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08 Dec, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Strike a balance with extracurricular courses

For many parents, the real conundrum is not which ones to choose but how to limit the number. It seems this decision can cause major anxiety with many parents, including a colleague of mine Franca Spinelli.

This summer, she says she was obsessed because there were two weeks in August that she hadn’t enrolled her son in a summer camp and it made her feel like “a bad mother” because she didn’t have any scheduled activities for him. I, on the other hand, was so obsessed with unscheduled time for my son that I booked a babysitter a year ago who could provide care while I worked for four weeks this summer.

So here you have two moms in their 40s who each have one child (6-year-old boys) yet we feel so differently about how much to “schedule” our children. And now we have to decide about activities for fall…

Last year, Spinelli’s son Mikaël took golf, choir, soccer, swimming, skiing and went to Italian school. “I feel like I’m depriving him of something if I don’t have activities scheduled for him,” she says. “Maybe it stems from the fact that I didn’t have a lot of these opportunities as a child and I don’t want him to miss out.” She says he seemed fine with the courses but has mentioned he doesn’t want to continue with choir.

Extracurricular activities for kids in MontrealIndividual choices

Frankly, I don’t think there is a one-solution-fits-all when it comes to making these decisions. Each of our children has a unique temperament and I believe we’re both doing the best for our families. And there is always time to re-adjust. This year, for example, Spinelli has decided on three activities that she considers “a must.” These include hockey (her son begged her for a year to play), swimming and Italian school. “It is important for me that he be immersed in the language and exposed to our culture,” she says. “But I also want him to do music… and art.”

I’ve decided to keep things pretty simple for Max, especially since I’ve heard that Grade 1 is a big adjustment and kids may be very, very tired the first semester. I’ll probably enrol him in swimming and leave it at that.

I believe we need to “go with the flow” after we make decisions about extracurricular courses. When Max didn’t want to continue his cooking class last year, I let him drop it. He was already adjusting to full days of school in a second language and I could sense he was tired. Maybe some people would say kids should be taught to finish what they start; but he was 5 and I believe there is plenty of time to teach him that lesson. These are not life or death decisions and, like most things in life; trial and error is often how we learn best.

Good luck with your decisions!!

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