For Parents

What’s so important about extra curricular activities?

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By Ishy Levy

6 months ago
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Keeping kids motivated during the pandemic can be a tricky business, but keeping them motivated as life returns to normal can be trickier still. Although we’re slowly but surely warming up for a summer of fresh air, sunshine, and socially-distanced outdoor meals (substantial or otherwise), some worries will be sure to persist going forward. How much have we missed? How much have our children missed? And what can I do about it? There’s no doubt that parents across the country will be asking themselves questions like these, and many more, as they face the changing times.

It can be tempting to give the most thought to how kids’ school lives changed during last year, when they were sent home from school. But, as every parent knows, no child’s life is limited to the four walls of a classroom or assembly hall. And it is arguably in this respect that they have been worst impacted.

Article
In 1999, schools in Singapore renamed extracurricular activities as co-curricular activities to send a clear message to students and their parents. The idea was to signal that pursuits which aren’t encouraged in a standard school curriculum, and as such can’t be called academic in a strict sense of the word, are of equal importance to a child’s education rather than being external to it. The message seems to have worked; only recently an article from New York’s Roosevelt Institute pointed out a direct link between the skills gained in co-curricular activities and a young person’s “drive” and creativity.

Returning to the UK, where our kids are gradually readjusting to the rigours of in-person teaching, it becomes clear that we have a lot to learn from this way of thinking. We certainly think of education in broader terms than we did, say, a few hundred years ago, but by and large extra- curricular activities have stayed exactly that, “extra”, kept perhaps too separate from kids’ traditional school lives. They are viewed, more often than not, as added bonuses. That said, the forever-increasing availability of clubs, teams, and societies has helped students from all backgrounds discover new hobbies and passions, and in the age of COVID-19 the internet has become one of the best and easiest ways to seek them out. Participation has become easier than ever, too: online courses like those offered by One2Ones can cater to a huge range of interests in a virtual forum, and so are stress-free to nd and attend.

But for the most part, the best assets a parent can use to broaden their kids’ horizons remain sorely underused. Here’s a brief outline of why the importance of extracurricular activities is not to be ignored, which ones might be the most suitable, and how to nd the best courses and activities on offer.


The why
Why all fuss? In many households, lockdown has meant kids have spent less time learning than when they might have been attending physical classes and lessons, and so it seems counter-intuitive to prioritise anything other than plain, old- fashioned schoolwork. But for the parents who really want to see their kids thrive academically, the fun and freedom of extra-curricular activities are an absolute must.

Amongst other things, encouraging kids to balance homework or schoolwork with extracurricular commitments is a great way to foster organisational skills – the most unteachable of talents. This isn’t to say that your kids’ timetables should be full to bursting! Downtime is essential, and for young people especially so.

But giving students the freedom to manage their own time outside of school is hugely valuable, and incorporating extracurricular activities of any kind into their week will naturally allow for this. The common assumption is that when left entirely to their own schedule, kids’ day- to-day plans will look like a parent’s worst nightmare: video games before breakfast, homework out the window, and bedtime well after midnight.

But headteachers like Joanna Conway thinks that most parents would be pleasantly surprised by their kids’ willingness to commit to and make time for the activities they enjoy. They’re likely to be happier and healthier too: the recognitionand fulfilment that comes from taking part in the performative arts or sports, for example, is an excellent boost to any kid’s self-confidence.

Not every child wants to be a performer, of course. But this need not be a dampener on parents’ willingness to find activities for them to get involved in. A case study conducted by Hong Kong University found that kids who took part in regular extra- curricular activities, and did so consistently over the weeks and months of their school term, were better equipped to explore and enjoy unpacking more complex ideas in their studies. This sort of enthusiasm can’t be measured by test scores or homework, but it can certainly be fostered by involvement in extra-curricular activities.

This is true of the “quieter” activities as well as the group-focussed ones, such as:
  • Chess
  • Quiz clubs
  • Writing for fun, such as creative writing
  • Getting involved in the visual arts, whether painting, drawing, etc.
  • Language-learning

Classes offered in an online format can also feel much more accessible than in-person classes and activities, which is why the free courses offered by groups like One2Ones are a great way for learners of all ages to seek out new interests and passions for themselves in a social setting.


The How
How can parents find the right activities for their kids? Depending on what their children are most interested in, the variety of options can feel either overwhelming or woefully lacking. Thankfully, doing the research is now easier than ever!

For parents who have a good understanding of their kids’ interests and which activities might suit them best, the hardest part is behind.

For those who are more unsure, the way forward will often be looking online, asking friends, or enlisting the help of schools, teachers, and tutors for advice. The loudest voice however – and this will rarely be a problem – should be the kid’s! Every child’s interests are different, and getting them to open up about the kind of activities is key. (One2Ones, for example, offers classes with friendly and enthusiastic tutors who are always ready to tailor classes to suit their learners’ interests and needs.)

Most importantly, every parent should remember that no child’s passions should go ignored: no matter how weird and wonderful, we all should all be giving ourselves something to look forward to as the Summer beckons.


Sources

Chan, Y.-K. (2016). Investigating the relationship among extracurricular activities, learning approach and academic outcomes: A case study. Active Learning in Higher Education, 223-233.

Ferguson, D. (2020, March 23). ‘Let your kids get bored’: emergency advice from teachers on schooling at home. Retrieved from theguardian.com: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/mar/23/let-your-kids-get-bored-emergency-advice-from-teachers-on-schooling-at-home

Keat, W. C., Sukumar, D., Tun, H. M., Low, S., Bandara, T., & Goh, Z. A. (2021, March 7). Fostering Entrepreneurship from a Young Age. Retrieved from theoctant.org: https://theoctant.org/edition/issue/allposts/opinion/fostering-entrepreneurship-from-a-young-age/

Sim, C. (n.d.). Co-curricular activities in schools. Retrieved from eresources.nlb.gov.sg: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2014-11-08_124430.html

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