The perils of overbooked kids and the parents who fund them

Aug 31, 2011

Soccer, piano, art, karate, tutoring – the to-do list for our kids can go on and on. Many parents are convinced upping the extracurricular ante correlates with academic success, but does it? Some experts say no, it does not. And in this faltering economy, a downsizing of outside programs for their children might help parents cut back on a lot of expenses. As competition increases among lower levels of education, any parent can attest to the mounting pressure. Kumon – an afterschool tutoring program – recently expanded its offerings of math and reading courses to include preschoolers, at $200 to $300 per month. The program, called Junior Kumon, has proven popular in New York. And that’s just one example of fast-tracking children to success. But researchers say overbooking a child’s schedule can deplete parents of emotional energy, and economist Steven D. Levitt surmises that children aren’t any happier “being rushed from one event to the other.” Notwithstanding, parents might still feel guilty for not providing their kids with every opportunity. “The reality is that failing to give your child ballet lessons at age 6 probably has not deprived her of a career as a prima ballerina,” writes Alina Tugend of the New York Times. And researchers wonder if parents who sign their kids up for a plethora of extracurricular activities are inflicting more harm than good on their children. Would you feel like less of a parent if you downsized your child’s extracurricular activity? Would it be a relief to learn that an abundance of pricey extracurriculars doesn’t correlate with success? Or would you hedge your bets by loading up your child’s afterschool schedule regardless?

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