It feels good to be back in the swing-of-things, right? The world is returning to its post-pandemic state, and many of us parents are realizing how busy we actually were before the world closed down. In all the hustle and bustle, you may be having a hard time deciding what to prioritize in your busy schedule, and you are not alone!
Having to choose between academic support
and extracurricular activities feels unfair - we get it!
Kids need time to be kids and not have overloaded schedules. Socialization is also important, so group extracurriculars are great for that and teaching teamwork skills. Education is also crucial, and they are at school for 7-hours a day - and in theory that should be enough. When having to make scheduling choices, tutoring is not what most school-aged children would consider fun. Especially if it is a choice between that or martial arts...
Unfortunately for many students, and especially in this post-pandemic world, your child's seven hours at school are not enough, and they are most definitely not individualized for your child's specific needs.
How do I know if my child needs help?
We hear it a lot in our consultations with families, a parent saying they just "KNEW" something was off, but the school kept telling them to wait before getting additional help.
(Expert tip: Don't wait. Trust that gut, mama.)
Here are a couple tell-tale signs your child might need additional academic support:
Poor reading and spelling
Difficulty understanding what they read
Feeling like they are behind their peers
Shutting down in school or on homework assignments
Failing grades on independent assignments
How do you choose?
If you have established that your child might have some of the signs indicating they need some additional help, now you have to make the difficult choice of prioritizing tutoring along with all your family's other extracurricular activities.
Most often, you should choose intervention and academic support.
BUT... this does not mean that your child cannot participate in after school sports or activities. Although it may mean that they cannot participate in them with the same frequency as their peers.
When I was younger, I was a talented flute player. In middle school, all of my friends wanted to be on the volleyball team. Naturally, having a middle-school brain, I also wanted to join the volleyball team. The unfortunate reality was that my mother pulled a lot of strings to get me a time slot with the very best flute instructor within a 30-mile radius, and my lessons were on the same day as some weekly matches.
So what was the solution? I did not play in the Tuesday evening games because I had another obligation. And guess what - I still got to be on the team, and I lived through it. I am not a professional volleyball player or flute player to this day, but I did learn the importance of prioritizing.
If we are truly being honest with ourselves, isn't it important to teach our children that values are important, and values often require us to prioritize things that may not be as "fun," but are actually more important in the long run? Like, for example, improving their reading so that they have better comprehension across all subject areas?
Incentives for making it work
Reality is not lost on me that times have changed a bit since I was in middle school. Coaches are more strict and less flexible about missing practices or games, but I still believe this is worth an open discussion with them. Chances are, if they truly understand how imperative the need for academic support is, they will be happy to make exceptions. You could even incentivize them by offering to help the team in some other way.
Just as important, your child might also need some incentives to keep them motivated to prioritize their academic success over the other after-school activities. Here are some of our suggestions:
Attaching a goal with an end-date on to the tutoring (e.g. "If you raise your grade to a B by the end of the year, we can take a break from tutoring.").
Bribes... yup, you read that right. We are not above them, and if it works - it works.
Allowing your student to choose the day of the week they will be working with their tutor.
Communicating with your tutor to give them ideas of activities that your child enjoys so that they can build incentives and fun activities into their lessons.
We are so happy that our regular activities are resuming, and COVID restrictions are no longer holding us back from enjoying group activities. We also understand the struggle to fit everything in, especially if you have a family with multiple children.
You can use the decision of prioritizing academic support over extracurriculars as a way to teach your child about values and perseverance. If you have an open conversation with them about your thoughts, and invite them to also share theirs to come to an agreement, you might be very surprised what they contribute!