Posted tagged ‘what should kids do’

How learning x teaches y – or does it?

April 28, 2017

Things you learn, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from doing a dance or football class, often come with quite a price for parents. Here are a few non-school activities which may be “sold” to you as having sweeping life benefits. But do they? Words by Nicola Baird

Here’s a throwback pic to some of the families in our babysitting circle back at a 2009 get-together. The youngest in the circle are now 8 years old and the oldest 18+ so what extra-curricular skills were most useful for them?

I was recently sent a Press Release from a dance wear provider, Dancewear Central (to be honest I don’t know much about dance so I’m quoting them) which: “has uncovered that there’s so much more to dance classes than meets the eye! They’ve spoken to dance experts across the country to discover the biggest benefits of dancing, which include:

  1. Patience
  2. Confidence
  3. The way the body works
  4. Improved social skills
  5. Friendship
  6. A healthy body

There’s so much that children learn when attending classes which make writing endless cheques, taxiing to and from lessons several times a week, buying shoes and leotards, and sewing costumes so much more worthwhile!”

This isn’t spring flower power in Wales, this was a maths lesson about daffodil debts!

It’s intriguing the skills that advocates pick out for their sport or craft. I’m a huge fan of teaching children to ride horses (Yes it’s expensive, that aside). I think the skills picked up by learning to ride include:

  1. Resilience
  2. Empathy
  3. Hard work.

But if I force myself to be honest I also think that those three traits – resilience, empathy and hard work – are life skills that I wanted to pass to my own children. I also like kindness but even horse-crazy me has to admit that riding a horse doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be kind.

I’ve recently interviewed an acting coach, who mostly teachers children, who reckoned acting classes are always popular with parents because they give kids:

  1. Confidence – even the kids who aren’t into the jazz hands spotlight.
  2. Friendship – doing the shows together
  3. Good communication – the ability to say what you want and for people to understand what you are saying.

Being able to control a horse and enjoy riding tends to push away all other problems. Riders photographed in 2015.

What do we want from our children?
Thinking again of those dancers I understand that patience has a place, but I don’t rate it as highly on the grid of useful life skills (relying instead on distraction, perhaps also learnt from horses?). Parents know that confidence is highly likely to be given a boost by dance or acting classes, which will surely be handy in the long run, but I have no idea why anyone would care much about knowing “the way the body works”. But clearly plenty of parents do – the dance classes I tried to send my toddlers to were over-subscribed. Once we moved up the waiting list and secured a place I was shocked to find that every tot was in a frothy tutu and ballet shoes. It was a big lesson for me – everyone takes their profession very seriously, and expects the kids doing it to do so as well.

First loves
So it was not much of a surprise that when I did a web search about what life lessons can be learnt from extra-curricular classes I discovered everyone makes big claims for what might well be called their first love – ballet, ponies, balls etc. On Lifehack, see http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/11-things-about-life-every-football-fan-knows-true.html the top three lessons for an American Footballer are:

  1. You need talent and heart to win anything
  2. It can all end in an instant
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try again

Dancing, equestrianism and American football (although it could just as easily be football) have some similarities – you need to be fit and are at risk of injury. But in terms of what you are learning as a life skill they are very different skills. And once you’ve learnt those skills who makes the most interesting dinner guest or most effective entrepreneur or parent?

Over to you?
So what sport or skill (eg, art, craft, needlework, orienterring) do you love which you think passes on vital life skills? If you have teenage children what do you think has been the most essential thing they’ve learnt to do, and you don’t regret spending a penny on? There are no right or wrong answers for this by the way – it’s clear we all have such very different hopes and dreams. Looking forward to finding out your answers.

Have a good May Day.


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