A few unrelated things this week have got me mulling over this post that's been going round in my head for a while. I've never quite got around to posting it before now as I could never quite work out what exactly I was trying to articulate.
Before I go rambling on, I feel it's probably useful to post a remind of my general schedule: Mon-Wed I work 8.30 to 5pm, and the kids are in breakfast and after-school club from around 8am, until I pick them up just after 5. Thursdays and Fridays I am lucky enough to work a shorter day - 9 till 3, which allows me to take them to and fetch them from school.
Up until now, the kids have not been involved in the round of endless classes and hobbies that other children seem to participate in - no ballet, gymnastics, swimming, tae-kwon-do, piano lessons etc etc. We simply haven't had enough time, and it has seemed unfair to push them to what is effectively another childcare setting on a Thursday or Friday afternoon when I don't see them much beyond bath and bedtime the rest of the week.
The exception to this has been Rainbows, which one or both of them have doing on a Wednesday evening for just over a year now (mainly, I confess, down to the fact that a friend put their names down a couple of years ago when she did the same for her own daughter!). DD1 has now moved on to Brownies on a Thursday, and expressed a wish to do both gymnastics at some point and participate in the school choir, which takes place after school on a Tuesday, a day she would normally be picked up by the after-school club. After some soul-searching and logistical juggling involving my parents offering to fetch her from school and take her to after-school club, I have (perhaps somewhat reluctantly) agreed. I may yet come to regret it.
So far, so good. It will probably appease some of that working parent guilt that comes with "Oh my God, I am not letting my children reach their full potential", and hopefully they will get enjoyment out of it. However, with Year 3 comes the thorny subject of more homework. (My feelings on this summed up quite nicely by Mostly Yummy Mummy in her post on how much she hates homework.) I can't help worrying that our non-planned time together will become even more scarce.
We recently visited some good friends of ours, whose eldest son is in a private school. From what I understand, it prides itself on academically high standards (he had to pass a sort of entrance exam to go from the infant to the junior school, for example), and rumours abound of children quietly "disappearing" to other schools if they don't quite make the grade.
As well as fencing (!), drama, chess club etc, they are also paying for their son (8) to have private tuition in Maths. He follows something called "Kumon", which apparently is very popular in his class, with most children doing at least one or both of Maths or English to ensure they keep up. (I can't help thinking that it is a bit of a vicious circle...) I am certainly not judging them at all - they have invested a lot in him going to that school, so it is in their interests to ensure he stays there, and I suspect I would probably do the same in their situation, despite my initial reaction of horror. We all want what's best for our children.
I can't help worrying that, whether it is school pressure, time-poor working parents, or time take up by too many hobbies, children these days don't have enough time to just be children. If all their hours are mapped out for them, when will they learn to be independent and explore on their own?