A few posts ago, we discussed the importance of learning how to balance school and an activity, like fencing. More and more colleges are looking for well-rounded students who not only have high grades, but outside interests as well. This means having the ability to find a workable balance between interests and education.
I do not believe that you can learn time management skills by focusing first on one thing (such as school), and then – once it’s comfortable – adding another item (such as a sport). The process is slow, and it doesn’t allow kids to learn how to balance in their own way. My philosophy is to juggle both school and the activity right off the bat.
While the process is not easy to accomplish, the result is invaluable. It forces your child develop important abilities such as prioritization, organization, and management of time – skills that will benefit him/her not just through college, but in life. Below are some useful suggestions that can help your child learn how to handle multiple activities along with their education – this allows them exposure to things beyond academia, without sacrificing their studies.
1) Maintain a clear and consistent daily schedule. If your child knows ahead of time what the order of the day looks like, he/she will be better able to plan ahead for sport training, study sessions, and other responsibilities. They will have a better chance of participating in their activities and studies instead of cutting corners somewhere to make it all fit into their day.
2) Prioritize with honesty. While it may seem like the end of the world to miss an upcoming tournament (of which there are many more), obviously the final exam in their class takes precedence – they have only one chance to pass the test and get a high result.
3) Respect your child’s style of learning. Not all children (or adults) learn in the same traditional ways. Some are sharper in the morning; others prefer to study in the late hours … Some kids thrive under the pressure of an impending deadline; others need lots of time to prepare. The trick is to customize a schedule that works within your child’s abilities and preferences. Don’t force your child to conform to the “norms” of society if it doesn’t fit with his or her personality. Help your child to embrace their particular style and uniqueness — and use it to their advantage.
4) Keep a realistic perspective on entertainment. Remember entertainment is just that: entertainment. There’s usually not a lot of redeeming value to it and it’s constantly available. While it’s great to have time to relax and enjoy a little fun, it shouldn’t get in the way of your child achieving his or her goals. Going to the movies, attending a school dance, or watching a TV show will always be there, but the chance to compete in an important tournament or get a good grade in a final exam is one opportunity they will never have again – and it can affect their future.
5) Know your child’s goals and keep them in sight. It’s important to have conversations about what your child wants to achieve both academically and in fencing. Where does he or she want to go with it? What are his/her future plans? Discuss a plan of action to help your child achieve those goals so you’re both on the same page, i.e. earning a 3.7GPA to get into a good college means studying a certain number hours during the week to keep up grades; wanting a B-rating in fencing may require extra practice sessions or private lessons. Also, don’t be stuck on that one conversation. Goals may change as your child grows and matures. Revisit the subject periodically, and keep the plan flexible.
6) Teach your child to dream and achieve that dream! High goals will help your child jump higher, while low goals won’t motivate your child to push themselves.
7) Keep goals realistic. While it’s great to set dreams high, setting a dream so high that it’s not achievable can be discouraging and cause your child to give up entirely — which could be damaging. It’s a thin line that you have to negotiate, so it’s important that while setting those goals with your child that you discuss the realistic aspects of them. Ask your child: What are the challenges that lie ahead in achieving those goals? How can he/she overcome them? Is there a particular coach that might help with achieving this goal? What is plan-B is if they are not able to succeed? Keep your child involved with the active discussion about their life and future. Again, this is not a one-time discussion; it’s a topic that needs to be revisited again and again.
8) Last but not least, emphasize the importance of determination. While there are some fencers out there that have a natural ability to fence, never underestimate the efforts of hard work and practice. Many successful fencers are made, not born. Many more have faced extremely disappointing results before achieving their successes. That’s why it’s important that your child keeps on trying even in the in the face of difficulty and disappointment. There have a higher chance of achieving their goals if they keep on trying.
These are just suggestions on how you can help your child find that a method that enables him or her to be able to manage school and activities without becoming overwhelmed – but ultimately, the process depends on the individual.
I am a firm believer that keeping busy will actually help a person excel in what they do. Being able to balance life and school is important in helping your child mature. These are skills they will carry with them all their life.