Every parent wants their child to get excited about extracurricular activities that complement their interests, keeping academics as a priority of course. It's important to ensure a balance is struck between studies and playtime, which is certainly not an easy task to accomplish. We spoke with heads of top schools to gain a professional insight into how parents can help their children juggle studies and nonacademic activities.
Involve your child in making a schedule
Plan ahead and be creative. It is advised to involve your child when planning a schedule for them. Figure out, how you can fit in extracurricular activities without impacting on homework requirements. Planning ahead keeps things structured, helps one focus on outcomes, and gives children clear expectations. Michael Baty, Head of Primary at Al Raha Gradens, Abu Dhabi says “talk about and encourage good time management skills. Show interest and concern, providing help only when needed. Praise them when they are showing good self-management skills, independence and completing tasks in a timely manner.”
You cannot preach to your kids something that you don’t practice yourself. Parents should be mindful of their own screen time and spend time with children. The family that plays together stays together. You can use sports or other fun activities as an incentive after homework is finished.
Keep close contact with your child
Keep close contact with your child so you can be sure they are thriving in their environment. Ask them how they feel and what they're enjoying (and not enjoying). By talking with your child, you’ll get a sense of whether they feel in control, or feel comfortable with the pace of studies or other pursuits.
Marco Longmore, Headmaster at Brighton College Dubai says “of course, good parenting gives opportunities to explore interests and for some disciplines that requires commitment to practice and lessons to see real progress. Equally if your child does not show motivation, interest and an enthusiasm for the activity that you are undoubtedly paying handsomely for, they are probably telling you something you should listen to. Remember, the beach and the park are free and just as fun and educational!”
Johnathan Maxwell Letcher, Principal of American School of Creative Science Al Barsha says “a child’s and parent’s day can be hectic and reactive. To ensure balance, I would offer two options; the first option is to set a number of activities that you want to do with your child per week and stick to it. The second option is to ensure there is a certain number of hours of enriching activities with your child per day or per week that you stick with.”
Be Picky about Extracurricular Activities
Do not join every club or organisation your school or community offers. Choose sensibly among those you think your child is interested in. It is best to pick no more than three or four activities and focus on them.
Developing Time Management skills
Time management plays a key role in any balancing act. It is all about setting priorities and sticking to them. It involves learning how to separate essential and not so important tasks. Following a set routine consistently helps achieve end goals. Parents need to contribute towards providing the right environment to enhance the overall learning experience of their children.
Avoiding procrastination at an early stage
A famous adage says, tomorrow never comes. Procrastination kills productivity and your precious time. You won't be able to meet goals and can potentially add undue stress when constantly deferring tasks with tight deadlines. It also leads to making impaired decisions.
Graeme Scott, Director at Fairgreen International School says, “When students are older, procrastination can be an issue. A question I often ask students is, "If you worked your hardest with no distractions, how long would it take you to complete this task?" Whatever the response is, I give them that amount of time...plus 5-10 minutes because we all need some down time. This frees up time for them to be involved in other activities. Some of the most successful and fulfilled students I've had in schools are those that work hard, but also play sport or music, and are involved in service activities.”
A child develops is best when parents and schools work together closely. Which is why we spoke to a few of the top schools to understand how best a balance between studies and extracurricular activities at school premises can be achieved.
Jim Stearns, Deputy Principal at Victoria International School in Sharjah says “VISS regularly reviews the amount of homework set, to ensure that tasks are relevant and not just 'busy work'. We teach revision strategies and publish calendars of assessments to help students plan and sheaf the work load. We use a range of assessments, but just testing, as we believe it is important for children to be children. We provide an extensive clubs and activities schedule for our students as we know that they add so much to a child's development and wellbeing. Our wellbeing team monitor students who we are concerned about and liaise with home to provide what support we can.”
Johnathan Maxwell Letcher of American School of Creative Science says “research indicated that homework shows no benefit for elementary students. And our parents, as well as so many in the UAE, cherish family time and wish to spend their time doing family activities and not be burdening them with assignments that may or may not have any impact. Our solution has been to require reading for at least 20 minutes a day, students explain their learning of the day to their parents, and have optional homework if a parent requires it. We also believe in the need to develop the whole child with activities that inspire the mind and the body. We have in place and plans to offer foreign languages, karate, chess club, debate club, etc to give an opportunity to the student to develop physical and intellectual skills. To enhance this even further, we invite parents to participate and conduct these extracurricular activities.”