Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Challenge -- it's a good thing

Long time Gifted Exchange readers know I write about time management for lots of places. As I've looked at the data and research, I've been fascinated to see that, for all adults claim to be overworked, most people aren't. The average number of hours worked per year has fallen by about 200 hours since 1950 (for Americans). Some of sociologist John Robinson's studies, looking at "extreme" work weeks, have found that people claiming 75-hour workweeks are often overestimating by 25 hours or so.

So I'm always a bit skeptical of stories about how American school children are overworked, or under too much pressure, too. Most children don't have that much homework, and most aren't in that many activities either. Looking back on much of my own school career, I know I could have worked much harder than I did, and I would have been a lot happier if I'd had to.

So I enjoyed reading Jay Mathews column on how "Kids Can Learn the Rewards of Pressure." After writing about the usual worry of extra-curriculars crowding out academics, Mathews heard from a number of parents pointing out that, guess what? Kids can handle a lot. Indeed, kids who learn the time management skills and discipline required to balance school work with extra-curricular activities sometimes do better in school. There's less time to get in trouble, and they have to be more organized.

As with adults, I think it's important to look at total numbers. A week has 168 hours. If children are in school or on the bus around 35 hours per week, and have 10 hours of homework per week (more than most), and sleep 10 hours per night (which my kids barely do!) that leaves 53 hours for other things. That's enough time to devote a few hours to a handful of activities as well. And since activities can sometimes stretch the brain and challenge kids in ways that school doesn't, it's nice to have this mix.

What activities do your kids devote time to? Does it help or hurt their school work?


nicoleandmaggie said...

Our limiting factor is us not wanting to drive everywhere (or to hire someone to drive everywhere). So we have swimming during the summer and piano year-round and the school's after school care during the year. I figure our kids are already upper-middle-class so they don't need all the advantages and opportunities my mom made sure we had.

Anonymous said...

It really kind of depends.

Nother Barb said...

The real pressure comes when your schoolwork, activities, and family life collide. Sports orientation night, (required if you want to be on the team next year) is also the final play rehearsal, big test the next day (maybe it's the test that determines which math class you'll be in next year), social studies project due that you did with a partner who's been out sick, last religious ed class before confirmation, and oh yeah, it's Mom's birthday and you just got back from a weekend out of state at older sibling's college graduation. Yeah this stuff happens. It's when you are not in control of your time that the pressure crushes you. You can manage your way around some of it, but not all of it. These are the nights of tears. Two days later all is well (usually) but it's utter misery until then.

Anonymous said...

My older son has specialized into one sport. He participates year round on a club team and starting this year will participate on the school team during their season. The two coaches happen to coordinate so that he can participate in both programs. I am hoping that he can handle the academics too. Not the content but the homework demands.

Younger son is in elementary school and has 4 activities (two sports and two other activities) and would like to add either guitar or piano after the season of one sport ends. Sounds like too much, but it works for him.