after school, Saturday before and after football, and most of Sunday.

To my thinking he’s go plenty of time for homework and free play.

And yes, he’s very efficient at getting his homework and piano/band practice done.

Ally

August 24th, 2011
8:23 am

I agree that some extracurricular activities help to get them moving more efficiently. The key is how interested the child is in the activity. My kids are interested in almost too much, so I have to limit what we sign up for. I always make sure they have a free day where there are no activities scheduled, and so far I’ve been able to make it the same day for both kids.

In general, kids need to stay busy, whether with extracurricular activities or on their own. The problem with on their own is that most kids these days don’t know how to entertain themselves without a screen and I think that is doing more harm than good. And when they’re older (teenager), they get into trouble that is bigger than you imagined. It’s good to teach them while they are young that busy kids are efficient kids, while making sure they have enough downtime (without a screen) as well.

Elaine

August 24th, 2011
8:24 am

Yes, a few extras do keep us on our toes as we budget our time. I think there are other benefits to outside-of-school activities, too. My husband and I were both pretty bookish as kids, not very athletic, and we’ve seen so many crazy sports parents among our friends that we were not super stoked to start the team sports thing. It turned out that both our kids love playing sports and we’ve seen them learn so many great things playing them that they could never learn at school or at home. How to work as part of a bigger team, juggling abilities and personalities. About how their own bodies work and how to train, to challenge, to take care of them. How to follow a more absolute, no-questions-asked type of authority figure. The logic and complexity of many team sports is really stretching (my daughter plays lacrosse). How to admire and learn from someone who is better than you. How to lose well. How to win well. The great feeling you get from realizing a weakness, making a plan to improve it, and then actually seeing improvement pretty quickly. The discipline of practice…I could go on forever.

We only allow our kids to participate in one sport and one other activity at a time, and they change throughout the year. I agree that there are diminishing returns when kids get overscheduled. There is a great deal to be learned in unstructured time, too.

RJ

August 24th, 2011
8:24 am

I’ve always had my kids involved in some outside activity since they started kindergarten. The only difficult part was dealing with my son. He would always be exhausted since kindergarteners weren’t allowed to take naps. Then, his teacher would give a ridiculous amount of homework for a 5 year old. Yes, I brought it to his teachers attention! It was insane! He went to soccer practice twice a week with a game on Saturday mornings.

Extra-curricular activites definitely help kids to become more organized. Unless they hate the activity. But if they know they have to finish homework before practice, they’ll get it done.

Ally

August 24th, 2011
8:27 am

What I meant to add is that because my kids are so interested in their activities, they are fine with getting their homework and chores done for the privilege of doing those activities. I’ve made it clear that if they can’t handle both, then activities are the first to go.

RJ

August 24th, 2011
8:27 am

I’ve always had my kids involved in some outside activity since they started kindergarten. The only difficult part was dealing with my son. He would always be exhausted since kindergarteners weren’t allowed to take naps. Then, his teacher would give a ridiculous amount of homework for a 5 year old. Yes, I brought it to his teachers attention! It was insane! He went to soccer practice twice a week with a game on Saturday mornings.

Extra-curricular activites definitely help kids to become more organized. Unless they hate the activity. But if they know they have to finish homework before practice, they’ll definitely get it done.

Lori

August 24th, 2011
8:38 am

I don’t think the extracurricular activities makes my son work faster. In my house, there is no playing, no TV, no video games, etc until the homework is done and his room is clean. That’s what motivates him to get his work done, not the fact that he has soccer practice!

TallMom

August 24th, 2011
8:40 am

I think extra-curricular activities provide SO many benefits (particularly for older kids– middle/high school) that whether or not it helps a child be more efficient is a moot point.

Granted, my kids definitely get their butts in gear and get things done when they know they have some type of activity that afternoon/evening, but quite honestly, I can get the same reaction out of them with the promise of ice cream after dinner.

homeschooler

August 24th, 2011
8:57 am

“The problem with on their own is that most kids these days don’t know how to entertain themselves without a screen and I think that is doing more harm than good”

I agree with this statement but think that part of the reason that kids don’t know how to entertain themselves without a screen is because they have never had to. I have friends who’s 10 and 7 yr old boys have never owned a video game and TV is limited to educational videos during school time (they homeschool) and one entertaining show on the weekends. Those kids can play for hours and hours on end. I have never heard them say they were bored.
My kids do pretty well to entertain themselves w/out tv or video games because they have had to but they don’t compare to my friend’s kids in this dept.
Kids who are at school all day and over scheduled at night and on weekends have never learned how to be with themselves. This creates adults who don’t know who they are.
Also, one of my pet peeves is children who fall asleep watching the t.v. Again, they have no time to reflect, to think about their day or the next day. All I’m saying is that kids need some time during the day to chill out.
Having said that, I do believe that it is our job as parents to encourage the things our children are interested in. It is very important that once kids become teens, they have something they are good at. Something that they see as being their “thing”, their identity. Something that gives them confidence. Not to go back to the homeschool discussion but, I feel lucky that my kids have the down time AND plenty of time to explore what they might be good at.

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
9:18 am

@ jarvis…if your house is spotless, I am impressed! No, I am in awe. REALLY! I am not joking but maybe you are? We did eat sit down meals most days around here and still do most days. Last night we had grilled bratwurst, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad and sliced fruit…just the two of us and the dog ( no she did not eat what we ate except a few bananas).

I spoke with a friend the other day whose husband travels for business and kids are now both in college. She told me that it is much easier to keep a clean house now, being the only one in it. I agreed…my hotel room is always tidy…when I travel :). Our house is never spotless but I admire those who can have one. Well actually, I grew up in that house and that is another story I do not want to repeat. To me, Mom cleans and picks up non stop ( which I am not doing) or she has to enlist others to get it done ( something I did not do well since I hated having to do so much work around the house as a kid growing up…everything was delegated to us ). Teamwork and housework never went hand in hand here…probably my fault!

Mine are not now living at home but I can take this to a college level. Both of them have jobs and both have learned to be more efficient at college. This does take practice for kids, whether they have jobs or not. My daughter’s new apartment roommate just got promoted to asst. manager at her job. She started with the company while in HS. I am thrilled because this ( to me) means that she knows how to work hard and also how to deal with people too. A great skill for a roommate to have, IMHO. Also, she understands what it takes to earn $100 before she blows it on a shirt or purse! Funny…they are more conservative about what they need when they are using their own $$$!

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
9:24 am

@ homeschooler…I love this:

I agree with this statement but think that part of the reason that kids don’t know how to entertain themselves without a screen is because they have never had to.

My daughter watched our neighbor’s son two days per week this summer. He is BIG on electronics. He is in the gifted classes at school. A really nice kid and we enjoy home like a little brother. We have lots of board and card games here. Some days, she came over and they played games for 3-4 hours. He learned some new games that are quite involved with strategies etc. I was so proud of both of them. His Mom now bought one game for them to play at their house.

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
9:24 am

@zeesmama, she goes to bed around 9 PM. Me on the other hand, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. That’s not out of necessity though, I just don’t sleep much….never have.

There are enough hours in the day. It just takes a coordinated effort. Menus for the week are planned on Sunday night, and school clothes are laid out the night before etc. Laundry and dishes are shared duties. Luckily even though my daughter is in three activities, none are weekend activities. Our weekends consist of Little League for a couple of hours on Saturday, church on Sunday, laundry and other minor chores, and a lot of time together. It works for us.

We “outsource” some of the heavy lifting. We have a house cleaning service ($55) that comes every two weeks which just leaves “maintenance cleaning” between cycles, and a college boy cuts my grass and edges for me ($35/week).

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
9:28 am

ooops….enjoy him…

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
9:32 am

@ jarvis: coordinate …shared….housework …menus…laundry …dishes….

These never go in the same sentence here much less paragraph. Kudos to you! Sounds like you have a great thing going.

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
9:40 am

@MJG, I can’t take credit for the “coordinate”. My wife is extremely organized. She handles the coordination, and I just do what I’m told :).

Sylvania

August 24th, 2011
9:42 am

Sometimes getting things done faster because one’s “plate is full” doesn’t always mean they are done better or correctly. Just faster.

Also, I can’t see much of a downside to any extracurricular activity that gets the child away from their beloved video games and TV set.

Techmom

August 24th, 2011
9:57 am

My son is definitely more efficient, or maybe it’s just that he procrastinates less, when he knows he has something to get done. Efficient sounds better so I’ll stick with that.

I don’t like to over schedule, though I seem to be good at it. I have always seen the benefit of busy teenagers (i.e. there’s no time to get in trouble) mostly from personal experience. I know I got in the most trouble over summer when I didn’t have school or extra-curricular activities.

Having an only child, our son has pretty much always done some kind of extra curricular activity. Usually sports related b/c he’s not a sit-still kind of kid though he has taken drum lessons (which is sitting but not still- you get my point). When he decided he wasn’t going to play football this year, I told him to find something to do after school. He chose Cross County. Quite frankly, he’s built much better for running than football though my husband misses the games. We only allow one sport at a time though he’s in the band at school which does have some after-school requirements (they don’t have a marching band though so it’s not that bad) and he’s in Scouts which can be difficult to balance with anything else depending how active the troop is. But he’s almost done with his Eagle requirements and my guess is he won’t be involved quite as much next school year. His social life with his friends is trying to take priority and we’ve had to put our foot down about what comes first. He’s not real happy that I’ve enforced the “you will get your Eagle before your license” decision. I think he really thought I would cave as soon as he was able to get his license.

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
10:02 am

@Techmom, has there ever been a more true saying than, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? Especially in terms of pre-teens and teenagers.

Boredom never lends itself to good consequences.

Techmom

August 24th, 2011
10:15 am

@jarvis – I’m a poster child of that statement for sure.

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
10:30 am

@jarvis/techmom…and college aged kids too!

DB

August 24th, 2011
10:41 am

Both of my kids did Scouts (Boy and Girl) all the way through, through Eagle and Gold Awards — as they got older, the time spent wasn’t scheduled meeting activities, but rather, organizing service projects, working with younger Scouts, and fundraising for all the trips they liked to take. It morphed with them, and I’d put the girls in my troop up against any adult when it comes to planning and organizing events with dozens or even hundreds of people (no, not parties!). One of them started a non-profit when she was 18 and is juggling that along with a stellar college career; another one told me that she just about went crazy at a meeting for a college organization when the officials couldn’t run a meeting to save their lives. (She’s the president this year :-) ) Another created a mentoring group that is still going strong. Growing up, my son played club soccer (3x week plus games/tournaments) and did summer swim league, my daughter did summer swim league and dance (3x week, plus performances when she was with a semi-pro company), and segued into music activities (extracurricular orchestras in Atlanta, for example) in high school. When they hit high school, my son was doing a varsity sport fall, winter and spring.. That, plus Scouts, plus working on weekends as a referee kept him busy — definitely no “idle hands” around here!

Did it make them more efficient? I don’t know, but I do know that now, as young adults, they can manage their full and varied lives effortlessly. I’d say that was a “win”.

RJ

August 24th, 2011
11:10 am

My kids have always had extra curricular activities since pre-k. My daughter took dance on Saturdays afternoons and cheerleading Saturday mornings at football and basketball games. My son played t-ball when he was 3, soccer at 4 and basketball started at 5. He’s always been involved in a sport for each season. Now that’s he’s older, we do basketball ball pretty much all year. There’s always a league somewhere. In addition, they each were involved in co-curricular activities at school – chorus and orchestra.

Yes, I spend many weekends going to these events but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When they were younger they rode their bikes through the neighborhood and caught lightning bugs outside in the summer:)! They have full schedules, but they’ve been allowed to be kids the whole time. If they didn’t like something, we finished that activity for the season and went on to something else. This has allowed each of them to discover what they’re good at doing. Now I have one kid that will major in music and improve her craft and another that will use his skills to hopefully help pay for college. It’s all been worth it!

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
11:14 am

We DID extracurricular actvities…sports music and church but it has been a while since I have had to orchestrate them. We always met lots of neat people and I love meeting people, so that was fun!

oneofeach4me

August 24th, 2011
11:45 am

Wow you guys are making me feel bad :( My issue is the time (and the funds). My husband works 50 miles away and doesn’t get home until 7:30 pm and leaves the house at 6am. I get the kids up, drop them at school, go to work, pick them up, cook dinner, check daily folders and get them in the bed. I am also in school full time taking 2 online classes and 1 in the classroom. My 10yr old daughter is doing Chess in ASP and my son rides motocross and that’s once or twice a week.

When my hubby was laid off last year, it was easier because he could help with more. My daughter was in competition gymnastics for the spring/summer that was 2 hr practice 2 days a week on the days I had school and dad would drop her off and pick her up.

My son played soccer for 3 years from age 2 to age 5 until he got burnt out. Activities can get expensive too. I am going to put my daughter back in gymnastics but I cannot afford the $140 a month for competition gymnastics. She will have to go back to the one day a week regular class. I just cannot afford it right now. After cuts to Hope I am paying out WAY more for my own schooling. As for my son, other than the motocross he isn’t doing anything else. But…. TV does not interest him. He rides his bike or just plays outside and gets plenty of physical exercise.

I wish I could afford an afternoon babysitter/nanny that could help me. Right now I am doing the best I can. But extracurricular activities are important to me and I think they are essential in a children’s growth. Over scheduling however can cause meltdowns.

bill hicks

August 24th, 2011
11:45 am

Extra-curricular activities are not supposed to be about forcing your precious angels to be more efficient or so that you can pretend-bond with other mombies! It’s 45 minutes, 3 days a week that they can (try to) get away from you and your control issues. Too many kids with bags under their eyes and blank stares.

Techmom

August 24th, 2011
11:55 am

@oneofeach4me Your kids are young- it’s OK! You’re going to school and will hopefully end up in a job that will allow you to afford more. You are not being a bad mom for wanting to provide better for your children. It’s a sacrifice you all will appreciate when you’re done.

When my son was younger, it was a chore to get him to soccer practice once a week in the evening. My husband and I both worked full time, commuted ~45 miles each way and were in school. I would go to class two nights a week and he would go the other two. It was rough until I finished (son was 5) and then my husband finished the next year. After that we were able to focus more on our son and family in the evenings and we both ended up coaching his teams over the years, we help lead youth at church and I’m still involved in Scouts with him.

Be the best mom you can in the situation you are in. It matters more that you’re interested in your kids and in bettering your family than gymnastics meets or motocross.

Jeff

August 24th, 2011
12:03 pm

I know I’m more efficient and successful when I’m busy. Always have been.

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
12:10 pm

So which is it bill hicks? Are they doing too much or are they staring blankly?

jarvis

August 24th, 2011
12:12 pm

@oneofeach4me, everyone has their own challenges in life. Do you the best you can do, and don’t comare yourself to others.

motherjanegoose

August 24th, 2011
12:32 pm

@ Jeff…this is the challenge of being self employed! No one is making sure you are getting your work done but, for me, if I do not get it done then I will not be paid. Many tell me they would love to do what I do but not everyone can do it. Some days I don’t think I can either but the flexibility and the fact that I love what I do is worth it! If I not beat the bushes there will be no dinner :).

@one….chill and just do your best.

I know two families whose sons were very involved in HS baseball. Both boys were/are very good. The one family has an older son. They were always at baseball games. He did not get a college scholarship. He finished college and now has a great job he loves! I mentioned this to the second Mom a few years ago as they headed into HS ball and intense schedules. She recently told me, ” It is hard to get a baseball scholarship and _____ will probably not get one.”
My son played several sports but was never at a level to be even considered for a scholarship.
If you are involved with your children and try to let them explore various interests that, to me, is wonderful. What we are accustomed to here, in metro Atlanta, is not the way every family does things. Relax and enjoy your kids…they grow up too soon!

TWG…I would love to read this blog from you:

How life is different in Arizona, compared what I was used to in Atlanta. Anyone else? Perhaps Iam the only one. I see so many different things when I am out and about.

OFF topic..I just heard that one in seven Americans are on food stamps.

DB

August 24th, 2011
1:15 pm

@MJG: That was one thing I absolutely HATED about club soccer — every parent with a kid on an elite team was convinced that this was their ticket to college. NOT! There are only so many scholarships to go around, the soccer teams don’t have that many, and they are also competing against foreign students who grow up in soccer-saturated cultures. The parents would shell out thousands of dollars (that could have been saved for college!) for coaching, soccer camps, elite workshops, tournaments (fees and hotels and foods), uniforms, etc., etc., convinced that their kid had a shot.

I told one distraught mom, whose child had been benched more and more as the season progressed, that soccer was fun, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of academics. You can always have a career-ending knee injury or Achilles tear, etc — but it’s a lot easier on a kid to get an academic scholarship — even a partial one — than it is to get an athletic one. For one thing, they don’t spend their college career practicing non-stop and having to account for their time to a coach. If kids spent 1/4 of the time on their academics that they did on all the sports training, etc., they’d all be Ivy League. :-)

@one: Kudos to you for going to school! Your discipline and sacrifice for education will NOT be wasted on your kids, especially when they are old enough to look back and marvel that you did all of that while raising a family. It sets a great example for discipline and priorities.

Football mom

August 24th, 2011
8:10 pm

My son didn’t live at home for middle sc clubhool and has made up for it since he got into high school. Football practice is weight lifting before school and practice till 6:30 every night. Church, drama, FCA . I am starting to think he does all of these things just so we would get him a vehicle to drive but his grades have actually gone UP!

oneofeach4me

August 30th, 2011
12:31 pm

I have been so busy the past couple of days but wanted to stop by and say thanks to everyone for the encouragement. There may be parenting books out there….but I would have to buy and read at least five of them to get the different aspects and input that you all give me! Thanks for allowing me to see that putting my schooling first is not a bad thing!