Why I Don't Like After School Clubs

After school and extra curricular clubs are a hard balance: they are a great opportunity for children to learn new skills and make friends, but the price for that is losing a chunk of your weekend or spending time after school being a taxi service. And that’s without the financial cost of the classes themselves and any necessary kit, but these aren’t even the main reasons I dislike extra curricular clubs …


A 3 year old putting on ballet shoes for dance class
My children love going to clubs, I'm not so keen

Why I Don’t Like Activity Clubs


"I've changed my mind"

When I was on maternity leave with my first child we did lots of classes: Baby Sensory, Baby Yoga, Stay and Play, Aquababies. I’m not sure how much she got out of these classes, but they definitely helped to ease me into motherhood. The first proper class I took M too when she was at the age to appreciate it was dance class. 

My daughter was at nursery full time and I was on maternity leave ready to have my second child so I took the opportunity to pick M up from nursery early and take her to the hour long lesson where she got to do ballet, tap and “groovy moves”. We bought the clothes and went for a few months until one day she refused to go in. There was no warning; she walked out of nursery happily enough, but refused to get out of the car when parked up outside the dance class. She wouldn’t even go in with me to tell the teachers she was leaving. I had to email later, giving the months notice which some how ended up with me having to pay for 6 weeks of classes we didn’t attend. 

A few years later when at school M convinced us she wanted to learn an instrument and we settled on guitar as something that wasn’t too loud and didn’t cost too much. Luckily the classes were in school hours so of little inconvenience to us, but could we get her to practice at home? No. She occasionally decided she wanted to get the guitar out when I was trying to get her sister to sleep, but generally she didn’t practice. So we refused to pay for any more classes.

It took a while for me to be prepared to sign her up for anything else. 


Sibling Baggage

Eventually I was persuaded to let my eldest start Karate. The classes were at school and because she could go to the wrap around care beforehand  I wouldn’t need to ferry her to and from the classes, just pick her up afterwards. When her sister started at the school this year we didn’t feel the wrap around care was worth paying for so I now have my crazy Wednesday afternoons where we go back and forth a million times thanks to Little following in her sister’s footsteps and starting Karate too.

The first class starts 45 minutes after school pick up, enough time to go home, get changed and eat something quickly. That class lasts 45 minutes and then there is a 10 minute break before my eldest’s class which lasts an hour. We live about a 5 minutes drive from the school (or half an hours walk) but traffic and parking can be difficult so I have to leave plenty of time. 

On some Wednesday afternoons my son and I have 6 separate car journeys as well as up to 30 minutes waiting time in total to collect my daughters or drop them off. On my own I could entertain myself on my phone, but my son doesn't like to be repeatedly made to do things which don't benefit him. 

Some days he doesn’t want to get in the car, other days he refuses to recognise queues or social distancing and charges around causing chaos. I don’t blame him. His big sister didn't like to be dragged around either. 

For a while my eldest went to swimming lessons. She started by doing a week’s crash course which was excellent and they taught my daughter how swim in just a week (the breathing and strokes weren’t perfect, but she could move across the water safely on her own allowing her to enjoy going to the swimming pool and not to need floats). She then wanted to start weekly classes which we tried, but it involved waiting by the side of a swimming pool with her sister, then a toddler, who would love nothing better than to jump straight in the water.  After this battle we had a drive home where at least one child would fall asleep and later refuse to go to bed. 


Zoom classes

Even if we had stuck with swimming classes I imagine we wouldn’t have been able to go much in the last year. A year ago my eldest daughter was doing Karate and my younger daughter did junior Karate and dance class. When the schools closed Karate and dance offered the normal sessions online. If I thought it was a challenge before then attempting to get my daughters off the iPad to stand in the right place in front of a screen where the picture was fuzzy and sound often cut out to do their classes was another league. Add in a 1 year old trying to jump on them or join in and you wont be surprised that I told the teachers we wouldn’t be getting involved until physical classes returned.

Returning to dance classes meant Little needed a new uniform, tap and ballet shoes because she had to go up a class, but she hadn’t really missed out on much. Lots of children dedicatedly did Karate classes each week online though and when M finally returned she discovered that many of her more committed friends had progressed a belt or two. M has gone from nearly being ready to take her next grading (for green belt) to struggling to remember the moves. I have no doubt she will quickly get back to where she was, but she doesn’t like it when people are better than her and she tends to deal with it by giving up. 


Small Talk

Before they started school my daughters dance classes were in the middle of the day. With both of them I would stand around with the other parents (normally mum’s) chatting before the class and we would often go for a coffee during it. There was a nice social aspect and it was fairly easy to get involved. 

Now parents are socially distanced while waiting to drop their children off or pick them up which doesn’t encourage conversations. The requirement to wear face masks at the school provides an additional barrier to starting conversations too because you can’t smile at each other and have to actually talk. As someone who doesn’t find casual social interactions easy this means I haven’t really spoken to anyone new since classes returned. 

And yet despite all this I take my children to classes. 

I encourage them to go on the weeks they are reluctant. I make packed dinners and bribe my son to go on yet another car journey. 

Why? 

Because I know my daughters enjoy the classes when they are there. I love seeing how happy they are when they get awards, new grades or even stickers. I was so proud when my eldest won two medals in her first Karate competition and loved seeing my youngest daughter perform on the stage. I am grateful that not being in an office job allows me the flexibility to take them to classes and I know that they will regret it if they stop going: my eldest still complains she doesn’t get to go to dance, having long forgotten it was HER that quit in the first place.

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