Extra Curricular

Becky Sappor

‘Your child must read for 400 hours a week at home as well as doing 49 hours of Mathletics and writing 3 essays’. I’m being slightly overzealous there but boy, there’s a lot to do in the extra curricular world in order to make sure your kids are up to par. Or at least that’s what it feels like. And it’s not just the extra curricular school things I’m struggling to keep up with, it’s those outside of school as well.

Forgive me for writing a post about school again but I’m pretty sure some of you are having the same thoughts as me at the moment so I really wanted to chat about extra curricular activities and how you fit everything in.

Let me set the scene for how Leo’s week looks. On a Monday he has after school club from which I collect him at about 5pm. On a Tuesday evening he plays football; a session that lasts an hour from 5 until 6. On a Wednesday he comes home at normal time. Thursday is a whole new ball game as of this week where he has after school sports club for an hour and then swimming (I will elaborate shortly) and then Friday is another ‘normal’ day.

So you see what with three nights of activities, we’re left with very little time to do all the school based extra curricular ‘stuff’. I try to read with him every day when he gets in from school, bar a Monday. That’s also going to change for a Thursday now as he won’t be getting in until 6 o’clock after swimming. I feel I should elaborate on what seems like a ridiculous day on a Thursday. He used to swim on a Wednesday but then moved up a group and the only class available to him didn’t start until 6 o’clock and he would be asleep in the car by the time we go there so I had to change that. I’ve obviously now moved it to a Thursday and had forgotten that I’d signed him up a few weeks ago to the after school sports club nd we found out this week he got a spot! Gah! Is that all going to be too much? I don’t know?

So I’m really left with Wednesday and Fridays or the weekend to be doing anything educational with him. Is that enough? How do you fit it all in? I’ve been considering putting a schedule together maybe so that I know on a Saturday morning we’ve written numbers 1-20 for example? How much is enough? And I really don’t want to remove his no educational activities. He LOVES his football class and for me swimming is a life skill I really want him to nail and he is making really good progress and I don’t want to interrupt that.

Do your littles do any extra curricular activities in the week? How do they cope with it all? Do you have a structure to ensure they’re learning at home as well as in the classroom or am I worrying too much about what we work on with him at home?

Becky loves her boys, her pooch and designing. She also loves chocolate digestives, probably a bit too much.
Follow Becky on instagram @becky.sappor

36 Comments. Leave new

Just wanted to say I love this post Becky! I can’t add anything useful as my little is only 15 months but I’m looking forward to reading other people’s comments and getting advice for the future x

PS I’m with you about biscuits! I’m endeavouring to replace with rice cakes…..yummy?!?! Not so much.

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Hopefully it will come in handy in a couple of years Sarah 🙂

Goodness knows how I’m going to cope without the biscuits! Crunching on a carrot stick isn’t going to have the same satisfaction is it 😉 x

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Totally not! But think how worthy we will feel. Love the yoga idea – I’ve persuaded my husband to do a yoga DVD with me instead of watch tv some evenings. We just need to get off our bums and open the DVD player now 😂

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Coming from an Early Years teacher, please don’t worry about writing numbers and ‘formal’ learning. Focus on experiences and conversations and opening up the big wide world to him. Trust me, that counts for a whole lot more. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it sounds like Leo is a very lucky boy. X

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This is so good to hear Carly! Thank you. And funnily enough it’s when we’re out and about that he seems to want to learn? Reading every poster he sees, telling me which numbers are on the speed signs etc 🙂 And he loves a good chin wag! Haha. Thank you again x

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That’s absolutely as it should be! And you do tend to find, particularly little boys, the more they are persuaded into ‘formal’ learning, the more they resist and end up just flatly refusing, leading to a stressful evening for everyone! X

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Carly, this is actually really reassuring.

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I’ll definitely be coming back in a couple of years to read all the wisdom. Sounds like fab advice from Carly.

Parenting a school age child sounds even more exhausting than having a toddler. They need to warn us about these things! x

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WARNING:RANT…

Extra curricular school work is a massive bugbear of mine, and Fern’s not even school age yet. I know I’m going to be THAT parent that teachers can’t abide. It’s not the teachers fault, they have a massive curriculum to deliver and there’s not enough time to fit it all in the school day so sure some of it will need to spill into extra curricular but as you’ve so perfectly demonstrates in your post Becky, there’s very little time for it outside of school hours too.

I believe strongly that reading to and with children is something we should strive to do daily. That is essential. And as Carly above says, the ‘learning’ we instigate with our children regarding numbers, writing and concepts should be experiential and conversational. But experiences and conversations are hard to formally record so difficult to result in ticked boxes. Listening to friends and family with primary-age children, they are all struggling under immense pressure to support their child producing large volumes of measurable work at home. It gives me the RAGE. Outside of school children should be resting, playing, sharing family experiences, not sitting st a table being forced to complete workbooks and produce evidence of their learning.

I know a big part of it is the well-intentioned endeavour to ensure ALL children are having learning experiences at home. The argument being were parents not to give a framework and requests for measurable evidence then many children may fall through the net and not benefit from any learning at home. But I can’t help but feel this one-size-fits-all approach which seems so efficient and simple is actually damaging.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this situation when I become a parent of a school aged child. I’m grateful Fern is already bookish and loves to sit quietly and puzzle through things. But I also know she is strongly resistant to being coerced into doing things she doesn’t want to. For example she loves to “write” squiggly lines and small precise letter-shaped marks but the moment she is encouraged to form a recognisable letter she senses she is being pushed beyond her capabilities against her will and resists. Violently. 🙄. This to me is evidence of a child learning at her own pace but also an age-appropriate pace. Which is something this government doesn’t seem to want to understand. And don’t even get me STARTED on testing. I feel my blood boiling at the mere though of it. FUME….

I hope your Thursday doesn’t turn out to be too crazy Becky!!

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Thanks so much for your comment as alway Philippa! I’m sure you aren’t going to be the only one who feels this way. I’m so similar in many ways and I know come those more balmy nights when he wants to be playing outside then that’s probably what I’m going to let him do because there is ALWAYS time for that. Luckily he seems to enjoy learning I’m just so conscious, as you’ve pointed out, of applying too much pressure! x

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Pip I am totally with you here and as always you’ve said it better than I would have.

Becky I think all of those lovely activities Leo does after school have immeasurable value and he’s a lucky boy to have the opportunity to do them. I think they are of equal importance to book learning. Children learn through play and experiences and I do believe that too much emphasis is put on academia and reaching targets when all children have their own skill sets and learn at their own pace. Don’t get me wrong I know “the three R’s” are important but I don’t think they are the be all and end all of a child’s learning.

Was lovely to hear from Carly above that even teachers agree that experiences are so important.

Don’t get me started on homework…

Good luck with the Thursdays! They sound exhausting!x

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All of this Philippa! Well said!!!

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A glimpse of the future. Thanks Becky, will be good to see responses. We’ve a way to go yet before school but even now, fitting in the good stuff around the necessary stuff is not easy.

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Interesting post! Always a tricky one with homework. I’m a Year One teacher and all I say is read, read , read! The best thing (in my opinion) is for your child to enjoy stories, talk about stories and hear stories. It doesn’t have to be your child doing all the work. Sometimes they can listen to you tell them a story in the car and tell you their favourite bit or they can speed read and find all of the other words for ‘said’ in the whole book. Just got think creatively. Teach them to count going up stairs, down stairs, to the car, in the car. You count and they try to spot a mistake. Every family is different so it’s impossible for homework to be prescriptive.

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Rebecca thank you so much for your comment! This is really great to hear. I think perhaps a part f the problem isn’t really fully understanding the expectation maybe? We’ve had no real communication from school as to what EXACTLY we should be doing so find ourselves just muddling through and that’s when I think it can becomes a bit daunting. Thanks you again for commenting x

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This is fab! Love these ideas x

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Hi Becky,
I have this exact conversation on repeat every couple of months with friends with similar aged kids. Half the time I come away feeling like I’m failing massively compared to the kids who are learning another language, taking a dance class and learning an instrument….it’s good to get some assurance that others are doing it at our pace.

My little boy is Leo’s age and doing the exact same activities as leo – he even just got a spot in the sports thing after school. I would love to take him to a martial arts class and something musical, but honestly don’t understand where I could possibly fit it in. For now I think I’m just going to keep things as they are and keep my fingers crossed I’m not accidentally ruining his life 😞

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I sometimes leave his classroom and think bloody hell… that kids has written 4 sentences in better handwriting than me?! But this morning when I dropped him off their task was to write a sentence with the word ‘into’ in it and he wrote ‘into the ciave (cave)’ and you know what, I thought that was chuffin’ brilliant! 🙂 So you’re right, it’s all about their own pace.

Re something musical… Leo asked us for a guitar for Christmas which is obviously yet another thing to think about but I feel more relaxed about it that I anticipated in that… he picks it up and he might strum it now and then, but whenever he does we talk about how many frets there are, what all the parts are called, the notes of the strings and then if he wants a lesson, we find the guy on YouTube and he does a bit of learning so it’s a real pressure off activity. I’d LOVE him to play guitar but as that’s very accessible to him now (and cheap at £22 – but very good quality) I feel like he can dip in and out when he wants for now?x

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Love this! We have a little guitar but for some reason it hadn’t occured to me there would be lessons on YouTube! Will be checking it out and feeling smug x

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Does anyone follow Claire @play.hooray on instagram? She’s been doing daily live stories at 10am and yesterdays was about teaching letters and numbers through play. Even though my son is only 2 it was really interesting.

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Thanks for the recommendation – this sounds like someone worth following!

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YES Suzy! I love her! So many brilliant ideas and she’s so personable isn’t she? really easy to watch 🙂

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Thanks for this Suzy, totally going to follow her!

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This is so interesting! I have all these ideas in my head about wanting S and P to do this or that bit actually they are exhausted from school already! I remember really resenting music lessons as a child as it didn’t come from me and I didn’t appreciate the benefits at all. Will my two feel the same about the stuff I want them to learn?

Carly’s advice is so so helpful. Thank goodness for the amazing teacher readers. And I’m with Phillipa- joy of reading together and jumping down steps counting is how to get a child to love to learn not endless worksheets and colouring in.

This time next year we will be finding out school places for S 😭 so all of this is roaring towards me…

Practically is there any way Leo could do football on a Saturday? Or Sunday it seems to be around here? Would that help or eat into family time?

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Ah Lucy! You just can’t believe how quickly that school search comes around can you?!

I have considered weekend but I really like him to have a lazy morning on a weekend because week mornings can get a bit frantic and most weekends we are visiting friends and family back home so I;m reluctant to sign him up for something that he might potentially miss more of than participate in? BUT having said that, I am going to review the Thursday’s in a coupe of weeks and see how he is and if I have to use a Saturday morning for swimming then so be it 🙂 Although when I asked about swimming availability for Saturdays the lady said there was only an 8:30 class! I’m definitely not keen on that. x

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As with many of the others above my little one isn’t at school age yet, and we are a while away from the time pressures of fitting it all in. But that is something I worry about for the future, as I remember how tough it was when I was in primary school and my parents were ferrying 3 of us to all our different classes and activities, fitting in not just the other extra-curricular work, but also getting a healthy-ish meal down us everyday and making us all feel like we had all the love and support and time from them. (I am increasingly in awe of how they managed).

I love the suggestions above for the out and about learning, and seizing opportunities. There are always things to count and read, and ask questions about.

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Oh Rebecca the juggling! I am dreading it when Tayo starts to do all these things as ell… However will I manage to fulfil both of their interests?! Gah! x

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I’m firmly on the fence here – I’m a teacher and a mama of a 3 year old who will be starting school in September. I do think that practising skills at home is really important (it’s not learning something new, it should be consolidating skills already taught in the classroom) as it enables children to universalise what they’re doing at school and utilise it in a variety of situations. It gives parents a chance to see what their child is doing at school and how they are progressing.

HOWEVER, sports groups, music classes, drama clubs etc are all brilliant environments for children to excel in other areas, and can provide invaluable opportunities to feel confident in doing new things, especially if they are struggling with some of the academic pressures. Ultimately we want our children to grow up to be skilled, happy, confident people, and while school contributes massively to that, it is not the ONLY source of stimulation for children’s development.

As regards homework, I agree with the others above that the most important thing you can do with children is read: to them, with them, aloud, at bedtime… Whenever and wherever! It has been proven so many times that reading and reading for pleasure has one of the biggest impacts on children’s educational abilities. BUT it’s also about spending quality time together, making it something special and not a chore.

Children know when they’re being coerced into learning, and ultimately, their days at school are full and long and they do need a break when they come home. But little games, conversations and experiences can all help support their learning and they may really enjoy “showing off” what they can do to their (very impressed) family!

Sorry for the essay! Got a bit carried away there! 😂 I’ll get off my soapbox now!

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Tallulah please don’t apologise! Your comment is perfect and will be setting lots of parents minds at ease. I think to practice skills at home rather than to learn new ones is a really good point to remember and one I’d not thought of. Thanks so much for your input x

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Loving all the comments, great ideas! Also not at this stage yet, but I will definitely bookmark this and come back to it, great post Becky. I’m already nervous with several friends telling me about the termly projects etc that need to be completed!!

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My little girl won’t start school until August, but I would like to echo others in saying that in my opinion reading and enjoying stories is the most important thing!!! I read an article the other day which said that one-third(!!) of UK children don’t own a single book which broke my heart!!!
A couple of things that we do – firstly, when our daughter is on the toilet (sorry for oversharing, but sometimes she can be there a while!!) she asks for a story ‘from our heads’ – I also now ask her to tell us a story – whilst reading is great and so important, it’s also children’s imaginations which need to be developed/encouraged – and I’m always so impressed with what she comes up with at the age of three! Related to this, another way to encourage imagination is to get a new book (as in one they haven’t read before – could be from the library) and ask them to tell you the story from the pictures.
The second thing I’m trying to do (and I got this idea from Play Hooray as mentioned above – love love love Claire’s ideas!!) is to try and let my daughter see me enjoying reading. Usually I read before bed, but she obviously doesn’t see this, so the last two weekends we have had a short period of reading time, where she has looked at a book by herself, and I have read my book – it hasn’t been long before she asks me to read to her, but I think it’s important for her to see that I choose to read in my leisure time!

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Oh yes amy I love that idea of letting them see you reading too! And to try and incorporate a reading half hour would be an amazing idea and a great way to unwind for all of us! Leo’s Dad is a huge reader… I’ve never known someone to be able to finish a book in the time he does so he would love this idea too! Thanks for sharing xx

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Love this post Becky – I’m relatively new to the world of school and extra curricular activities, but already feel overwhelmed. Nice to hear it’s not just me xx

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Hi Becky, google the affect homework has on learning and you’ll find a report that puts homework as low as 2%! Yes reading is extremely important and you should do that. A bedtime story is a must. However, if you’re little one is tired on a particular day, you can read to them or you can read every second page.

Did you know that you can opt out of homework too? Most teachers will agree with you that family time and clubs are way more important than completing 20 sums for example. Homework is usually too easy for the child or not differentiated for your child’s needs.

A child will benefit and learn more from you by helping to cook the family dinner instead of being forced to sit at a table to complete some tasks all by themselves.

I’ve seen some shocking examples of homework. Some children receive 100 sums, reading and spelling a night. At a young age, it’s best to learn through play. Spelling can be active!

You know your child. Do what’s best for them. You don’t have to follow a generic schedule if it’s not fitting in with your family life.

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Becky I love your posts about school, they are so useful and also reassuring to see how others are managing to navigate it all. It’s good to hear from teachers too, hats off to you, I don’t know how you manage the pressure. I’ve tried to be more relaxed about extra activities and not introduce too many too soon to avoid overwhelming us both. I feel somewhat in the minority though, and most of my friend’s children do lots more, a hang over from the baby group days perhaps? My sister-in-law has 2 children and between them they have activities everyday except Sunday, she is knackered! I guess I gave in to peer pressure (silly me) and signed my son up for football on a Saturday morning. He’s at after-school club until 5.30pm every day except Fridays so fitting things in has been difficult mid week. I do regret the loss of down time on Saturday mornings and it seems to be when he’s at his most exhausted and therefore grumpy, he does enjoy it but would probably prefer to be at home but I do like him to socialize with a wider group as he can be very shy and it’s been great for his confidence. I would like him to learn swimming as a life skill too but don’t know when to fit it in so just taking him myself for now.

The homework thing is beyond ridiculous for reception children and again I’m trying to lay off pressuring him, I’d got myself very stressed that he wouldn’t do his writing worksheets that get sent home every day. Lottie gave me some good advice about doing everyday writing activities e.g. shopping lists, letters to family and this has worked a treat. I’m extending this everyday practice to his reading too and pointing out and getting him to read phonics based words in our regular story books at bedtime rather than always labouring over biff, chip and flipping kipper! I’ve found switching his reading practice to bedtime has worked better than doing it when he gets in from school, he just wants to play with the toys he hasn’t seen all day 😁. So now he reads to me and then I read to him, much more relaxed and far less fraught than it was becoming.

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Oh I’m with tallulah in the fence here! The mum in me knows hard it is to fit in all in and how exhausted my son is after a day at school (even in Y1 I still pretty much write off thurs and fri evenings due to his exhaustion!!) But the teacher in me does see the benefits of certain bits of ‘homework’ at home!

I was nodding along vigorously with the issues of fitting it all in! I work 3 days a week and usually don’t get home until 6 where I try to ram a full day of parenting of 3 kids into an hour to try to acquiesce the ever present ‘mummy guilt!’ Add into the mix a husband who is rarely home before 7 and we often don’t sit down to do his reading or spellings until bedtime by which time he’s just too tired!!! We’ve tried to do things like spellings in the morning over breakfast but sometimes somethings just have to wait! He doesn’t get a huge amount of homework but I’m dreading sept when my daughter starts as well and I have to find time to listen to two of them read (and another in a few years!)! Throw in the extra curricular clubs and trying to do things like have friends over for tea each week and I often feel like I’m on an out of control merry go round of madness!!

I think the clubs are so important but can be extremely draining on your time and super inconvienient, especially if you have little ones who you have to drag along with you! I’ve found the best case scenario is clubs run by schools- not after school clubs for childcare but extra curricular ones! My son has done tennis and football, goes to them straight from school and we just have to pick him up a bit later. It doesn’t impact the others and means that meal times etc don’t get thrown out of routine!

With any learning at home, I try to keep it short and as fun as possible. The weekly spelling list became the bane of all our lives as George was extremely reluctant… we try to do things like writing on the window with felt tips or on the pavement with chalk to make it a bit less work! Basically anything writing related I have to try to trick him into but it often ends up being much a much more pleasant experience all round!!

Very reassuring to hear I’m not the only one feeling the pain of not enough hours in the day!!!!

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