Whether as a result of diverse interests or the ever-growing demands of college applications, a large percentage of students have begun to participate in three, four, five or more extracurricular activities. In fact, in some instances, individuals may find that every moment of their free time is effectively scheduled — there is ballet to attend, an instrument to practice, a language or visual art to master, a sport to play and so on.
Knowing how to play ice hockey or how to speak Mandarin Chinese is a wonderful ability, but when is too much too much? Every child needs unscripted free time to thrive, both in school and in life. So, how can you tell when your student is too busy? Here are three signs to watch for:
Her schoolwork is suffering
Does your child participate in after-school activities four or five days a week? Do these activities limit the time she has available for homework or school projects? One of the most concerning signs of over-involvement is a sudden, unusual drop in academic performance. This may be triggered, for example, by homework that is hastily completed at 8:00 p.m. or homework that is completely forgotten. While a subpar report card or progress report can be the most obvious example of difficulty in school, a string of low quiz or test grades or a note from your student’s teacher about missing homework can also serve as a signal that it may be time to reassess your child’s schedule.
She is physically or mentally drained
Even the most resilient students eventually reach their limits. These limits are different for each child, but students who are too busy may lose interest in school (as discussed in greater detail above), or they may grow to dislike out-of-school pastimes like a favorite sport or a favorite family destination. They may also suffer from stress-related ailments like headaches and stomachaches, or they may become easily irritated or frustrated. Your child may likewise seem anxious, and her eating habits may change. Older students may express these feelings in words (though they are equally likely to keep said feelings to themselves), but young individuals may not possess the necessary vocabulary to verbally and accurately share their current mental and physical outlook.
You feel over-scheduled
Every child is different, and while one student may show obvious signs of over-scheduling, another may not. If your child hasn’t displayed the above symptoms, but you’re still worried that she has taken on one too many activities or clubs, consider your own physical and mental state. Do you leave work and immediately drive to basketball or play practice? Are your weekends relaxing, or are you constantly on the go? If you feel agitated or exhausted come Sunday evening, chances are your student does too. If your family has little or no opportunity for downtime (i.e. reading or otherwise relaxing), your child may be too busy. Try using your own observations or experiences to begin a conversation about the best use of your student’s time.
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