Encouraging extra-curriculars (sorry LONG) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 02:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've wanted to post this for quite a while, but I'm having trouble articulating exactly what I want to say. So I'll just jump in - sorry if I'm disjointed.

My 7-year-old DD refuses to do any organized extracurricular activities. My background is so different from her childhood that I'm having trouble figuring out my reasons for wanting her to do extra activities. I grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. We didn't have any sports available, other than working on the ranch. If we wanted to swim for fun, my mom could drive us 20 miles each way to a city pool, which she did every week or so. Starting when I was nine, Mom drove me 20 miles each way for piano lessons, all the way through high school. And my parents paid for my B.S. in music, and helped me get my master's in opera. So they were very supportive of what I wanted to do - we just didn't have *any* resources in my town.

My DH, on the other hand, grew up in NYC, was in a youth orchestra, went to the performing arts high school, and did international piano competitions when he was in high school. And he hated it. He feels to this day like he had no childhood.

So here we are. Since we live in the suburbs, I want my DD to take advantage of the resources I didn't have. And DH, having been forced to be so concentrated, wants her to be free to sit around and watch TV/play video games all day. We don't argue about it - DH really leaves most educational decisions up to me.

But DD says "no" to every extra-curricular I offer her. She says, "I don't want people telling me what do to." (Ugh, I cringe at how that sounds.) I have friends who force their 7 year-olds to do *something* - the kid chooses, but they have to participate in one thing at all times. I've been afraid that if I force DD, it will just turn her off that activity forever. She has a knack for swimming, so we keep a pool pass year-round so she can fool around in the pool. She has a knack for music, but does nothing with it outside school and making up her own compositions at home. I don't even know if there are other things she'd be good at, because she won't try. And she's *such* a perfectionist, which is why I'm posting this on the Gifted board.

So far, I've just been waiting for her to express an interest in something. But meanwhile, her friends have been doing dancing, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, etc, for years. I'm afraid that if she decides to join when she's older, she'll be so behind that it will be discouraging. (I know she's competitive like me - if she can't be good at something, she will drop it immediately.)

OK, so after all the background (sorry again to get so long,) a) do you encourage your kids to do extra-curriculars, and b) if they're not interested, do you let it go, or *strongly* encourage them to choose something anyway? I read all the statistics on girls in sports, so I'd love her to do something sporty. But am I being a Mama Rose - wanting her do something I couldn't, or will the benefits to her outweigh her initial reluctance?

I'd really appreciate any insights/advice you can give me! Thanks in advance!

Nichole
wife to Sasha, mom to Marlena, nursed for 3.5 years, aunt to 3 adorable nephews
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#2 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 03:18 PM
 
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Some broader information about her life would be helpful. Does she go to school and if so what's that like? What does does do with her free time? Does she play with other kids? Has she ever been in any form of activity and if so what was it and how did it go?
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#3 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the response. She goes to public school, and is in the gifted program there. She loves school, learning, and her gifted class. She hates PE, because she feels the teacher talks down to them. She loves Art, and is so-so on Music class, because she thinks the music is too baby-ish. She went crazy-in-love when they studied music notation - came home and wrote out several compositions on manuscript paper.

She loves playing with her friends, and has a core group of girlfriends she has playdates with. But wherever we go, she joins in very well with other kids - she's come a long way with that.

The only extra-curriculars she's ever done were swimming lessons. She taught herself to swim, but I bribed her to take one session this winter, because I feel safer knowing she gets some Red Cross safety training. After that one session, she begged to quit, so I let her. She was the strongest swimmer in her class - she seemed frustrated that she was being held back, but the instructor wouldn't move her up.

She likes to spend her free time making crafts, reading, playing her own compositions on the piano and guitar, listening to her iPod, and watching TV.

Nichole
wife to Sasha, mom to Marlena, nursed for 3.5 years, aunt to 3 adorable nephews
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#4 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 04:39 PM
 
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It sounds to me like she has a lot of experience of being talked down to when in structured activities. I can understand why she would be hestitant to try something if she doesn't have some evidence that she will be treated with respect and met at her level.

I wouldn't push her into extra-curriculars, but I might look into music opportunities where she would be challenged. Something where she knows that she is young for the activity but she knows you think she's up for it might get her interested.

Kate
mother of Patrick (7/31/03), and Michael, William, and Jocelyn (4/27/07)
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#5 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 05:51 PM
 
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I wouldn't push it--I think 7 is pretty young, and I doubt you'd get far by insisting, since it seems that your daughter has a strong sense of her likes and dislikes. What you might consider, particularly if you'd like to get her involved in sports, is to find ways to learn things as a family--sign up for tennis lessons together, go for family hikes with a naturalist, play soccer together and look for resources (books, videos) to develop your skills--and then do other athletic things together--biking, snowboarding/skiing, hiking, running, frisbee, rollerblading, etc.--and maybe do these things in the time she would spend watching tv. That way she'll get the sense that sports aren't only the domain of her condescending PE teacher--and if you can find organized activities together, she might have some more positive experiences with group instruction in your company. You might already do this--I'm not sure! But there are parts of this approach that would allow her to develop her skills in some areas so that she could later join a team if she were so inclined without being "behind" (tennis, track, soccer, ultimate, snowboarding/skiing etc.)
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#6 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 07:10 PM
 
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I think it's OK for her to do nothing outside of school if she wants. My children are home educated and I do force them to do organized activities but basically, she's already in organized activities every day and that can be really draining. My kids' organized activities *are* curricular because that's what we do for sports and arts. But she has that regularly built into her school day, correct?
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#7 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 10:24 PM
 
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I think the amount of "me-time" a child needs also matter. DS needs a certain amount every day, and when he was in preschool, it's an either-or, and he prefers his art classes to going to school. He told me quite frankly that since he's already been with some kids in morning art classes, he doesn't feel the need to see his friends at school (and he's not interested in what the teachers are teaching).

That aside, if there's something that I think he may like, I will usually persuade him to try out one class, after which, he can try out for a trial period (about 2-3 months). If he decides to drop it after I"m ok with that. Knowing he's not permanently tied to it makes him more open to trying things out. Sometimes the going gets tough during the intial period; we will note the progress and help him decide what he wants to get out of it.
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#8 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all the replies. I appreciate the outside perspectives more than I can say!

Nichole
wife to Sasha, mom to Marlena, nursed for 3.5 years, aunt to 3 adorable nephews
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#9 of 9 Old 07-30-2009, 11:26 PM
 
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My 7 year old dd1 does a few more outside activities than yours and really enjoys them, but she does not go to school. The five or six hours of extra-curriculars and a few playdates are about as much structured time as she wants each week. If she attended school, I have no doubt that she would want to drop everything else to protect her down time. She needs a lot of time with her books, crafts, music, research, etc.
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