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What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last!

After school clubs – we often worry about them.

Have we chosen the right one?  Too few?  Too many?  Do kids really need them?

If they aren’t going to become ‘good at it’ do they really need to do one?

Do we need to supplement what they learn at school, with more stuff to learn from an early age?

Do we need to fit in lots, or a few?

Do we need to run around like mad crazy creatures every day of the week to get our kids the best ‘opportunities’ possible?

Well after this weekend I definitely got the point.

 

Boys at dance classes

Tap shoes

Tap shoes

I’ve always been a fan of after school clubs for giving and outside influence and confidence.  But I’ve also been pretty lazy – I’m not into running around like a crazy creature or teaching my kids mandarin, so we’ve tried a few things out over the last few years.

Curly headed boy has been going to street dance for a while.  But a year ago after switching to the local state primary school, he started at Excel Performing Arts.  We quickly added tap lessons too.

Why?  I’m not sure really.  He loves dancing.  It’s more creative and free than gymnastics, and I thought it’s good for a boy to be able to dance.

Tap was more hard core though, and I had wondered whether he would be able to keep it going.  I could see how much it improved his timing.  But there had been a few times when a lot of persuasion was required to get back in the car and head off to his class.

The last few weekends and a large percentage of this half-term were then filled with practicing for a show.  I was getting very nervous.  What if it was awful?  What if something went wrong and he was devastated?  I duly bought tickets for each night, so that someone would be there just incase and got the Grandparents to cover one of the 3 shows.

 

Show time

OMG was the show wonderful.  I cried, laughed,and had shivers go up my spine.

The little ones were so cute.  The big ones were so talented and there are definitely a couple with the skills to go on further.

But most importantly the show showed me THE REASON.

Everyone is included, tall, short, skinny, gawky, tubby, plain as well as the talented and pretty.  There was no ‘social divide’ – middle class and working class (personally I hate those titles) had all sent their kids to the classes.

All the kids were worth watching. Every parent would have been amazed by what their child achieved.  And together they made an amazing show.

But when you see the older kids, you see the plainer, taller, shorter, skinnier, gawkier, tubbier ones have transformed.  They have a confidence and grace that they wouldn’t have been given elsewhere.  That’s the point.

It’s a HUGE achievement to be on stage.  To sing.  To dance.  To work together.  No wonder their confidence grows, especially as week in week out they are doing exercises that teach them rhythm, posture and grace.

 

Maybe not all teachers are the same

Little Girl Dancing In Her First Ballet shoes

First Ballet Shoes

I’m not sure that this would happen in all dance/drama schools.  I remember my ballet teacher making it clear I was never going to be the right shape for ballet.  I was heart broken and stopped going to tap too (which I preferred).  A few years later my best friend was told she had grown too tall.  It took me years and pole dancing lessons to realise that dancing can be purely for fun (that’s a another story!).

I’m sure Sam and Steve would push any student with talent, but what’s most important is that they see what they can do for all the kids.  They’ve never said this, but you can tell by looking at the kids and that they haven’t subtly ‘pruned’ them.  It wouldn’t take much; just a comment here or there.  And this is what made the show so great to me.

Steve is pretty famous himself, so he knows what they need to do to succeed, but most of all he’s enjoying the ability to give something back.  (Here I have to admit rather embarrassingly to not watching enough TV to have a clue about who he was when I met him – note to self, watch more TV!).

Little Dimples was copying the little ballet dancers while watching and will be starting baby ballet with Sam next week.  So next year I’ll be watching two of my children in the show, and I can’t wait – but need to buy more tissues (I’m a wuss!).

I have no idea if my kids are talented dancers/singers/actors.  And I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m going to encourage them to do something they both love purely for the joy of it.

 

And I’m going to do more stuff purely for the fun of it, even if I’m not good at it.

 

Which one to choose?

So if you are wondering what class to put your kids into here are some tips …

  • remember that the arts are good for the soul – everyone needs a bit in their life
  • dance and gymnastics are what I call ‘body, mind and soul’ exercises, because they combine all aspects of ourselves in one
  • the ‘proper’ gymnastics class we went to was very repetitive – they have to drill the same thing over and over and over again
  • don’t worry about what they will do when they grow up, just pick something they enjoy
  • boy’s who can dance will be cool when they grow up
  • girls love to feel pretty and graceful, but some of us need a little help in getting there
  • if you are in any way local to me, pick something Excel does because I think they are fab! (although most classes are at Bowmansgreen school, the kids are from many schools).
  • unless your kids are naturally academic, I don’t think that they need extra classes in primary school to learn something else.
  • it’s just as fun to go swimming with the family when they are very young, don’t panic about classes if they are difficult to fit into your routine.  Plus the week long immersion classes can make great progress instead.

 

Most of all, do what suits you, your family and your kids.

Pick for the JOY of it.

Don’t pick because you are worried they will miss out.

Don’t pick for their future career.

Don’t add too many – leave time for chilling, homework and playdates.

Ironically the Big Hairy Northern one and I are helping to set up an after school club for Woodcraft Folk from September.  Now I know ‘the point’ I can only hope to do as good a job as Steve and Sam.  But if we do any dancing/drama at any point, I’ll be getting them in!  In fact that gives me an idea ……

What a your favourite after school clubs?

Which ones did you try that didn’t work?

 

13 comments to What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last!

  • Lisa, thank you for this post. I’m local, though my kids go to a school in St A (long story to do with moving house which fell through etc) and have been hearing wonderful things re Excel from local friends. My daughter goes to a ballet school in St A which, although v good, does a show twice a year which we feel does exactly that – ‘prunes’ them at a young age by only allowing a few of them to dance in more than one routine. Don’t like it, nor do i like the way the girls’ shapes are shown off from an early age so that those who are tubby look out of place. I’m trying to convince my daughter to move to Excel, now i’m going to just book her in and see how she gets on, as i know this is better for her (plus its local which is very much what we want). So thank you!

    • MummyWhisperer

      So glad the post helped @Siobhan – I’ve just seen that you are coming to Britmumslive, so we can meet up! Let me know which class you sign your daughter up for in case she is with my son/daughter.

  • I also meant to say its great to read a post that encourages parents to choose after school clubs that kids ENJOY, not to do them in case they miss out or good for them in future. And not to sign them up to too many. Kids are so overloaded with pressure to perform at school they badly need down time, and also to enjoy the time when they’re not at school. So thanks, I’m with you there 100%!

    • MummyWhisperer

      Thank you @Siobhan – I know many parents would disagree, I saw something weird about teaching babies to talk before they were 18 months the other day – C R A Z Y!

  • I have 4 sons and #3 went to tap dancing lessons for 3 years, starting when he was 7. Both the teacher and other kids were very accepting of him and there ended up being 5 boys in the class. He absolutely loved being in the end of year productions. Now he is into football!

    • MummyWhisperer

      @Kathryn funnily enough I’ve heard that ballet and tap are often related to football – it’s about being ‘fleet of foot’ I suppose!

  • We’re huge fans of Stagecoach. It’s not just acting skills my kids get from it – they’re life skills. Now we just have to find a dance class for me!

  • This post made me smile a lot, Lisa. We are lucky to have a couple of very good after school drama clubs in our area and it has always amazed me what they achieve with the children. My own son joined for a year or two and loved it but then dropped out and that was ok. Other children from the group have gone on to London stage schools, having benefitted from such a good start. Many have just enjoyed the fun, the fitness and the cameraderie.

  • [...] What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last! [...]

  • Jon

    Lisa, this is a great summation of the work that is done by Excel but also the purpose of After School Clubs. I have two girls at Excel (been there for two years) doing both Drama and Jazz, and seeing them progress through this is amazing. It is also giving them ‘life skills’ of being able to stand in front of audiences without fear – something that I am even nervous about when I even think of the prospect.

    My son, who is 3, is desperate to attend and will as soon as old enough

    • MummyWhisperer

      Ahhh bless him @Jon, he probably doesn’t want to do ballet with willow! But he can do street as soon as he starts school – those little kids who did street were really cute weren’t they!

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