I wanted them to enjoy learning about things outside of school- dance classes, swimming coaching, rugby, piano and so on. Was I successful? Well yes, they are all great adults. Did these lessons help? Yes...and no!
Now I have the privilege of looking back, I can see that the classes that were the most successful were the ones they themselves selected to attend. The ones I wanted them to go to because I thought it would be good for them, in spite of protests, were the ones that added stress and pressure and really, in retrospect, should have been dropped.
Funnily enough, I think most of the stress and pressure was on me as I 'encouraged' my child to perform. I certainly felt my blood pressure rise when they did not and over the years, I have laughingly told my friends that Saturday morning sports were the most stressful part of my entire week! My son is the only child I know who could turn rugby into an individual sport!
After school activities seem to be a way of life for many of our students and some attend a staggering array of activities. I remember one student who attended no less than 17 after school classes each week. The China Daily USA (23.08.13) recently carried an article about a 'switch' between the attitude of American and Chinese parents. The US parents want more pressure on their children to succeed in school , the Chinese want less. The article suggests that the "intense focus on test taking" in China and "the long hours of test preparation were a bit too much". Parents in the US however, have now taken heed of years of low test scores and under performing schools and want improvement.
So what is the answer? It is, of course, balance. We should encourage our children to follow their passions, to have high expectations (that are reasonable and achievable) of achievement, to encourage a diligent work ethic and so on. They do not need the stress and pressure- and nor do parents, of trying to excel or perform or even participate in an area that they just do not have a passion for.
As for my children, the dance lessons paid off and one of my daughters ended up being a champion salsa dancer. My son still has absolutely no interest in rugby or cricket, but did end up being in national championships in a team sport that he chose to participate in. None of them continue to play a musical instrument, but all love music. Most importantly, they are all balanced, responsible and happy adults, so I guess as parents, we did succeed!
Below are some photos from last year, of our student participating in ...and enjoying after school sports.