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We live in a world where we are spoiled for choice with extra-curricular offerings—be it soccer club practice after school with games on the weekend, coding classes online, or preparing for a piano recital (all on top of the regular homework, quiz, and project cycle at school) and ensuring your child is growing yet not overwhelmed is a concern many parents’ harbor.
We have already discussed choosing extra-curriculars in the last blog entry, and hopefully you have come to an agreement upon which ones your son/daughter wants to tackle for this school term—be it picking up new ones, continuing old ones, or ideally, a mixture of the two. Now let’s see how to manage them:
Without organization, one can very easily fall into the trap of missing appointments, lessons, etc and that will hinder meaningful progress from being made in extra-curriculars, on top of the stress of having to reschedule classes in a busy schedule. As such, having a central location where your child keeps track of their schedule is vital. For some, a leather Moleskine daily diary works great. Others may prefer to use a daily notepad, Google calendar, etc.
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Whatever has consistency and easy access is what works best. While your child may want to use a digital calendar on their phone, I would also suggest having a central family calendar somewhere in the house to note events, so the entire household knows. When I was in grade 8, I once had a horseback riding lesson at the same time my brother had a saxophone recital on the other side of town and with only one family car you can imagine how it went down. A central family calendar can prevent such incidents from occurring as everyone can communicate.
Practically speaking, it might be impossible to have a perfect set schedule of an hour of extra curriculars, a snack at home, two hours of studying, family dinner, some downtime, and then bedtime preparations daily. Perhaps that dress rehearsal for the school musical caused your child to come home at 8pm on Monday night and they have a huge math test on Thursday – yikes! As such, I would strongly advise looking at the number of hours spent on extra-curriculars each week and the number of hours studying. If your child needs about two hours a night for his/her current academics and cannot manage more than 30 minutes on a particular night (or even no studying at all in a worst-case-scenario), I urge trying to make up the missing time elsewhere within the same week as further procrastination is going to affect him/her negatively in time for end of term exams.
Another tactic is to dedicate “hard” days and “easy” days in terms of studying that balance out the load of extra-curriculars, where more studying is done on the days of less extra-curriculars and vice-versa. Looking at weekends also plays in – some students want a true day off without any studying so they might enjoy Sunday with friends and family, but do the bulk of the homework on Saturday and have a detailed “catch up and revise” day. Overall, having a perfect daily routine would be ideal but is not necessarily realistic, so try to find a reasonable average over the course of a week.
Studies have shown teenagers need 9 ¼ hours of sleep so figure out the time they wake up and work your way backwards to figure out at what time they should go to bed—I would suggest roughly 10 hours before wake-up time as not everyone falls asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow (that is generally a sign of exhaustion and sleep deprivation too!). From there, see at what time they finish school and how many hours are left until bedtime. For example, if there are 6 hours, you may want to divide them up between 30 minutes of travel, an hour and a half of studying, an hour of extra curriculars, an hour of time for eating, and an hour for chores and getting ready for bed. Please note this varies from child to child as everyone has individual needs. As discussed above, different days may also place different demands on your son or daughter.
Going back to the central family calendar—from dad’s business trips to your son’s piano recital, ensure that there is also time for a healthy social life. While your child gets plenty of interaction with others at school and in certain extra-curriculars, do your best to set aside time for a family meal as often as possible. Every night at dinner might not be realistic for your household (I grew up with a dad who was a pilot so you can imagine the scheduling!) but having the time to catch up and support each other will help make your children feel encouraged and loved which goes a long way in these critical years of their development.
Additionally, try to encourage your children to hang out with friends each week for something that is purely fun. Hours of collaborative video gaming each day are not going to look impressive on a college application, but at the same time, kids do need time to socialize and a fun Friday night out at the movies, playing board games at somebody’s house, etc. could be the recharge their batteries need to tackle that science project due Tuesday morning!
I hope these tips help you and your child make balanced decisions in the realm of schoolwork and extra-curriculars. Always remember—you own your schedule; your schedule does not own you. Make the adjustments necessary as the recipe for success is neither that of idleness nor of burnout cookies but one of balance.
Your friendly neighborhood Rise blogger,
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