How to survive piano lessons and hockey
Looking back at it now, parenting author Ann
Douglas is glad she decided to rent an oboe for her daughter several
years ago. Otherwise "it would have become a dust collector,"
she says, because playing the oboe never did grow on her daughter.
cost $150 to rent the instrument for one year, but it only took a few short lessons
to realize Julia wasn't into the oboe. "Sometimes parents naively think they
can pass it down to the sibling, but what are the odds of the next sibling wanting
to play the oboe?" says Douglas.
Kids change their minds over and over again -- it's
part of growing up. One day, your son wants to be a rock star, the
next, he wants to be soccer great David Beckham. And while it's
great to encourage kids to be whatever they want to be, this fickleness
can cost parents dearly if they aren't careful.
While there's no question that
extracurricular activities, lessons and sports are good for kids, they can become
pricey. Equipment, gear, instruments, new ballet shoes and private lessons --
they all add up.
So, we've gathered advice from parents,
coaches and parenting experts to help parents survive the lesson-taking years
and make the smartest investment for their child's future.
does the body, and brain, good
Whether it's sports or music lessons,
extracurricular activities can improve your child's life a lot. Given that one
in four Canadian children is obese, a figure that has tripled in the past 25 years,
playing sports will help keep them healthy. It also helps facilitate social interaction.
music lessons, piano in particular, help improve spatial and abstract reasoning
skills used in math and science, so extracurricular activities are a good investment
in your child's future. One of the most important factors in ensuring that investment
is worthwhile is involving your child in deciding which lessons to take.
I, myself, am a piano-lesson survivor. Coming from a family of piano
players, it was expected that I would follow suit, so for several
years, I endured lessons in a skill I knew I'd never use, while
my parents' money flew out the window.
To save the tears and money, let your child help choose
her activity. There are some easy, and cheap, ways to narrow the
choices. Before you rush out and buy an instrument or hockey gear,
take time to discover your child's natural interests or talents.
If you think your daughter might become the next Mozart, take her
to watch live music, says Elizabeth Stevenson, coordinator of The
Music Education Centre in Cambridge, Ont.
your child to see a local live band," she says. "This will assist your
child in knowing which instrument they like the look of and the sound of."
same reasoning applies to sports -- before hauling your kid out of bed for 5 a.m.
hockey practice, take him to a game to see how much he likes the look of it.
Moses, mother of two sons and the assistant coordinator of fitness and personal
wellness at the University of Western Ontario in London, advises trying out an
affordable city recreation program before taking the plunge. "Take advantage
of demonstration opportunities with your child. If the organization is having
an open house, attend it," she says.
or swap to save cash
Buying new instruments or equipment can be expensive.
Brand new hockey goaltender equipment can set you back $3,500. On top of that,
kids grow! It's not unusual for kids to grow three shoe sizes in one season.
keep costs down, look at renting equipment or buying used. School rental programs
can be cheaper than private companies, as they are renting to a group, so check
out various rates before signing up.
"You'd never dream of changing
instruments if you own it," says Douglas. "Kids are at the age where
they are going to try different activities, so give them enough flexibility to
try something different."
If you're intent on owning an
instrument, some stores will put a percentage of what you pay in rent toward the
purchase price of the instrument.
Before enrolling your child in any activity, check
the contract for reimbursement policies. The Langley, B.C., Minor
Hockey Association, for example, offers a prorated refund, with
no questions asked, for kids who opt out before Dec. 31. After that,
no refund is available.
Strength, and savings,
For sporting activities, you can save a bundle if you swap
equipment and pool resources with fellow parents. In Langley, one hockey mom helps
organize equipment swaps each year. "I get calls every year from parents
looking for a hockey swap meet -- as the kids get older, the equipment becomes
more important," says Kathy Bilko.
To defray the cost
of traveling for tournaments, teams often organize fundraising activities throughout
the year, says Bilko. Parents will carpool to save gas money and try to buy in
bulk to cut costs, as well.
When Moses' sons wanted to play soccer, she approached
Zellers about getting a discount if she bought equipment for the
entire team there. It turned out to be a win-win situation -- the
store was happy to receive all of the business, and the team received
15 percent off their shoes.
As a facilitator of children's recreational and competitive
programming, Moses says city-run recreation programs are quite affordable
compared with private leagues. Likewise, church leagues, YMCA, Boys
and Girls Club and nonprofessional teams are cheaper than the more-private
Chambers is a freelance writer in London, Ontario.