Today's busy kid

As many of you know by now, I'm a pianist.  I teach, I play, I accompany, I collaborate.  Pretty much any chance I get to play the piano, I do it.  And I'm beyond blessed to be able to do all of this for my job.  I guess that's my little disclaimer here.

No, that's not me.  But it is a very obvious example of how we shouldn't push perfection on our little kids (look at that hand position!).  But who cares!!  Hopefully she's having fun.

I recently came across these two articles--first, "Are we overbooking our kids?" from the Pioneer Woman's homeschooling blog; second, and the original article from the NYTimes that is referenced in the Pioneer Woman piece, "Family Happiness and the Overbooked Child".  Now you may be wondering why I, a twenty-something childless non-homeschooled woman, would be interested in these articles.

It's because I am the extra-curricular activity that is being warned against.

So of course I had to garner a response.

First, let me give a brief explanation of what the article is saying:  by enrolling our children in too many extracurricular activities, we are in some ways troubling them as opposed to helping them discover an untouched passion or talent or helping them get ahead in life.  We are overbooking our children and therefore, the parents of the overbooked children, causing unneeded stress for both child and parent.  In the end, too many extracurricular activities may actually be a detriment as opposed to a luxury.

So maybe you are expecting me to defend all the many extracurricular activities, especially music, and explain how I think music can change the world and the lives of every child in the world and how I think every child should be exposed to music and that it can benefit their lives in a real way.

Well, you're right.  Kind of.

I do believe that music is a very powerful thing and can bring meaning to so many lives around the world.  However, I do not believe that every child will feel the same way as I do.  And I do not believe that by forcing your child to play music, you are doing them a service.

As a piano teacher, I have experienced many different types of students--the 4 year old who's parents just want to give it a shot and see what it's all about; the 7 year old who may act as though he is not interested in the piano, but who is engulfed in it while he is playing; the 13 year old who has a million things on his plate but still sees the value in playing the piano; the 22 year old who always wanted to learn how to play the piano and is just now getting around to it; the 35 year old who is wanting to start a new hobby.  My students run the gamut.  And I'll say this too--not all of my students seem to adore the piano.  And I'm okay with that.

What I try to encourage in my students is not to perfect the art of piano performance.  While I definitely see the benefit of classical training and the glorious mysteries of great academic composers, I also understand that not every kid, or every parent, is going to be into that.  And the truth of the matter is that music is so much more than Beethoven and Bach.  It encompasses so many styles and so many experiences that if my students experience just one or two of all of them, it is worth it.

That being said, I agree with the articles about our overbooked children for the most part.  While I do think that too many extracurricular activities can be stressful and in some way detrimental to our children, I also think that by giving them maybe one or two tops can encourage their open-mindedness and adventurousness, while also helping to boost self-esteem and give them hope for things fun and personal.

When I was growing up, I played the piano and that was pretty much it.  I remember floating through gymnastics for a few years, then some random years of half-assed volleyball and basketball.  But looking back, my life was not changed by those extra activities that I experienced.  However, it was changed by the piano and had I not experienced that alone, my life would have turned out very different.

So a message from your neighborhood piano teacher:  if your kid asks for it, encourage them to experience it.  If your kid doesn't ask for it but you think it will be beneficial to try it out, go for it.  If your kid says she hates it, try to open up new ways of learning it and see if that helps.  If your kid still says he hates it, move on.  Not everyone is a musician and not everyone is a football star.  But everyone does have the ability to do things that they probably don't know about until they have someone that comes along to encourage it a little bit.  And sometimes that's all it takes.  And other times it causes nothing but stress.

When the stress comes along, move on.  Life is too short to be filling up your hours with extracurricular activities you don't enjoy.

Psychology Today

All that being said, I think I'll go tinker around with Chopin...

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