This is actually a question that I get asked a LOT – and I totally get why. Distant seem the days when our teenaged kids would just follow our suggestions for how they might spend some of their free time, without some form of push-back. And it is completely normal, from a developmental standpoint, for them to want to control their time, and their destiny (that’s not too dramatic, is it?)
But we can often see the hidden talents and gifts within them and, wanting them to reach their full potential, we feel compelled to encourage them to develop those strengths.
But aren’t after-school classes for kids (and NOT teens)?
The answer to this question is “No.”
So, you mean that after-school classes and summer camps are suitable for teens?
The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”
Let’s take kids n bricks’ technology and LEGO® Robotics courses as an example of why …
Today’s kids and teens have a far greater, self-taught, store of knowledge and aptitude for technology, but the school system does not yet have a uniform standard to ensure that children across the entire education system are given the same, consistent and ongoing opportunity to expand that knowledge base, and apply what they do know in a constructive format. So, they end up playing video games. And parents get frustrated because they see so much time spent online, with no real long-term benefits to show for all the hours invested in gaming and social media.
Yet, truthfully, the skills that they are refining, through their gaming and online posting, should not be dismissed – they can be built upon, and lead to other areas of learning in digital technology, engineering and computer science.
Think about it – kids are intuitive with computers, apps, and online programs. They somehow seem to just “get it”, where parents, of only a slightly older generation (like me), who did not grow up with a mouse in their hand, have to work that much more at understanding the tools and interface technology that comes so naturally to our kids. Nobody really taught them these skills – they have “picked them up” by doing, by playing, by watching friends play. Make no mistake – they are valuable skills, so long as they are leveraged and applied to a greater learning goal!
And this is where extra-curricular classes and camps come into play (pardon the pun!). A good quality after-school class or summer camp will be both educational (that’s what we, as parents, are looking for) and engaging/interesting (to keep teens on-side and open to the learning). There is no reason why kids should have to wait until college or university to take courses in areas in which they already have a good understanding and practical base of knowledge. If they are not getting enough opportunities in their present school life, then it is up to us to give them those opportunities. Why not start now? While they are young, enthused, and in need of a good target to focus their energy upon? Starting teens on a practical, hands-on journey to becoming experts in their areas of personal strength and interest gives them many advantages: confidence in their abilities, an awareness and interest in something bigger than themselves, and a goal towards which they can grow and work to achieve.
Isn’t this what we want for our kids? I have spoken about computers and technology here, but it can also apply to dance, the arts – music, visual, drama – whatever gift or area of interest you see in your child, I would encourage you to support. The results can be, frankly, incredible. I have seen it happen time and time again.
So, what are you going to do about it? My practical suggestion is this: do what you can to get them into a class or camp. They may not have the most positive reaction, but it is worth it to persevere. I find that, once they begin, they will realize that, wonder of wonders, they actually like it! And, from there, the sky is the limit.
Until next time, play well!