01 September 2008

Extra! Extra!: What Comes After Acedemia?

I spent a fair amount of time researching after-school activities for my homeschoolers. To begin with, I checked the homeschooling laws in my state which dictate that as long as the student complies with the requirements, then they may attend the publicly funded extracurriculars at the nearest public school.

Step two, I checked with the school district. Surprisingly, the elementary grades do not offer any extracurriculars, but instead outsource that job to the city Parks and Recreation department. Translated: you have to pay handsomely. Parks and Rec offers an enriched after-school babysitting program for the youngsters on both full and short days, takes your kid to field trips on teacher workdays, provides a full weeks' activities during winter break. No program is divided by grade, ability, or activity.

Next, I skipped into the city rec programs, which is really a catalog of private venues across the valley. The city does some sports programs, but so does the college. The kids' gymnastics gym also offers dance, the ice arena has kids programs, and there is a variety of swimming lessons at the city pool. A couple of individuals offer some martial training. As the kids get older, they can add fencing, golf, and dog obedience to the list.

When I was in grade school, the music teachers had after-school choirs and bands and music lessons. Every gym teacher and most academic teachers were athletic coaches and interscholastic sports could be started as early as first grade. And this for a teeny tiny portion of the price of the Parks and Recreation programs. I'm willing to bet more kids were in sports then. I have to admit, dog obedience and yoga are pretty cool options, though.

I begin to wonder, what we do with the youth of this community: where do they go? What clubs are they in? And the original question: what is available? Besides, of course, a new twist on the day-care.

The competitive spirit, it appears, is being streamlined in our elementary schools. Why is it we all despise "spirit dad" and his loud mouth at Little League or Powder Puff games but we all drool over the National Spelling Bee and the hushed tension? As an academic in linguistic and literary studies, I still cannot understand why our schools push our youth to comprehend esoteric vocabulary and obscure, borrowed syllabic constructions but shy away from cheering them on at the pool or on the field.

It's a matter of what one can accomplish in a classroom. A teacher cannot run a basketball practice in addition to the required readings, and there just isn't the monetary support to do it after school lets out. On the other hand, those borrowed syllabic constructions--you know, like -ology and pseudo- --can be taught in the classroom with no eyebrows raised.

It's up to the parents to do all the cheering, no easier illustrated than the event today: "Harder!" "Keep going!" "Get up!" "Finish third!" "First place!" "Keep it up!" "You can do it!" and multiple other exclamation points rising above a din of clapping and an unmistakable whir. And that was just for the four-year old. What loud, parent-driven, child-competen' event is this? Oh, it's just the weekend BMX meet. I can tell from all the quick-pop tents, the trailers, the bikes, helmets, and bottled water that this is no cheap organization to run or be a part of, but somebody has to give our kids the benefit of a hard-earned trophy. Power to the parents! Now, where can she sign up?

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