As a college instructor, my students teach me things on a daily basis (unfortunately, I worry, much more than I teach them). Some of it is fantastic, entertaining, and even inspiring. More often though, it is frustrating and sometimes downright shocking. In teaching dual credit (high school students who are taking college courses from me for credit), I find a recurring theme that unfortunately falls into the frustrating category: students and parents have forgotten what extracurricular means.
Several times a semester I receive an email from one of my students telling me that they are behind (and usually failing) in my class because they had extracurricular activities that required their attention. They say this as if I am a crazypants for even expecting them to do academic work when there were tournaments and festivals to attend. It takes every ounce of self-control for me not to point out the “extra” part of extracurricular. Part of the problem is that many of these kids participate in four or five activities, meaning that one week they are gone from my class for UIL, the next golf.
Let me say before I go any further that I am certainly not saying students shouldn’t have outside activities. They absolutely should. But when those activities overwhelm the education aspect of the school experience, I think it’s gone too far. And it’s not just in high school; when I hear other mothers discuss all the things their kids are involved in, I feel that wash of epic parenting fail. Should my six-year-old daughter be doing music, swimming, softball, art, gymnastics, and dance? Is it my job as her mother to enlist her in a buffet of activities so she will be well-rounded?
Maybe I should, but for now, I’m not going to. She takes dance once a week and with trying to acclimate to life as a Kindergartener, that seems like enough. This summer perhaps she can try some mini camps of various activities to get a feel for them; however, I’m not in any rush to fill up her schedule. Certainly kids should try things and discover their interests and talents, but like adults, they must learn to balance and prioritize.
I have to remind myself of this all the time–there are choices that must be made and those choices have consequences, for good or bad. There are certainly times when I feel out of balance with myself and the world, such as when I’ve let my work take over every last ounce of my brain or I pretend there aren’t emails to be answered and lessons to be planned. Even more often, I let the me who is not mother/wife/teacher fall through the cracks. Last night I came home from a beating of a day with sore muscles and a headache, feeling like I was drowning in obligations from both sides. In the back of mind I had a red light flashing “B IS FOR BLOG,” knowing that there was a good chance I’d space on this post and end up throwing up some last minute flake-out (B is for Boring). And then I remembered why I started Generation Cake almost three years ago–I wanted a place to find balance between all the roles, the curriculars and extracurriculars, the parts of myself that made me, well, me. Sometimes I just need a reminder.