To enroll or not to enroll? Five questions to help you decide
Updated: Aug 18
As the school year begins, are you having to make decisions on which extracurricular activities your kids should sign up for?
These are the five factors that help me make such decisions and I am delighted to share them with you.
1. Will adding this activity to our schedule be detrimental for our family's rhythm and wellbeing?
Family time is sacred and fleeting. The years pass way too quickly to spend our days running from one activity to another.
Take some time to really look at your days and weeks to create some boundaries around the number of activities you would like your child to participate in.
Some families I know do it by seasons: soccer in fall, dance in spring, etc.
I was the child who was running from one extracurricular activity to the next, eating and changing in the car. As grateful as I am for this privilege, my mental health struggled in college because I lacked the ability to realize when I needed to say no to certain things.
Create daily white spaces for your kids: time for stillness and boredom. These are human needs that are on the brink of becoming extinct. Teaching your kids how to say no to certain activities will give your children an essential gift - the courageous and mindful act of prioritizing their well being.
2. What is our motivation to sign up for this activity?
Our motivations for choosing an activity falls under one or more of these three categories:
FOMO (fear of missing out)
This past summer I really wanted my daughter to join a horseback riding camp, but she was stuck on learning how to sew with a sewing machine. The fact that I have never used a sewing machine in my life definitely made it hard for me to relate. This also made me realize that horseback riding was my passion and something I wished I learned when I was younger.
As I continued to push her to try horseback riding, I noticed some fear-based thoughts enter my mind space. Many of my friends had enrolled their children in horseback riding camps and I was afraid my daughter would be missing out on this experience if we didn't enroll as well. Well, fear alone is never a good reason to do anything, let alone pay hundreds of dollars for.
I decided to listen to my child's passion instead of trying to live vicariously through her or giving into unexamined fears. And it was an extraordinary experience to say the least. She was counting the hours till camp started each morning. She enjoyed the first week of sewing camp so much that she asked to do one more week. At the end of the summer, she had sewn her own pants, headband and dress.
3. Is this activity and business aligned with our family values?
We have certain values in our family that are non-negotiable and some that are flexible. Whenever deciding on an activity, we look into the culture of the business as well as the teaching style of teachers or coaches.
There are several studies proving the importance of adult role models and caregivers in our children's lives, especially during the first seven years of childhood.
So, be selective and know your non-negotiables.
I actually made a quick video to share our values at Amna Dance. Click here to watch now.
4. Is my child self-motivated to do this activity?
If my husband or I are constantly pushing our daughter to get ready for her activity while she is reluctant to go. We listen.
When she loves an activity, she gets up and gets ready even when she is tired. Such motivation is gold because it comes from within, and our job as parents is to honor their passions by listening and paying attention to them. How else will they learn to honor their own truths?
5. Is there another way my child can be exposed to this activity?
Set a realistic monthly budget for your chid's extracurricular activities, whether or not you have financial limitations. There are certain things that absolutely need to be taught by an expert and there are even more things that can be self-taught.
If you are capped out on your extracurriculars, consider creative ways to keep nurturing your kids' passions.
Here are some examples:
Art class can be deferred to next year. You can set up an art table at home for your child to explore their own unique and magical talents. Don't overthink this. Many famous artists like Claude Monet never received any formal artistic training.
Swimming classes can wait too. You can make it a point to swim with your child every Friday instead. Children are quick learners. Don't believe it? Test it out! ;)
Instead of piano lessons, buy a used keyboard and learn how to play together by watching YouTube tutorials.
Such experiences give your children important life lessons:
Gift of connection
Tool of self-led learning
Exponential power of co-creating
I personally love the idea of kids learning such skills without a grown-up's influence that may limit their creativity and imagination, especially during their younger years.
Phrases to help you get started:
We will make sure to try all the activities that are important to you. This Fall, we are going to focus on your top two. If you had to pick only two activities from our list, which two would you pick?
I understand your friend is enrolled in four activities this year. All families are different. We are only going to enroll in two.
You are bored? How wonderful! I love being bored.
How did you (activity) make you feel today?
What did you fail at? How can you turn that into win?
Is this (activity) still making your heart smile? Do you want to keep learning more or try something new next time?
Wow. Look at you! You learned how to (activity) on your own. If you really want to, you can learn how to do anything you want.