As I set goals with my kids at the end of last year, I grappled with the issue of enrichment classes. Up till then, our kids’ main form of ‘enrichment’ had been fresh air, free play and family-time! But my husband and I recognised that we needed help coaching the boys in their Mother Tongue, and our older child was asking for piano lessons. While we wanted to give our kids every opportunity to supplement their learning, we needed to first set ground rules for our family, or risk getting swept up in too many extra classes. We settled on our Do’s and Don’ts, and hope this thought process will help you too.
When to Say Yes…
Tuition is just one form of enrichment, and we decided that we would consider it if a child was truly struggling with a subject. Learning with and coaching our children have been a great source of joy in parenting. While there have been hair-tearing moments and tears, it has mostly been a time to affirm and encourage our kids and teach them to be independent learners, as they seek to understand a subject.
However when it came to our Mother Tongue, we realised the additional help was necessary, beyond what we did at home. We engaged a tuition teacher, and shared our expectations that we wanted our kids to enjoy the language and be confident enough to use it regularly.
She also worked to empower us as parents, providing simple language activities to do with the kids daily, to keep the momentum going. This especially helped us from using tuition as a crutch and depending solely on it.
We also say ‘yes’ to enrichment when our kids show consistent interest in a particular area. For our elder son, this meant he finally got to have piano lessons after a year of championing for it. We came to an agreement with our sons that if they decided to try something new, they would stick with it for at least a year before quitting; with this, our children are more inclined to really think their decisions through. For this reason, our younger son decided against flute and accordion lessons! As parents, we can rest assured that his interest is not a fleeting one and that our investment in an instrument and lessons will not be a wasted one.
And When to Say No.
It can be tempting to fully outsource our children’s learning and development to others, particularly when we consider them experts (I am certainly no piano or coding instructor!) However, my husband and I have learnt to take a step back from the situation and consider if we really need to send them for a class, or can put in the effort ourselves.
For example, we stopped the pricy soccer training, and my husband gathers some of the neighbourhood kids for a game instead. This has meant sacrificing time and energy at the end of a long work day, but the pay-off of having fun with the kids, teaching them skills, and watching their interest develop has been priceless.
We’ve also learnt to say ‘no’ to enrichment classes when we are motivated by a fear of losing out. As a parent, my first instinct is to give them every advantage so they perform well in school, and cultivate their abilities in music and art, among others. However, this can take a toll on the kids, stressing them out when schedules are too full or they are pushed to perform beyond their natural ability level. It certainly can add financial strain on parents too! So, we intentionally hold back from too many additional activities, leaving plenty of time for quality rest and relaxation.
Juggling it All
Managing school, enrichment classes and other aspects of daily family life is certainly an art form –one I have yet to perfect. We try our best to schedule family-time first, before committing to extra activities, especially ongoing ones such as an enrichment or tuition lessons. We also make time for family traditions, and have a regular ‘flow’ to our weekend schedules, which our children enjoy and find comfort in, such as Friday night dinners with the grandparents, and Saturday morning cartoons after a hearty breakfast.
Every family is unique, and as you consider the needs of your children, carefully think through your enrichment options, and choose what will enhance your lives as a family, rather than detract from it.
Ultimately, our children do not need to be stuffed with more information; rather, they need more affirmation, encouragement – this will give them the confidence to put in their best effort to become resilient, confident adults.
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