Successful School-year Strategies 3: Managing Academics and Activities

The new school year brings with it a host of activities and programs which may interest your child.  Deciding which activities will be part of your schedule, actually scheduling them, and making sure the activities don’t obstruct academic pursuits can be very challenging.  With some open discussion and setting clear expectations you can avoid many of the potholes along the way.

Deciding which activities to devote your time to will depend largely on the time commitment, your child’s commitment, and the cost of participation.  How many activities your child will participate in will depend on the same things, but you must also consider the impact a full schedule will have on grades.  Moderation is the key.

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Managing Academic and Activities

Once you have decided on the activities, you must tackle a schedule.  The schedule should be posted on a calendar in a place that is clear for all to see and updated as soon as new information becomes available.  You may wish to assign a different color marker for each family member to keep things straight. 

At least once a week the schedule should be reviewed.  As a best practice, I recommend a family “business” meeting.  This needn’t be any longer than 10-15 minutes.  It could be slightly longer depending on the number of family members and what you intend to include in your “agenda”.  At our house this is typically held during or just after Sunday breakfast and includes the calendar, the upcoming week at home, and homework/school assignments for the upcoming week.

It goes without saying that academia must be the main focus.  Make it very clear that participation in extra-curricular activities is dependent on continued success in school.  Set clear expectations and do not waiver in your conviction.  This may come with some struggles, but if the activity is important enough to your child, your expectations will be met… or exceeded.

Here are a few more things to consider:

Check in with your kids occasionally to measure how they are handling everything.  Make sure they are not feeling overwhelmed.  Having an open line of communication without being too “parenty” will show you care.

It is easy to show your enthusiasm for home runs or perfect cheer routines, but be sure to show the same enthusiasm for good grades.

Let your kid decide which activity gets the nod.  As parents, our job is to open the door of opportunity, but not to push anyone through it.

Take interest in what your kids are doing.  You don’t have to be an expert, but being excited about success will be much easier if you know what is involved in achieving it.

Encourage any activity in which your child shows interest that includes tryouts or auditions.  This is an excellent way to show the value of hard work, preparation, and perhaps even overcoming defeat.

Use extra-curricular activities as a springboard for life lesson conversations about topics like good sportsmanship, fairness, teamwork, and self-esteem.

Be very clear about the cost of activities.  It is important for your child to understand the family commitment that must be made both in time and money to support them.  Do not, however, make them feel guilty for participating.

Re-evaluate activities after each grading period.  This is a good time to decide whether or not your child will continue in the activity based on their desire, costs, scheduling, etc.  Don’t be afraid to drop an activity for a period.  It can always be resumed at a later time.

Be certain that family time is part of your schedule… real family time, not just the conversation in the car on the way to the game.