Beyond the classroom

Selecting after-school and extracurricular activities

If you cast your mind back to your own primary and secondary school years, what will you enjoy remembering most from those days of youth? Chances are it will be the time you were involved in activities outside your nine-to-four studies.

Competing with your friends and rivals on the sports field. Working on the yearbook. Trading cool hacks in the computer club. Jamming (badly) with the band. Rehearsing the school play. Learning to dance. Putting together an art show. Sharing ideas in the political clubs….

Perhaps this will help you realize that for your child, extracurricular activities can form just as a large a part of the education experience as academic studies in the classroom.

Some of these activities are available through your child’s school and some are available through reputable, independent organizations in your community.

In fact, there are overall many more available today than in your own day.

Your biggest problem may be deciding which of the many choices to sign up for.

The question is complicated by the fact that you may also want to consider additional academic aid after school. Tutoring has become a major industry with businesses set up to give your student help in everything from curriculum studies — including math, sciences and languages — to university preparation.

Know your child

Before making any decisions, spend some time sounding out your child.

What kinds of things are they interested in that aren’t offered already at school? Is there something new they would be intrigued to investigate? What excites them?

Is there a club or team at school that seems to have an interesting time that your child would like to be part of — either for the activity itself or to socialize with the other members?

But it’s not just about having fun or going with what appeals to the child’s passing fancy.

Look to your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

You might go with their strengths, Your child is most likely going to enjoy working at an activity that they know they can succeed at. You may already know whether your child is gifted at sports, in art, in music, in drama, at dance, or playing with computers — which can give you a direction for the kind of extracurricular activity that could build on this native talent.

If your child has a natural bent toward socializing with peers, he or she may most enjoy activities that incorporate a lot of interaction with others.

If your child seems to have excessive amounts of physical energy, this can be exploited in athletic endeavours, such as track, football,  soccer or martial arts

Weaknesses

Or, a more well-rounded strategy may be to try to help your child in areas of weakness. Should he or she student spend all free hours working in the areas where they already thrive? Wouldn’t you rather they learn to face new challenges and discover new talents that have lain latent within.

For example, your child may lack confidence in public appearances and so would never think of joining a drama society. However, many famous actors are actually shy in person but discovered they could take on new personalities on stage. Even if the jump to public performance is too scary at the moment, your child could find a place in one of the many positions backstage and experience the excitement of live drama in that capacity.

But you don’t want to force your child into an area in which no interest is evinced. And you don’t want to sign your child up for hours of work that only stress them out.

You just want to sound your child out and encourage a consideration of new options.

It may be useful for you and your child to discuss a considered activity with the instructor or coach who leads the activity, whether it is at the school or in a separate organization. They may have a better idea how well your child will fit into the program and be able to make suggestions for improvements to be sought.

But what if you make a mistake? As the semester progresses, check with your child to see how well they are doing. If they’re not enjoying what they’re doing, the time is probably counter-productive.

You need not continue with an extracurricular activity that your child is coming to hate or losing sleep over.

You can always drop it — and start the search for a more productive pastime.

You have plenty of options.

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