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Finding Enough Time

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Recently a parent asked me to prioritize school, family, sports, and other activities. I hesitated as I carefully crafted my reply. I’ve been asked the question hundreds of times over my many years in education. I know what’s coming. “There are many things,” I announce, “that are important in our children’s lives. Some of them may be as important as education. But none of them should be more important.” I pause as I wait for the first brave soul to utter the infamous “but.” “He’s a gifted athlete and very active. He needs sports.” I agree; lots of kids do. “I like the foundations she’s getting in her youth group.” Me too. “Belonging to Scouts has developed their leadership skills.” Absolutely! I don’t disagree with any of that. I think kids should be participating in activities both in school and out. However, they should not be participating to the detriment of their performance in school. Kids will get excited about many things and often want to participate in them all. As parents, we have to decide how much time our kids can devote to extracurricular activities. As adults we make choice every day about how to use our time. These choices often mean that we have to give something up in order to do something else. A report for work may mean we miss the first half of the soccer game. We need to teach our children about priorities. One family I know limits extracurricular activities to 1 per season – Fall, Winter, Spring. If they are playing soccer, they aren’t in the school play, for instance. They tell the kids this at the beginning of the school year and don’t waver in their decision. They do allow youth group once a week, but homework has to be finished first. I am not going to bore you with the statistics about how college grads earn significantly higher salaries than high school graduates; high school graduates earn more than drop-outs. I won’t make you hear again the numbers showing that college graduates have an easier time finding work or changing jobs in economies like the one we’ve experienced for the last 4 years. The percentage of high school star athletes who go one to professional sports is miniscule. The biggest job in our kids’ lives from ages 4-18 is to learn all they can in school and learn it well. One of our most important jobs is to help them. So, I’ll say it again. Lots of things are as important as school, but nothing should be more important.