I’m sure a lot of parents struggle with the question of whether to teach their kids at home or outsource their training. I’m not talking about home-schooling (which is a whole different ball of wax). I’m talking about music lessons, sports skills, baking classes, etc. With three kids under five, I’ve been coming up against this issue a lot lately. I know a ton of parents, for whatever reason (and I can think of a million – personality conflicts, time issues, learning differences, to name just a few) outsource most of the extracurricular stuff to experts. But so far, we haven’t. At some point, we’re going to have to. Like when my kid asks for fencing lessons (ahem). But up until now, everything they’ve requested have been things we’d consider ourselves relative experts in.
For example, one of my sons recently told me he wanted to learn how to play the banjo. To my credit, I didn’t laugh (not trying to offend any banjo players out there, but what 4-year old asks to learn how to play the banjo?), but kept a straight face and said, “okay, but you have to learn how to read music first. On a piano.” He agreed. Before I foisted him off on some hapless piano teacher, I told him he had to learn with me first. This was partly to gauge his interest, and partly to see if I could actually do it. I need to disclose that I play three instruments and had enough credits to minor in music theory in college, so I figured I had the knowledge part covered. But did I have the teaching skills? Yeah, I did. But he wasn’t ready. After a few lessons at home, he lost interest. I figure I’ll try again in a few months.
Other times, the request for classes or training isn’t really that. I’m sure if some of you have been reading this blog, you’d know that not only do I love to bake, but I’m quite proficient. Well, last week, my oldest son asked me if he could take a baking class. Here’s how the conversation went.
Him: “I want to take a cooking class.”
Me: “Okay. What do you want to learn how to cook?”
Him: “I want to make a cake.”
Me: “That’s a baking class.”
Him: “Yes, a baking class. I want to learn how to bake.”
Me: “Well, you already know how to bake. We’ve made [insert any number of things we've baked together]. We can make pumpkin muffins this weekend, if you want.”
Him (insistently): “No. I want to go to a class.”
Me (puzzled): “But we can do it at home.”
Him: “I don’t want to do it at home.”
Me: “But why? We’re good at baking together.”
Him (bluntly): “I want to be away from [younger brother]. I don’t like it when he interrupts us.”
Me: “Aha. Okay, we can bake while [younger brother] is napping. Would that be good?”
So here, the request for lessons wasn’t really that at all. It was a request for one-on-one attention, which I happily gave to him.
We did enroll our oldest in swim classes. He half-heartedly kicked around the pool. After a month of no progress, my husband took him out himself to our clubhouse’s pool where he got more accomplished in an afternoon than in a month of lessons. Not that my husband is a swimming pro, but he’s patient and he gently pushed our kid when the official swim teacher wouldn’t.
I’d be curious to know at what age/skill level/time-frame you have started to outsource your kids’ activities. For what activities do you outsource? And for what activities do you keep it in-house?