lesson plans

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I’ve become inundated with catalogs -catalogs from the YMCA and surrounding towns. My e-mail is piling high with private classes offerings – circus classes, theater classes, co-op classes, and science and art classes.

 

I have tons of newsletters from museums, nature centers, churches, libraries, arboretums, children’s museums that are all screaming at me to SIGN UP FOR OUR CLASSES!!!!!

I have to admit; I get a little giddy as I flip through those pages or scan through those e-mails. Everything looks like so- much- fun!

But, when I get that little bit of insanity out of my system, I start to look at my already full calendar for the next month. Most if it’s not stuff we have to do or have made any commitments about, but it’s all fun stuff, too.

Can there really be such a thing as too much fun stuff?

I’m starting to think so.

Because while I like having weeks where we go to a lot of new places and do a lot of things, I hate making a lot of commitments that span several months time. When it seems like most of my time is planned out for me for the next three to six months, even if they were choices made entirely by me, I get a little panicky.

We need some room in our family just to lie around in pajamas for a few days if we need to. We need time just to hang out and take days off with absolutely no to do list of anything already planned before we wake up in the morning. Those days give me just as much of a high as the days when we hiking up a mountain or walk into a new-to-us museum.

So how am I trying to curb my excitement over classes and workshops that sound like so much fun and that my kids would really enjoy doing?

I sat down and made this little checklist for myself to use when I’m thinking about making a commitment for myself or the kids that will last more than a month:

1. Is this something my kids have already expressed an interest in?

I like to introduce my kids to new things, but before they go to an outside class, I like to make sure they’ve had some type of exposure or experience with what they are going to do first. I can read off a description of the class or sport to them and they might say they’d like to do it, but if they don’t have some experience with it already, they tend to not really care that much about it once we get there.

2. Will this class provide them with a way to learn a new skill or knowledge that I cannot provide for them myself at home?

This is just a personal opinion, but I would not pay for my two or three year old to go to art or music classes. I wouldn’t pay for them to go to a general science class at a recreation center. I just don’t want to pay for something or commit to going somewhere for a long period of time when we can do the same exact thing at home.

My  daughter Alexa did take ballet at age 3 because she asked to go to class about it for six months before we signed her up, and it was the only way she could dance in a recital with other kids. My kids do take swimming lessons because that’s the only way they can swim in the winter time, and I’m not that great of a swimmer to teach them myself.

They both really want to take gymnastics this fall. I’m really torn, though.  They’ve been asking for awhile now. They want to learn to use the gymnastic equipment and learn how to do flips, something I can’t provide for them at home. But it’s so expensive! We have decided to try out a local gymnastic school because you can sign up for six weeks at a time. But they also want to continue with swimming, so the costs are starting to add up.

3. Will the benefits of the classes outweigh the monetary cost involved?

If the class is going to cost money, than I want to make sure that I feel the kids are really getting something valuable for their time. If my kids wanted to play an instrument and were getting quite good at it, than the cost of private lessons would be worth it for me. Or if I had an 8 or 9 year old who had loved art for years and was getting pretty good at it, than private or semi-private professional lessons would be worth it to me, too.

4. Will the benefits of the classes outweigh the time cost involved?

One or two class with a long time commitment for each child can work out ok, although if you have four or more kids, I can see even that playing havoc on your family time. But when it gets beyond that, I think it’s important to do some real soul searching about adding more to your schedule.

The more our schedule fills up with things we’re absolutely committed to do, the less spontaneous free time we have and time just to hang out with each other. And then, at least in my family, everyone starts getting stressed out and short with each other.

We’re in a situation like that right now. We’ve said yes to the swim and gymnastic lessons. But I only have two kids and they can both take those classes at the same time, so I’m thinking that will be ok. Our church is also starting an AWANAs club. It’s sort of like Girl or Boy scouts, but it is affiliated with a church and is Bible based. The kids said they would really like to go this fall, and it would be every Wednesday evening. So now we’ll have three time commitments each week.

5. Is the class something the whole family can be involved in?

The one thing I like about AWANA’s, though, is that I can be a helper in the kids’ class. Every other Wednesday evening my husband Steve practices guitar for the worship team, so we can’t be all together as a family most Wednesday evenings anyway. And the nights Steve is off, he can come to the club, too. It’s something we can all have fun with.

6. Is this something I mostly think will be fun, or do the kids really want to do it, too?

I have to be really careful with this one. I tend to do a really good job of getting the kids excited about something. Maybe I’m a natural salesperson, but I can make most things I really enjoy sound pretty fun to the kids. But sometimes I can tell that they are just going along with something because they like to see me get excited about it. I want them to really want to do the activity, too, not just to please me.

7. Is this the best way for my kids to learn this skill or knowledge?

You might not agree with me, but I think that in most cases, classes aren’t the best way to learn things. I loved taking a lot of classes when I was younger, but I’ve now discovered that I liked them because they were pretty predictable. In other words, they were easy and I didn’t have to expend that much effort or thought on my own.

The teacher handed out assignments and I did them. I was a great memorizer, so it always looked like I learned really well. But I felt fake inside, because a few weeks after the class ended, I pretty much forgot a lot of it, or at least I never really came away with a true knowledge of the subject.

So, I want to make sure that the classes the kids take are as personalized as they can be. For us, swim class works good for teaching my kids swimming because the classes have only 4-5 kids in each section, and each child is working on their own individual skill set ; they don’t have to wait for any other child to keep up with them before moving on to learning the next skill. And they don’t have to worry about being behind anyone either.

8. Will this class help my kids reach a personal goal?

Both my kids want to go snorkeling and scuba diving someday. Becoming better swimmers will help them reach that goal. Both kids also want to learn to use the gymnastic equipment because they’d like to be able to do certain tricks and routines for their own pleasure. Someday they might want to take a class at a community college that will help them obtain a certificate for work they might want to do. Or they might want to take a class because it’s taught by a very well-known teacher they might want to have a more personal relationship with.

When you have a very clear, well-thought out reason for wanting to take a class, I think that makes all the difference.

Photo Credit: PNASH

How do you keep yourself in check when you start thinking about signing your kids up for activities?

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