It can be so tempting for parents to try a different extracurricular activity each term, and expose their children to as many different things as possible. Of course, you want them to have every opportunity.
The problem is that by changing to a new activity each term your child is back at the starting blocks every nine weeks or so. This new learning and new set of expectations in each program can be exhausting for little people – and adults too. I can’t imagine doing a French class one term, Japanese the next, pottery the one after and then figure skating – all in one year! Also, I’m not sure how much I would learn after one term.
We want our children to be capable of deep learning, and to create a strong connection with their education. To facilitate this deep learning our children need to feel secure enough to develop a deep connection with their teachers. If they know that they will be moved to another class after a term, they won’t feel comfortable to create those strong ties.
One of the most important life skills that is developed through extracurricular activities is a growth mindset, or ‘grit’, where people are able to stick with a difficult task and work on it until they achieve mastery. Angela Duckworth wrote a great book called Grit, which looks at the mountain of research backing up this idea that extracurricular activities, such as a music class, help create ‘grit’ from an early age:
“There’s no other experience in the lives of young people that reliably provides this combination of challenge and intrinsic motivation. The bottom line of this research is this: School’s hard, but for many kids it’s not interesting. Texting your friends is interesting, but it’s not hard.”
But of course, music can be both.
Duckworth goes on to write: “kids who spend more than a year in extracurriculars are significantly more likely to graduate from college and, as young adults, to volunteer in their communities. The hours per week kids devote to extracurriculars also predict having a job (as opposed to being unemployed as a young adult) and earning more money, but only for kids who participate in activities for two years rather than one.”
Pretty compelling stuff! But why stick with music education? Well, it is one of the few activities which lights up the whole brain (watch this TED video for further information), it helps deepen the bond between parent and child, it teaches important life skills such as sharing, turn taking and accepting help from an adult. A strong sense of rhythm and beat (which takes time to develop) supports literacy and numeracy. Music classes also develop fine and gross motor skills, and help children to self-settle. Music is a meaningful skill that they can develop throughout their lives. Even if they don’t become a professional musician, playing music as an amateur brings joy and is a great way to relax after work and meet new people.
So choose one thing and stick to it for a few years – who knows what amazing skills they will develop!