Should I be enrolling my kids in classes?

Posted by  | Tuesday, September 21, 2010  at 11:09 PM  
Hi everyone. It's Leah (mom to Sam, age 4, and Joel, age 2) here to share the dilemna on my mind this week. Should I be enrolling my boys in extra-curricular activities?

My boys don't currently attend any special classes. We have had two great experiences with classes in the past, both for Samuel. We did two sessions of a Mommy & Me gymnastics class at a local gymnastics training center and one session of an "On My Own" class through our local park district.

I mulled over the question a few weeks ago as all of the classes around here were starting up. I called the gymnastics center to check on their prices and class availability. I hemmed and hawed and bothered my husband about it. In the end we decided not to enroll them. Here are my main reasons why:

1. The Money. Extra-curricular classes can get expensive. Especially if you have more than one child. For both of my boys to take a session of gymnastics, we were looking at paying over $400 (about $12/hour/child). Ed and I thought that was just too much money. We started asking ourselves what else we could do with that much money.

2. Over-scheduling my kids. There are things we've already decided to commit ourselves to during the week (I'll share about that below) and I didn't feel comfortable adding another thing to the list. My boys only have a few years before they'll be in school M-F, 8-3. I want them to have time to just do what they want, explore, play, be imaginitive.

Now, all that is not to say that we don't have places we're going, things we're doing! Last week started off our new fall schedule. Here's a quick look of what we do that could be considered "extra-curricular":

MOMs Group - two Tuesdays a month we go to a Moms Group at church from 9:30 to 11:30. The boys spend the time in the nursery with all of their closest friends while I spend the two hours in a group with my closest friends.

Explorer's Group - each Wednesday morning (as long as we feel up to it) we meet up with our friends (moms and kids) to go exploring at different outdoor locales. One of the moms homeschools and uses this time for part of their science and so the littler kids usually just copy what they are doing for the day.

AWANA - we go on Wednesday evenings for AWANA. Samuel does Cubbies, Joel does Puggles and I am a Truth & Training leader with 5th grade girls.

Bible Study Fellowship - each Thursday morning we attend BSF from 9 to 11. The boys each have their own class where they learn from the same Bible passage as me, as well as have craft/snack/playtime.

The AWANA club time and the BSF class are opportunities for my boys to be separated from me and to learn how to obey their teacher and follow a routine. All of the activities we do are also attended by at least a few of Sam & Joel's friends.

Ed and I also work out MWF at the local gym and bring the boys along to play in the childcare area while we exercise. The woman who watches them, Maria Luisa, speaks mostly Spanish - can I count this as an extra-curricular? :)

On top of these scheduled activities, we also have membership to two museums and our community pool over the summer.

I go back and forth (even as I type, delete, and retype this post a million times) about the answer to my question. On the one hand, I feel like we are as busy as I want to be right now. On the other hand, I know how much my boys would enjoy things like gymnastics or a music class.

What do you all think? Do you struggle with this question at all? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment to this post.


roger and courtney said...

I recently enrolled my son in a Mommy and Me class, but only because we live overseas and don't have many opportunities for him to play with other kids his age. If I had the option I would just stick to stuff like MOPS and Awanas and leave everything else for later. I'm definitely with you on not wanting to pay for classes.

Rachael Davis said...

I feel much the same way! Our "out-of-the-house" activity is a church-based preschool 3 mornings a week. I teach there, and my children go with me (1 for free, 1 I pay for from my check). They love it, and get to have Music and Discovery classes during that time, along with art, Bible, and a million other things. We have long decided that it's PLENTY of time for us to be out of the house.
About 6 months ago, my 4 year old started asking about ballet lessons. Her grandmother offered to pay for them, so we agreed. She goes to lessons very near our house, on a day when we are normally at home, while her brother naps. My husband is able to stay with the napping baby, so it turns into a date of sorts for my daughter and I. I feel good about the decision to wait until it was something she requested, versus something I initiated.

Christina said...

We tried to get into a daytime MOPS or bible study, but the bible study at church was full (well, the children's program was). Our church's MOPS meets in the evenings (which I didn't want to do - we already have too many evening committments). So, that was the point when I decided to re-enroll him in gymnastics and I stuck with a weeknight bible study. If we'd gotten a spot in the weekday bible study, we would probably not be doing gymnastics. It would have just been too much out of the house. And if we did preschool 2-3 days per week, I doubt if we'd do this stuff either.

All that to say - it sounds like your boys have plenty! Don't feel guilty about gymnastics (not that you did - but I would. :) That's crazy how much it would be for both of your kids!

Christy said...

Did you ever think you'd worry so much about scheduling things for your kids? I know I didn't but I've found myself in those same shoes.

My daughter will be 3 in less than a month. We've been doing a Mommy and Me gymnastics class for over a year. It's been really good for her. She is very small for her age and didn't walk until she was 19 months old. We decided on gymnastics because we thought it would help with her strength and gross motor development. And it has so we're glad we've done it. And we've decided that it is a good investment to continue with it.

My struggle has been about adding more. I know she would LOVE ballet. I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE it but we do so much already with play dates, gymnastics, child-care at the Y, etc. that adding another thing just doesn't feel wise. Not to mention that it would be impossible without some serious changes to our budget. But I don't really think we should give up cell phones or gym membership to put her in ballet.

And then there are swim lessons... she did them over the summer and did well. I've wondered if we should continue them in the Fall...

In the end we decided that she's doing enough. And I'm just reminding myself that it isn't possible for us to do every single thing there is to do no matter how fun or beneficial they may be.

I never thought I'd be one of those mom who is tempted to hyper-schedule my kid but alas here I am.

At least I know I'm not alone!

Leah, it sounds like your kids have no shortage of fun and profitable activities. Don't feel guilty not having them do more. Then remind me of the same thing :P

Brenda and Peter said...

I also struggled with this recently. We were concerned about expense as well, and found a gymnastics class through the local Parks Deparment, which is quite reasonably priced. We also take our toddler to story-time at the library, which is free!
Whether or not to enroll children in extra activities is a very individualized decision; you must do what is best for your family. If you feel like your plate is full enough, then that's enough (for now). Time passes much too quickly with these little ones, and schedule changes can always occur next time the class is offered if desired at that time.

ChezDeshotels said...

Wow great thoughts. I am on both sides of the fence on this one...Just to go back I have an almost 5 year old that was severely premature and needed things to build her strength. I also was a lonely SAHM and to top it off I was living in a 300 sq. foot effficency one room building while we are building our house in the country. I might also add that my church is small and has no bible studies or awanans or anything like that. So I enrolled Lydia in dance at 21 months old. She absolutely fell in love with it we take it through a church about 25 min away and we love her teacher. That year gave me some mom friends and some play-dates as well as great social and physical development for her. We have kept with dance but last year she added gymnastics and she loved that as well but I wasn't sure if we would continue both because this year I home-school her in kindergarten 4 days a week. but my MIL said she would pay for one but at the last min. Lydia got hurt doing a cartwheel and got scared and wanted to not do gymnastics so we didn't. We are in our 4th year of dance and still love ballet and all that goes with it. She is also this year enamored with all things asian so she is going to take a trial class of karate. I struggle though because she wants to do everything and she now has an almost 2 year old sister so we have to decide what they each can do financially and time wise. very tough. We still have no programs at our church so we have no free options for things and I really have no mom friends besides my sisters who are now SAHM's so being in activities does stuff for me and my kids. I have also tried to expose them to activities so that they can decide themselves what they like. I just can't decide when to let my youngest start things because she is around many more kids than my first so any suggestions on that would be great???

Leah F said...

Leah-Thank you for bringing up this question, because I know that it is something I struggle with. My two are just a little younger than yours (almost 4 and almost 2), and we have NO regular outside of the home activities other than Sunday morning church. I take them to storytime at the library when I can, but we don't do anything regularly beyond that. I am very torn--I have no desire to live my life in my minivan driving kids from one thing to another! And yet, I read my statement above about the fact that we have no outside of the home activities and wonder if I am crazy (or maybe that's WHY I am crazy:-). Anyway, I appreciate your and Christina's thoughts on the matter. I think it is important for children to learn to submit to authority outside of their parents, and to interact with a variety of people in different settings, and I am mulling over the best way to do that. Thank you for giving us so much to think about, and for sharing your life with us!

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