Allowing Enrichment Activities Without Adding Stress
Every parent wants their child to be well-rounded and develop additional talents beyond excelling academically, and after school enrichment programs can be the answer.
Whether you are considering sports, theater, or martial arts, or music, ballet, or art lessons for your youngster, experts say everything from scheduling and to financial commitments can help make the selection easier.
The most important criteria for determining a child’s activity is their age, according to several experts we spoke with recently.
The best age to introduce drama and theatre is kindergarten at age five or six, according to Nicole Hermansen, who runs a theater group at four Island schools, called “Standing Ovation Players.”
Even at that young age, students can learn the basic terminology of a stage production, while vocal lessons should be introduced at around age eight, she noted.
“We have found that the best timing for scheduling classes with kids is directly after school or on Saturday mornings,” she explained.
“The skill level of each child determines their work load,” according to Ms. Hermansen, who runs her company with Fiona Gannon at St. Teresa’s School, St. Joseph Hill Academy, Our Lady of Good Counsel, and P.S 38.
Magi Kapllani, owner and director of DEA Music & Art School, recommends elementary school children take individualized lessons once a week for 30 minutes.
“They can add more classes depending on their skills and grade level,” Kapllani said. Trial classes can help them decide which instrument is best for them, she added. “This will give them a real feel to see how it works,” Mrs. Kapllani noted.
Diane Bush, owner of Dance, Dance, Dance in West Brighton, also suggests a monthly trial.
Three-year-olds should maintain one class for 60-90 min. weekly as to not overwhelm them, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety, according to Ms. Bush, who has owned and operated the school with her sister, Karen, for 32 years.
Older dancers can take an average of two and a half to three hours of instruction a week, while dancers on the competition team put in six to eight hours a week.
“Dance is something that takes years to master — it’s not an instant gratification sport,” Ms. Bush explained. “It takes years to mold the body a certain way.”
Dance and martial arts are two of the enrichment programs the experts here say can give students invaluable life skills.
“It’s a real confidence booster,” Ms. Bush said of dance.
Joanne McKernan, a Great Kills resident, said her son, Peter, 13, found a love of Tae Kwon Do at the age of seven after taking a few trial classes and is now awaiting promotion to third-degree black belt.
“I feel this type of training helped him focus, it helped him with his self esteem, it helped his maturity level, Mrs. McKernan added.
A $140 monthly fee allows Peter McKernan to attend twice a week — and the option of a Saturday class, a schedule he has juggled successfully over the years as his mom felt it was flexible enough not to interfere with his academics, and the tuition was affordable.
Many of the enrichment programs offer monthly or quarterly payment plans to make it economical for parents — especially if they have more than one child, or more than one program.
Martial arts can be the right choice for students who want to learn discipline, character, respect, and courage, according to Shihan Carmel Sorrento, owner of Legend Karate in Midland Beach.
“We teach structured learning and we try to instill trust, patience, and eye-hand coordination, so it does enable them to go into other sports,” she said.
She recommends younger students from age four to six attend classes two days a week for continuity, but not more than that. “We don’t push it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Thomas Cordes, 9, followed in his brothers’ footsteps on the basketball court, according to his mother, Jennifer Cordes. “They have a lot of interest in it,” she said.
Her older sons, Matthew, 13, and Christopher, 12, play travel basketball, which Mrs. Cordes’ husband, Chris, said can cost up to $500 just to join the team — not to mention the cost of gas, tolls, and lodging.
The timing is also a consideration, Mrs. Cordes said. Thomas spends no more than one to two hours a week playing basketball, while his brothers play five hours on average, not including the weekend traveling. “They do all their school work first, and practice is later,” their mom said.
By Christine Albano
Look through the pages of SI Parent magazine to find the perfect activity for your child, or check the directory listings on our home page.