Extramurals: Being selective isn't deprivation


Primary school is a whole new bag of tricks for children and parents alike, and that’s particularly true when it comes to extra-mural activities.

From pre-school to primary

At pre-school or grade R level, extra-mural activities are mostly add-on activities to the normal curriculum. But at primary school level, this changes substantially, and often has an impact on how children are selected for school sports teams.

Too much?

We had an interesting experience at our first primary school, and it’s a situation I’m still undecided on – for the first three years when my daughter was in primary school, all extra-murals were compulsory.

That’s great, because it exposes children to all the sporting activities the school has on offer, enabling them to choose their favourite ones to continue into their senior primary years. 

It did, however, have a negative effect on her academic performance. Once when I tried to intervene, a sports coach told me I was impeding my daughter’s holistic development. 

I’m pretty certain that a stressed-out, tearful child who only gets home after dark and just wants time to study for that week’s test, isn’t exactly developing at a holistic level. 

That year, her academic performance was far below her norm and, in my mom heart, I’ve called it the worst year of our lives. I’m glad it’s over. 

Read: How much do extramurals cost?

On the contrary

Now that she’s in her senior primary phase, the choice is hers. Both sport and cultural activities are offered to her, and it’s been marvellous to see how she progresses in her chosen activities. 

Her current school emphasises the importance of extramurals, but does not make them compulsory. In fact, they only recommend that she participates in at least one sport and one cultural activity per term. 

That’s a better-balanced perspective in my view, and it’s moved her towards a more positive and well-balanced daily routine. Importantly, she still has time to study and complete her homework projects with ease, and we’re also able to eat dinner as a family every evening. 

Sometimes she even gets to relax, read a book and play. 

Also read: Sun Valley High school scraps homework

Getting the balance right

I get it – I really, really do. As parents, we want to offer our children the opportunity to experience as much as possible. But as our family experience showed us in rather jarring ways, sometimes too many extramural activities can have a detrimental effect on a child.

So while we may sign our kids up for every activity possible, it’s important to remember that children need downtime too. They need to be able to relax, manage their school workload and enjoy a playtime session or two, even during the week. 

It’s during those times that creativity is nurtured and personal wellbeing is put first, above and beyond the demands of school. Let’s remember that our children need to play sometimes too, perhaps even get bored once in a while – it’s called childhood and it only comes round once in a lifetime.   

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