Gym-tastic? Or not?!

The other day was a very icy morning, so when I went out to the car and saw the frozen windscreen, I told the children we’d have to wait a bit before we could leave. Eventually, we got in the car but as I got onto the road, I realised that although the ice had melted, the windscreen itself was completed misted and I couldn’t see, so I told the children I needed to pull over.

At this point, my 6 year old son was flabbergasted:

“Mummy! Don’t stop! Sometimes things are difficult but you can’t just give up. You need to PERSEVERE!”

My children attend a Church of England primary school, and each month has a different Christian value as a focus throughout school. This month it was perseverance! After I’d made it clear I wasn’t ‘giving up’ but rather waiting for a chance to be safer, it was all ok!

However, perseverance is a funny one isn’t it? There are many things that frankly, children don’t have a choice over – their entire school days are made up of a curriculum they have to follow, and for many, home life operates with military precision to squeeze everything in that needs to be done – children and adults alike!

Clubs are one decision that my children have always made for themselves. Each term, they choose which school club (if any) they would like to do, and they have regular clubs outside of school too – both do gymnastics, my daughter goes to Brownies and my son is on the waiting list for Beavers, but I have been told that he’s unlikely to get a place before he’s too old to go! They’ve also had ballet, football and swimming but it’s difficult to know when is the right time to let them stop doing an activity – when it’s not ‘giving up’ but rather deciding something isn’t for you, because let’s face it, these after school activities aren’t kind to the bank balance either!

The swimming was the first activity to go – I was adamant that my children would have swimming lessons because I didn’t want them to fear the water, but I also wanted them to know its dangers and how to be safe, however they were so unenthused by their lessons that after a year of begging to stop, I gave in and now they go to public swimming sessions weekly instead – the enjoyment they get from these sessions has completely transformed the way they are around water – it was definitely the right decision, but only because they still swim regularly. My son on the other hand decided to stop going to football, because he didn’t like the fact that some of the other children kept trying to get the ball off him (we had a chat about some of the basics of the game)!

At the moment, Brownies and gymnastics are still happening, but I think the days are numbered with gymnastics as they don’t seem quite so enthusiastic about it as they were, it’s just such a tricky thing as we’re trying to encourage these activities as hobbies, yet when the children aren’t having fun, can they still be hobbies? Sometimes I think the answer can be yes, as my daughter is proof of…

If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you’ll know that in my spare time I’m a primary school teacher, music specialist and I also teach privately at home. A couple of years ago, my daughter, aged only 6 at the time said after I finished teaching one night:

“Okay Mummy, I’ve been listening to you teaching through the walls and I think I know the songs now. When can I do my Grade 1?!”

I’ve never put any pressure on the children to choose music lessons just because it’s what I do, and any of you who have seen the amount of work the children need to put into getting ready for an exam will understand the concerns I had when my 6 year old daughter announced she wanted to have a go! It’s not just about performing the pieces accurately, the children also get assessed on their ability to read traditional music notation at sight and answer questions about music that they hear. The ABSRM exams are also very traditional and formal in their approach.

Nevertheless, my daughter was determined that she wanted a go, so I helped her prepare. She loved the performing but we had many tears over the sight singing until one day it clicked. Thankfully this day was literally the day before the exam, but I think both of us could have quite happily given up at times – in fact I went up to bed and found this once:

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When the results came out, not only had she passed her exam with Distinction, age 7, she’d only gone and got the highest mark I’d ever seen, not just in my career as a music teacher, but also in all the years I’d been taking those exams, and was subsequently invited to take part in the ABRSM High Achievers Concert! I’m so glad we persevered, and since then she’s got Grade 2 Distinction under her belt, and is getting ready to do Grade 3 next term!

 

So should we be pushing our children to carry on, or, if it’s supposedly a hobby, should they be able to make the choice not to if it isn’t something they enjoy, to give them the chance to find their niche? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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