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dejagerw 06-13-2014 11:06 AM

sports and activities
 
Are your children in a lot of sports/activities? What age did you start them? Was it their idea?

It seems like everyone I talk to is of the mind set that kids need to start young, in just about every activity. If they don't start early, all the kids will pass them up and they will never be able to play organized sports when they are older because they will be too far behind.

What are your thought on this topic?

SweetSilver 06-13-2014 12:21 PM

My girls love gymnastics. I might have introduced open gym to them when they were very young, but they have always loved it. We don't compete. Gymnastics is something best done young. I don't necessarily mean 4yo or younger, just when they are young. dults learning gymnastics is difficult or impossible.

Most other sports have fewer obstacles as kids age. My girls know that their riding lessons can be done at any age, and that their aunt didn't start until around 30. I didn't pick up martial arts until I was 27.

I'm not really sure how the other sports fair. My girls would need some serious skills practice to join a softball team, and competitive teams might be difficult for a while because at their age many girls have already had significant practice. Then again, my sister didn't start until middle school but that was in the decades before so much hothousing.

I'm not starting a sport early just so they can have a leg up on the competition. I know 60 yos training with swords and other martial arts skills. My aikido mentor is probably pushing 70. I've had 40yo friends in local soccer club teams with self-depracating names like "Low Speed Dirt". Softball clubs abound. Will they get into the Olympics? Gabby Douglas had a late start with gymnastics and just won the Individual All-around in London, against the favorite who started training at 3yo. My nephew, playing t-ball and baseball since the time he could walk and having a promising start ended his career prospect with a torn shoulder. I'm pretty sure that a great number of NFL players never played Pop Warner football at 8yo. I can't even begin to mention all the ups and downs.

Even if earlier=better across the board, would you really sign onto that unless your kid was all over it?

I wouldn't.

rumi 06-13-2014 04:20 PM

We aren't very concerned about organized sports. Fortunately there are enough kids in our neighborhood to play unorganized sports several days per week - various ages, adaptable rules, not very competitive and I am quite happy with that and so is dd.

I used to be concerned when dd was 4, 5 and 6 that she should join sports and activities but she just was not interested in going to any classes at that time. I started some activities through the homeschool group and in our neighborhood just calling kids over once a week to do fairly low-key activities like readers' theatre or "treasure hunts" and she enjoyed that. Eventually she agreed to go to "camps" of about a week at at time, once a year, but not till she was 9 did she actually join a class for an activity (dance). She is also going to join a drawing class later in the summer. And a nature camp and volunteering in the library.

moominmamma 06-13-2014 04:44 PM

Dd11 started gymnastics at 8. Her choice. She has not competed yet, though that will likely come soon. She enjoys it and hopes to do two sessions a week next year (total of 5 hours). Thus far she's been doing 1 - 2.5 hours a week.

She started dance at 11. She'd been wanting to do it for years.

Both of the above are activities that benefit from an early start but although she would have loved to start around age 5-6, we just couldn't work it out logistically. (We have to travel 90 minutes one way for each of these.)

She started violin at 3. Another one where an early start is helpful. She begged for it, because her siblings were all involved and she wanted a piece of the fun they were having. Her interest has been on and off since her siblings moved their focus elsewhere. During times when she really hasn't been motivated, we've let it drop. Most of her "lessons" have actually been within the family (me or my mom teaching her) so maybe this doesn't even qualify as an activity in the normal sense.

She did aikido for a while at age 5-7, again, completely her choice. An early start doesn't make a big difference as SweetSilver mentioned. When she lost interest we dropped it.

Right now with violin, dance and gymnastics, she's got the most going on that she ever has. But she's a pre-teen who is watching her older siblings all move away from home, is the only remaining homeschooler in the family, the only homeschooler her age around, and she really craves the out-of-home activities and the structure they give her.

Edited to add: Despite the late-ish start in gymnastics and the late start in dance she's doing fine. She's progressed quickly because of her age and maturity, and although she was placed with somewhat younger groups at first, and that wasn't a totally good fit, she is now with her age-group in gymnastics and we think she will probably be placed with her age-group in dance in the fall. I would guess that with team/competitive sports it wouldn't always be possible to place an older beginner with a younger group of players, but it has worked well for my dd in these areas.

Miranda

Fillyjonk 06-24-2014 01:30 AM

Totally agree with SweetSilver. My first thought is that it might depend on what they want from it. If they are seriously planning to compete, then yeah, an early start might help in some sports, I guess. I don't know. I know kids do tend to start early with some sports if they are going to compete and then often are selected for intense training reasonably early. Whether kids need to start young or not to be very good, I don't know-my instinct would be that, as with moominmamma's daughter, the maturity would actually count for a lot with a late beginner-but I suppose the issue would be that certain programs might not be available to older beginners.

My kids do a lot of sports, different sports, but we've actively avoided anything competitive and pulled out of certain sport where its felt its too competitive for us, too early. We're not a competitive family, really, its not something we encourage and its not something we, as parents, aim to model. Dp and I tend to avoid activities which associate exercise with grades or social status, which has been an issue for us in martial arts. They do them for the exercise, so that they associate fun with exercise, and so they have the skills to take part in team games, exercise etc as they get older. I see it as really similar to them learning an instrument-the aim should be, IMO, to build the skills for a lifetime of exercise (or music), not short term excellence in one narrow area.

The habit of exercise is something I think its incredibly important and I think its so easy for kids to lose sight of that when there's a lot of grading and carrots dangled in their way. It shouldn't be only talented people who have any significant level of activity, while the rest of us watch them on tv, and it shouldn't be that we only feel able to exercise-to go to the gym or appear at the pool in bathers-if we are thin and toned and know what we're doing-but it seems to me that that's something that happens too easily. I was good at sports in school and its is certainly the message I took home. That's something I really do want to sidestep in my kids.

SweetSilver 06-24-2014 07:43 AM

I liked that angle on sports, Fillyjonk. I think the same way towards music as well-- it shouldn't just be for the talented people to play and create and the rest to consume. It's something that should belong to everyone on some level because the benefits come not just from watching but from doing.

moominmamma 06-24-2014 10:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fillyjonk (Post 17723618)
My kids do a lot of sports, different sports, but we've actively avoided anything competitive and pulled out of certain sport where its felt its too competitive for us, too early. We're not a competitive family, really, its not something we encourage and its not something we, as parents, aim to model. Dp and I tend to avoid activities which associate exercise with grades or social status, which has been an issue for us in martial arts. They do them for the exercise, so that they associate fun with exercise, and so they have the skills to take part in team games, exercise etc as they get older.

My family has done similarly. We steered clear of karate and tae kwon do, and did aikido instead (non-competitive). We supported the kids in dropping out of soccer when it got too focused on games and standings. We turned down offers to join the competitive gymnastics stream. And we declined the invitation to the provincial (competitive) music festival. At least, we did all that prior to adolescence. After that we were okay with the occasional competitive activity or event.

I do think, though, that in Canada and the UK it is somewhat easier to find suitably challenging activities for kids outside of the competitive realm. For instance, I understand that in most youth orchestras in the US there's a hierarchical system for seat assignments, whereby if you're placed as assistant concert-master in the violin section, any of the people sitting farther back in your section can challenge you to a musical duel of sorts adjudicated by the director, whereby the loser takes the rear-most seat. It just boggles my mind that youth orchestras could be run this way, but it's pretty standard practice, at least in New England and the midwest, apparently. And I think in a lot of communities in the US, you'd be hard-pressed to find challenge beyond the introductory level in sports like soccer, softball, swimming or gymnastics which don't involve levelling up, rewards, competitions, score-keeping and rankings. We feel a bit of this cultural tide here, but fortunately we are able to find people pushing back against it hard. At my kids' school, for instance, volleyball is played regularly by about 18 kids forming two "teams," with the rotation on and off the court occurring through both sides ... so each kid plays for a while on the left side of the court, and then rotates off and onto the right side. They play hard and learn a lot but there's no traditional competition with half the kids coming up winners and half losers. And at our local trail race they have the kids run starting at 30-second intervals with somewhat random intermingling of ages (though with the littler kids starting early so that they're not left in the dust after everyone else is done), individual times are revealed to those who ask, and everyone gets a completion medal. Years ago when my older kids did a couple of terms of gymnastics there were just two streams, recreational and competitive. The recreational was great for a term, but the challenge level never changed, so when my kids wanted more skills development, the only option was the competitive stream. In the intervening years they've introduced a middle stream called "Developmental," which is non-competitive but nonetheless focused on ongoing skills development and challenge. That's where my youngest is, and it's perfect.

Anyway, yes, the pervasiveness of competitiveness in recreational pursuits for kids is one of my pet peeves. It can be an obstacle to kids interested in exploring a new skill or interest, because the introductory classes or leagues might not exist for older kids, or if they do they might not provide enough challenge for kids who are truly interested but don't want to become competitive hyper-specialists. But sometimes I think it's just a failure of imagination on the part of the organizers (who probably came through a specialized competitive track themselves) ... and that's something parents can help change. For instance, the Developmental stream at my dd's gymnastics club grew out of requests by a handful of parents who asked for exactly that. It started as an offshoot of two Rec classes where there were kids who wanted more but didn't want the competitive stream, and has grown into a robust middle way that covers a complete range of ages and a wide variety of levels. And, the way volleyball works at my kids' school: it's so simple, and yet most team-sport coaches have probably never even thought of that as a possibility. So I think parents who want non-competitive skills development opportunities for their kids should do some networking and educating and advocating for it. Just maybe they'll be able to help create opportunities that no one thought to create before, being stuck in this mindset that sports are about competing.

Miranda

Fillyjonk 07-06-2014 12:50 AM

" I think the same way towards music as well-- it shouldn't just be for the talented people to play and create and the rest to consume. It's something that should belong to everyone on some level because the benefits come not just from watching but from doing."

I so agree with this! Its really interesting to me how this seems to vary across instruments. I played the violin as a kid (Suzuki method), and I played pretty well at one point, but it was ridiculously competitive. My family had very little money when I was growing up and my mum has absolute horror stories of the other mother involved and the way they treated us. I am fairly sure that the mothers desperately pushing their 4 year olds with the violin had not actually read Shinichi Suzuki's awesome books! We had a pretty negative experience too when my kids started violin, it was Suzuki as a method of early hothousing which is just wrong, and actually quite sinister, and we took them out. Again-never spoke to a single parent on the Suzuki circuit who had read the books! Its a shame because used well, I am sure it could be a really amazing, highly unschooly method of teaching, and I've heard of brilliant, inspiring, teachers. This really is NOT an anti-Suzuki rant because I think his method is incredibly exciting-and we use elements of it, eg improvisation books which I think are Suzuki ones. (Miranda, do I recall you are a Suzuki teacher? Because I am sure you would be excellent.)

My kids, otoh, play brass and woodwind (and piano) and its just so much more relaxed. You cannot start brass or woodwind below a certain age really, which weeds out parents who are pushing early glory. Certain regions of the UK, ours included, have long traditions of brass banding, relating specifically to the now nearly defunct mining industry, and its a very down to earth instrument here with the music mostly hardcore crowd pleasers (though if I have to hear The Muppets theme again....).

I really don't like this idea that music and sport are elite pursuits for a few very talented people to do and the rest of us to watch, and I do personally think that the root of it is competition. I tend to think that as soon as you get a competitive element, it ceases to be about enjoyment and doing your best but about something else, about delaying enjoyment in order to win. Its so hard to say "I don't care about winning, I'll have fun,", and more than that, if you're in a competitive track as your only option, taking that attitude could quickly lead to losing your place I expect.

I think we seem to be lucky where we are. The council runs a great selection of fun classes right up to around age 13, and then has a gym induction program and several fitness classes aimed at teens. We have a range of pools, and we have skate parks and velodromes. The council itself explicitly emphasises having fun and learning to exercise (sorry thats badly phrased but ykwim) and there isn't much scope to compete anyway. The worst we get is a weekly medal at the football class but that's awarded for participation as much as achievement.

Obviously there are private martial arts classes, tennis/football/rugby classes, etc, and that's where the competition and so on is mainly coming in. But for those of us who just want their kids to love exercise, there are a lot of relaxed options.

crazyms 07-06-2014 01:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by moominmamma (Post 17724961)
My family has done similarly. We steered clear of karate and tae kwon do, and did aikido instead (non-competitive). We supported the kids in dropping out of soccer when it got too focused on games and standings. We turned down offers to join the competitive gymnastics stream. And we declined the invitation to the provincial (competitive) music festival. At least, we did all that prior to adolescence. After that we were okay with the occasional competitive activity or event.

Miranda

That's good to know! Martial arts or at least self-defense classes are one thing I really want each of my kids to get some experience in and they are interested in taking martial arts but I've stalled. As much as I want them to do it I don't want them struggling and pushing for the competitive aspect. I'll definitely check around for aikido in my area now because it sounds like a better fit for us! Thanks!


As for sports and activities we do them here but it's by interest. Both my older two did soccer last year and DD will be playing again this year because she LOVED it! DS not so much but he's hyped up about football since he's been practicing with his cousin so he's playing football this fall. DS will also be playing basketball again in the winter. If they enjoy it we continue if they don't we don't. I could care less about the competitive sports aspect but I do like for them to have activities, hobbies and interests and pursue them. If competitive sports are fun for them and a way to get access to something they want to do then fine. Other activities here this year will likely be tennis and golf since they've both requested these but these we'll do ourselves or with lessons. They aren't really competitive sports for youth here. We're also setting up a Spiral Scouts hearth so we can do scouting as a family and we'll be walking/hiking on local trails and biking as a family more. I want them to stay active but we pursue interests as we want to and change as needed or add new ones when the urge strikes. If they want to compete in something later on they can but I don't think training from an early age is the biggest factor in achieving that goal for each particular activity. If they've been active I feel they'll be fine with reaching their goals when they put forth the effort. Until then we'll have fun as a family, pursue their interests over the years and see where it leads us.

SweetSilver 07-06-2014 08:44 AM

Aikido is not universally non-competitive. There is a competitive branch of the art. Just on the off-off-off chance that your nearby dojo is one of these. :)

crazyms 07-07-2014 12:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SweetSilver (Post 17757946)
Aikido is not universally non-competitive. There is a competitive branch of the art. Just on the off-off-off chance that your nearby dojo is one of these. :)

Good to know! I don't know anything about the differences with them all. We're going to be waiting another year or so before starting though. I want the little one to be old enough so we can go as a family. I'll definitely be looking for the non-competitive versions though. Thanks!


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