Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

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veindoc
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Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by veindoc » Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm

I have a fourth grader, second grader and kindergarten child enrolled in a public school which is one of the best in the state. Families stream into this neighborhood just for the schools. As such it is a very competitive environment. A number of academic enrichment franchises have popped up over the last ten years: sylvan, best in class, kumon, mathkangaroo, chess club, lego robotics, bricks4kids etc.

I drank the kool aid and have my kids enrolled in a handful of these activities. They are expensive averaging about $100/month each. The kids also have a private tutor. All told I spend about $1000/month on “academic enrichment”. That does not even include specialty summer camps, books, and educational toys. I can easily afford it. Not a big deal. Our kids education is a priority for us.

The problem is my kids hate it. I fight with them to do the homework assigned by these places. And it’s a pain to get these kids here there and everywhere. The kids are doing average to above average in school. They get mostly 80’s-90’s on their tests (it is almost always a careless error that leads to the 80’s). They are just one of a handful of smart kids, but their classes are filled with a lot of smart kids. Some of whom are doing advanced work in the class. The classes are divided based on abilities and my kids are in the higher groups but not the highest.The kids could easily do work above their existing grade level but are not invited to do so by their teachers and I’m sure part of it is attitude and effort. They are not particularly motivated to do well. They simply don’t care about school. When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test his response was “at least I’m not failing.” As if. It was impressed upon me at a very early age the importance of school and doing well. This seems to be lost on my kids. My oldest only wants to draw. My middle is obsessed with history and geography and his knowledge of both outpaces mine. But he has little patience for anything else and is purely an average student. The youngest has not declared a preference as of yet and as of now he wants to be a firefighter.

In the end I wonder what I am trying to achieve here. My neighbors daughter is in 10th grade and has been getting straight A’s since 1st grade and she is not killing herself to do so. Next year she is taking all AP’s. She has attended not one of these type of activities. I did exceptionally well in school and I never participated in anything like this.

So is the point of these activities to make bright kids brighter or to make struggling students into superstars.
So my kids may or may not be prepared for advanced classes in high school with these courses but then what. They take advanced classes in college and then what. They still will get the same job as some one who didn’t do all this nonsense. But part of me is afraid to stop. What if my kids don’t ever get that motivation to do well or live up to their potential? And am I just being lazy here? Isn’t my job to force my kids to do things that are good for them that they may not like. Or am I just trying to keep up with the Jones’ and am secretly jealous of the parents of those kids who are doing advanced work. Am I just in the weeds and just need to slog through and everything will be fine in the end?

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ResearchMed
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:46 pm

Is it possible that your children are tired/stressed by all the other activities, such that it is also interfering with their regular schoolwork, in addition to being unpleasant for them?

Have you considered speaking with them about whether they would prefer to "do better in school/work harder/etc.", if they didn't do as much of these extras?

If so, that might be worth a try.
You and they could choose whether to keep one of the extras or something like that? Something that they DO enjoy or at least directly helps with schoolwork?

RM
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by mighty72 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:47 pm

I struggle with this question a lot. I have a 2nd grader and KG. Again, top of the notch public school system and very competitive. Many kids go to math and English classes. Swimming is very common. We enroll the older kid n different classes. For academic classes, he chooses if he wants to continue. We insist only on swimming. Overall, I don't find much value in most of the classes. Thanks

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by JPM » Sun Mar 10, 2019 6:09 pm

My two older kids were naturally motivated achievers, high IQ, high school academic stars, expensive college. Precocious readers at ages 3 & 4, fast reading speeds. One is NYC banker and one is at attorney in suburban Chicago after top ten law school. They are middle aged men now.

My third a different story. Not interested in studying thru grade school. When we would send her to her room to study after another lackluster academic result she would say, "You can make me go to my room but you can't make me learn it" letting us know she was going her own way. She liked playing sports and still does in her late 30s. At age 13 when she saw that school achievement was paying off for her brothers, she decided that she would like to start making an effort and in eighth grade did so, but by then was so far behind where her older brothers had been, it was hard to see how she would ever get to and thru college. At that point we scouted high schools where available girls' sports were a big consideration. We were almost done paying expensive college tuition for the older two at that point and decided to pay up for a prep school with classes of 7-8 kids for the core subjects so that our daughter wouldn't be able to hide or get lost and might thus get the chance to make up for her weak academic foundation from grade school. Best education money I ever spent on the kids. She was a three sport athlete there. She did attend and graduate from the state university and continued to go her own way there, changing majors twice. Still going her own way in adult life but she makes a good living, lives ridiculously frugally, and is still playing a sport or two in every season.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Ron Ronnerson » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:37 pm

Based on the way you describe things, it doesn’t sound like your kids are struggling academically and I don’t think they really need tutoring services. As for enrichment, I’d try to enroll them in activities that they find interesting.

You said “it was impressed upon me at a very early age the importance of school and doing well.” Learning the importance of school is an excellent value, in my opinion. However, “doing well” should not be a goal. Effort is where the focus should be.

You said your kids are not particularly motivated to do well and simply don’t care about school. I think you should try to figure out why this is happening. Perhaps the way you’re approaching things with them is not working well. I’d open a dialogue with them about it.

Mainly, I would try to instill a love of learning and how working hard is what counts in life. I would take away the pressure of getting straight A’s or getting into a top college and all the rest, especially in these early formative years. Instead, I’d keep reinforcing the message that putting forth genuine effort on a consistent basis will take them far in life, regardless of the grade.

There will always be someone who is a more fluent reader, a better chess player, etc. I’d just try to teach your kids to work hard. Say it over and over until they deeply believe that this is what matters (of course, you have to believe this too or they’ll know you don’t mean it). Celebrate their effort (measured in time and energy put forth), not their performance.

Your job shouldn’t be to make them do things they don’t want to do. It is to guide them and instill values. It really shouldn’t be a slog. Read books together, do fun learning activities together, and keep reminding them that working hard and taking school seriously will mean good things for them.

I’ve been an elementary school teacher (4th, 5th, and 6th grades) at a top-ranked public school in California for the past 15 years. Roughly half of my students are identified as gifted (scoring in the 98th percentile or above). All my students participate in countless after-school activities. One does wonder how much of this is just about parents trying to keep up with one another. Kids aren’t the only ones dealing with competition, I suppose.

Bacchus01
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Bacchus01 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:58 pm

No. Not worth it. Let them be kids. Creativity goes a long ways. If the school is challenging, they are in great shape.

quantAndHold
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by quantAndHold » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:00 pm

Not every kid can be at the top of their class. It just isn’t possible. It sounds like your kids are doing just fine in a fairly competitive school. If they hate the supplemental stuff, they aren’t going to apply themselves, and it won’t go well.

I would supplement with things they’re interested in. Art classes, or see if there’s a history program somewhere, maybe at a museum, that is age appropriate. Someone interested in history will use reading and writing and analytical thinking skills to pursue that interest.

As they get older, those weird things that they’re passionate about are the things that will get them into college. My middle kid was a mediocre student at best, and if she couldn’t draw, would probably have never gone to college. But she ended up with a scholarship to film school, and now her name is listed somewhere in the credits of about half the animated movies released in the past ten years.

And the future firefighter? That’s an appropriate answer for his age. It will change.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Bubbacat » Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:55 pm

Enrichment activities are great, provided the child is actually enriched by them. For my kids, the trick was finding something they were truly interested in and using enrichment to explore in depth. FWIW, since they are not struggling academically, I would consider dropping the tutors and instead spending that time reading or in hands on activities that involve learning but not rote learning.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by miamivice » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:01 pm

Keep this in mind:

After they graduate from whatever their final graduation may be, they will enter the workforce. Their coworkers, leads, bosses, and subordinates will NOT LIKLEY be from the same enrichment programs that they were part of. They will be given the same assignments as their coworkers, will report to the same bosses as their coworkers, and have the same subordinates as their coworkers, who are not part of the highly enriched program.

There is a lot to be said to let your children be normal children.

getthatmarshmallow
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by getthatmarshmallow » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:13 pm

An enrichment program could be worthwhile. But this sounds a lot more like keeping up with the Joneses. How much time do the kids get to be idle and explore their interests on their own?

I think your fourth grader is telling you something important. The kid's learning to judge himself by percentile scores and class rank, not by knowledge acquired, and since kid recognizes he isn't the best, he's not seeing a lot of reason to care, because he's getting the message that only being at the top matters. He's not being enriched, or at least he's not perceiving it that way. You're describing your second-grader as only an average student, despite an encyclopedic knowledge of history. A kid with that kind of motivation doesn't sound average, regardless of grades. I'm not saying you should ignore academics, but "he's 7 and not doing well in math so he won't get into the honors college at BigName" strikes me as a vast overreaction.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by BolderBoy » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:20 pm

Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:58 pm
No. Not worth it. Let them be kids. Creativity goes a long ways. If the school is challenging, they are in great shape.
+1. Absolutely agree with this.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

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leeks
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by leeks » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:34 pm

Some classes could be fun if the child enjoys them and they fit easily into family schedules. But they are counterproductive if the child hates them or if they displace essential childhood needs such as physical care (meals/exercise), undirected play time, and family/parenting time.

If there are any activities outside school the kids hate, stop them!
If there are any activities that make it so a kid gets no outside time/exercise that day, stop them!
If there are any activities that means a child does not get enough time for sleep (such as a late-afternoon activity that pushes dinner late and therefore bedtime late), stop them!
If there are any activities that mean a child does not have time to enjoy meals (such as dinner is eaten in the backseat of a car on the way to some class), stop them!

Ensure they have some downtime every day (unscheduled time to direct their own play, not screentime), and more on the weekends. They need to process what they learn, many things are processed/learned/invented through play, it is essential to their development.

Let them play outside, a lot. Physical activity is basic self care for brain and body, and kids need to move a lot.

Give them access to art materials/drawing/painting/etc to use at home under their own imagination (no use for a fancy art class if they don't also have free time to draw/paint at home when they feel like it). Nurturing creativity and self-expression is relevant to academic success.

Try to keep at least one weekend day free every week with no regular activities scheduled so the family can relax and hang out together. Kids need this to be refreshed and prepared for the return to school on Monday.

Spend time with them - doing most anything WITH parents IS enrichment (home maintenance, grocery shopping, cooking, museum trips, walking through the woods, etc). I'm sure there is much you can teach your children directly. If they are overscheduled outside of school, you are missing out on time to just talk with them (and listen to them!), share your own wisdom and expertise, your values, etc. If there is school work they are struggling with, find fun ways to work on it with them at home. For elementary school, the parents should be the best tutor unless it is a special subject like a language you don't speak.

Also, as siblings, ensure they are getting plenty of time to play with, bond, and learn from each other. If they each attend separate enrichment classes, do they get enough time to hang out together?

If the children are happy and their lives are balanced, they will have the best chance to succeed in school. Any scolding about the importance of good grades is unlikely to accomplish what you wish to achieve.

For a perspective that pushes back against the overscheduling of children, read "Simplicity Parenting"
https://www.amazon.com/Simplicity-Paren ... 0345507983

OnTrack2020
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by OnTrack2020 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:47 pm

My two cents is that most parents believe their children are very smart when, in fact, their children are average. There is nothing wrong with average. I've met maybe one or two extremely smart kids in my lifetime. They were just way beyond their peers in terms of academics. I believe one of them did some academic enrichment type classes/programs. The other, I do not know if they did them or not.

I do not believe that you can make a kid "naturally bright" by signing them up for enrichment classes--or somehow gain more intelligence. In your case, if your children are already doing well in school, I'm not sure why the extra money is being spent when they hate doing it. I also think they would probably get more out of education if you were spending the time with them helping them and discussing subject matter with them. Another thing is that most kids at the end of the day are tired. Their brains are probably ready to take a break. Shuffling them around to other academic activities just doesn't sound enjoyable. That $1,000 a month could probably be spent better elsewhere.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by FoolMeOnce » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:52 pm

veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test
:shock: this seems like a great way to raise kids who resent both you and school.
Last edited by FoolMeOnce on Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

ladycat
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by ladycat » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:47 pm

Sounds like there may be a lack of balance and your children are seeing all this extra "academic enrichment" as punishment. You may have passed the point of diminishing return.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by SoonerD » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:12 am

Vaindoc, seems like you have 3 great children. Comparison are unkind.

I Love my children for who they are not how much I can brag about their class rankings.

Bragging is such a BH crap thing to do.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:41 am

You're only a kid once in a lifetime, let them be kids for now. If the school system is as good as you say it is, why subject them to even more? Re-direct your money into something they'd really like to do, have you asked them what it is they might like to try as an extracurricular activity that doesn't involve things they hate? Would you be in your profession if you "hated it"?
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by DiploInvestor » Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:59 am

getthatmarshmallow wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:13 pm
An enrichment program could be worthwhile. But this sounds a lot more like keeping up with the Joneses. How much time do the kids get to be idle and explore their interests on their own?

I think your fourth grader is telling you something important. The kid's learning to judge himself by percentile scores and class rank, not by knowledge acquired, and since kid recognizes he isn't the best, he's not seeing a lot of reason to care, because he's getting the message that only being at the top matters. He's not being enriched, or at least he's not perceiving it that way. You're describing your second-grader as only an average student, despite an encyclopedic knowledge of history. A kid with that kind of motivation doesn't sound average, regardless of grades. I'm not saying you should ignore academics, but "he's 7 and not doing well in math so he won't get into the honors college at BigName" strikes me as a vast overreaction.
+1

I was a good student as a child, and so was my wife. We were never threatened or browbeat into doing well, though, and we have turned out just fine with great careers. We also have kids of similar age as yours: twin girls in kindergarten and a son in 2nd grade. They are all unique, each has his or her own strengths, likes, and dislikes. It does not matter: they are still little kids, doing as well as they can, having fun and being children. Let them explore what they're interested in and don't try to make them into some vision of "smart kids" that you have in mind. They obviously come from a good family and go to good schools. They'll do fine. Encourage what they like: take the history/geography buff to museums, buy the kindergartner a cool fire truck and hat. Allow them free time and play with them. Be a dad first, and give guidance when needed.
"History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes." -- Mark Twain // "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." — Cicero

FireProof
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by FireProof » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:08 am

Consider that elementary school grades will literally never be looked at again - they serve only to measure learning, and it sounds like they are learning fine, if they make only a few careless errors.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by RickBoglehead » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:27 am

As parents, it clearly is a challenge figuring out when to push and when not to push. In evaluating potential "enrichment" activities, I'd suggest that there is a big difference between something like Sylvan and a chess club. I can't contemplate spending $1,000 a month.

Our youngest is gifted, was in-school advanced pull out sessions in elementary school, skipped 6th grade, took high school math in junior high and college math in high school. Until he did FIRST Robotics in High School, nothing cost extra.
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retired recently
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by retired recently » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:00 am

I think it really depends on each kid. If they hate it I would not make them do it.

My kid was not challenged at his public school and he really liked math so we started supplementing math at home and were very fortunate to stumble across the AoPS website and math competitions. Later, he also took one of the AoPS Python courses and liked it. We never had to make him do these things, he liked them. Once, when he was in fifth or sixth grade, he had a soccer match and a Python lesson in the same day and I asked him which was more fun and he said he could not possibly pick as they were both so much fun.

He is in 10th grade now and this year was captain/MVP of his HS JV soccer team, qualified for AIME, made USACO Gold and just missed qualifying for USAPhO. He has gone to a math/programming summer camp for the last 3 years but this year will go to learn Russian through NSLI-Y. If anything, he gravitates towards the academics and readily drops the sports which we tend to push him back to as I do not want him just studying all the time.

We never supplemented academics to give him an advantage, it was to ensure he was learning. I think the reason he does the academic competitions is to be around kids that have similar interests.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by 3funder » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:17 am

Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:58 pm
No. Not worth it. Let them be kids. Creativity goes a long ways. If the school is challenging, they are in great shape.
+1.

bryansmile
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by bryansmile » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:33 am

When my son was getting 70s in his first grade math, I started reviewing math with him before each test - after all, we parents know elementary school math. It helped a lot, both my son and myself.
After a year, he no longer needed my help in math, but as he discovered his love for soccer we started playing soccer every evening in the backyard and going through game strategies. This was in addition to his team practices. He eventually played soccer through high school and still plays in college.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Nowizard » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:21 am

The people running these programs can always point out the high achievement levels of their participants which is a correlative, but not necessarily, causal relationship. Obviously, the participants are from families with discretionary income and substantial interest in the academic progression of their children. A personal feeling is that such programs may add benefit but not always. Sometimes peer pressure leads to parents enrolling. A key is whether the children are exposed to more "immersive learning" outside of the formal academic environment. If the child is curious, reads, has engaging hobbies, etc., those can incorporate all the STEM topics as useful learning rather than what may be seen as learning without purpose by younger children. If striving for elite colleges, they are very interested in those with a variety of outside activities in addition to academic achievement. Personally, we did not enroll our children in such programs but did focus on enrolling in a strong, public school with admission requirements. They did quite well and have terminal degrees in their areas. Friends enrolled their children in everything available. Their children went to Ivy league schools, ours to excellent colleges a tier below. Both groups are doing well, and neither us or our friends would change a thing, so it is ultimately most important, in our view, that you seriously consider the needs of your children, even if it involves dealing with some peer pressure from other adults. Disclaimer: This is personal opinion from a retired professional in an educationally/psychologically related area.

Tim

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by MathWizard » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:49 am

These activities can be worth it if the kids want to do them.
No so much if they do not.

Scolding a 4th grader for an 86% on a math test? That is a good way to drive kids away from math. In elementary school the corrected tests were sent home. I would look at them to see what concept he/she may not understand, and show it a different way.

Too many times I have seen parents say "Follow what an example does" to get homework done. When that is done, little to no learning takes place, math just becomes a set of mysterious rules. There are actually very few rules in elementary school math, and most things can be explained with coins and chocolate cake. (The latter for fractions, much easier than pie, and chocolate cake made it fun.)

Many parents remember their kids asking "Why?" all the time. Kids want to understand, to learn. Once they stop asking why, true deep learning stops, and you end up with superficial learning. The kind where you learn for the test, and forget it afterwards.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by researcher » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:34 am

veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
I have a fourth grader, second grader and kindergarten child...
I drank the kool aid and have my kids enrolled in a handful of these activities. The kids also have a private tutor. All told I spend about $1000/month on “academic enrichment”. That does not even include specialty summer camps, books, and educational toys.
The problem is my kids hate it.
When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test.
Or am I just trying to keep up with the Jones’ and am secretly jealous of the parents of those kids who are doing advanced work.
My initial takeaway is...you need to CHILL OUT!
You have private tutors for kids in 4th grade, 2nd grade and Kindergarten? They are all enrolled in special academic courses during the school year and the summer? You are scolding a 4th grader for getting an 86 on one math test?

I have kids the same age as your youngest two and can't fathom having private tutors for them.
This seems like such a cold and impersonal way to reinforce learning for such young kids.
It seems as though you are overdoing the academics in an unproductive attempt to keep up with the Jones'.

I would ditch the private tutors and the majority of these academic courses. Replace these "enrichment" activities with quality time spent with Mom and Dad. As another poster stated, parents are the best form of enrichment/tutoring for kids this age.

Help them with their homework. Read with them at night. Build Kiwi Crates or Little Passports boxes with them every month. Play board games. Find ways to turn everyday life into fun easy learning activities.

They are young kids. Don't make their lives so structured, rigid and cold.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:45 am

researcher wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:34 am
veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
I have a fourth grader, second grader and kindergarten child...
I drank the kool aid and have my kids enrolled in a handful of these activities. The kids also have a private tutor. All told I spend about $1000/month on “academic enrichment”. That does not even include specialty summer camps, books, and educational toys.
The problem is my kids hate it.
When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test.
Or am I just trying to keep up with the Jones’ and am secretly jealous of the parents of those kids who are doing advanced work.
My initial takeaway is...you need to CHILL OUT!
You have private tutors for kids in 4th grade, 2nd grade and Kindergarten? They are all enrolled in special academic courses during the school year and the summer? You are scolding a 4th grader for getting an 86 on one math test?

I have kids the same age as your youngest two and can't fathom having private tutors for them.
This seems like such a cold and impersonal way to reinforce learning for such young kids.
It seems as though you are overdoing the academics in an unproductive attempt to keep up with the Jones'.

I would ditch the private tutors and the majority of these academic courses. Replace these "enrichment" activities with quality time spent with Mom and Dad. As another poster stated, parents are the best form of enrichment/tutoring for kids this age.

Help them with their homework. Read with them at night. Build Kiwi Crates or Little Passports boxes with them every month. Play board games. Find ways to turn everyday life into fun easy learning activities.

They are young kids. Don't make their lives so structured, rigid and cold.
+1. This amount of pressure and life-scheduling is just as likely to result in them resenting you as it is in increased academic success.

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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by ks289 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:52 am

There are no easy answers here since kids have such different strengths and weaknesses.

I share your concerns about pushing your kids to excel, since your kids may resist (a lot) which may be counterproductive for many reasons (resentment, stress/anxiety, etc). There isn't always a clear boundary for strongly encouraging vs. excessively pushing.

The reality is that most public elementary schools are not trying to push your kids to excel either, so that may be 1) perfect, 2) ok, or 3) terrible depending on your kid. For our kids we have done many enrichment courses (math, robotics, academic competitions, private music lessons, sports) and switched to private middle school and TRIED to strike the right balance with fun and free time. We've backed off through the years as we've stuck with pursuits that were more enjoyable or they excelled at.

The concern about "keeping up with the Joneses" is real, since the level of competition for high school, college, sports, and even activities has significantly intensified starting in the 1990's. You may decide that that type of performance/competition is not worth it for your kids which I totally understand, but you may have to adjust your expectations accordingly. I don't think that it will be worth it for my kids to attempt to follow my pathway through childhood/school since they could need to spend twice as much time and effort to achieve the same results.

Good luck.

coalcracker
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by coalcracker » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:55 am

FoolMeOnce wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:52 pm
veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test
:shock: this seems like a great way to raise kids who resent both you and school.
It's a fine line between motivating your child to do well because they know you expect it, vs motivating them because they fear disappointing or "failing" you. The latter could be a recipe for anxiety and resentment.

Of course, the best case scenario is a self-motivated child, but that is by definition something you cannot engender. Remember, someday they will be on their own in college.

fasteddie911
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by fasteddie911 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:31 am

Both my spouse and I did this stuff, can only speak to that perspective, but it certainly wasn't to the extent kids do it now. Kumon, language schools, SAT prep, etc., we hated it all, didn't think it was worth it or even helped and don't regret quitting. IMO, I think these activities serve to make certain people money and have parents think they're actually doing something. I can think of countless anecdotal stories of family, friends, colleagues, etc. who've gone every which way from elementary/high school to where they are now. For me, math came on strong in high school and school in general didn't click until college. My spouse was that "average" student and likely still would be average on paper compared to her colleagues now, but she's often recognized as one of the best at her job. A few family and acquaintances were valedictorian types who went to ivy league, the type of kids parents brag about, but as adults failed to launch or haven't really done much. Some of the best life lessons I learned weren't in school, but in socializing, learning from parents, etc.

I would see nothing wrong with cultivating your kids interests; going to art classes, doing museums, travel or historical sites, etc. I also see nothing wrong with being a fireman, that can be a good job if you can get it. A friend who went to Ivy league was working some white collar job recently became a firefighter and seems happy.
Last edited by fasteddie911 on Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

bryanm
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by bryanm » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 am

I'll share the perspective of my wife, an elementary school teacher with 15 years of experience, a couple of masters degrees, and the most passion for children I've ever seen: As far as elementary school goes, focus on two things:
  • Making sure your kids think that they are good at school (subjectively, regardless of whether they are)
  • Making sure they love reading (in whatever subject matter they choose)
Those two items are foundational to a lifetime of education. I will add a third point from my own research: persistence is a taught skill. Young children do not know by instinct that practice improves performance, or that you often must fail before you succeed. I would think hard about the goals you set for kids, and teach them to work towards those. Make them something they can actually achieve. As they succeed, you can bring in new goals to hit. Extra-curriculars can be fine if the kids like them. But if the end result is that do so much that they don't think they're good at school, then that's not good for their long term success.

You mentioned Kumon above, which in particular seems to push a rote learning style antithetical to these goals. My understanding is that it's basically panned by educational professionals.

miamivice
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by miamivice » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:31 am

bryanm wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 am

Making sure they love reading (in whatever subject matter they choose)

This is the part that drives me nuts about online forums. Folks say things that sound good in principle but in practice are impossible.

I have a daughter (second grade) who hates reading. She is good at it but doesn't enjoy it. What should I do to change her dislike of reading into a love of reading?

The answer is there is nothing I can do. She knows what reading is, and she is old enough to decide what she does or does not like. She doesn't like reading just like she doesn't like walking in mud puddles. There is nothing I can do to ensure she loves reading.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Doom&Gloom » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:40 am

FoolMeOnce wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:52 pm
veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
When I scolded my fourth grader about an 86 on a math test
:shock: this seems like a great way to raise kids who resent both you and school.
whew!

miamivice
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by miamivice » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:43 am

As an aside, a parent shouldn't scold because he/she is unhappy with the grade at the top of the paper. If that was the best the child can do, the parent should be proud that the child tried hard even if the grade wasn't terribly high.

A parent should scold if the child is not putting effort into learning the material, or taking the test, or shows signs of being apathetic.

I'd be far more proud of a hard working child who scored an 80 on an exam than a lazy smart kid who scored a 95 on the same exam. The hard working not so smart child will likely outpace the lazy smart kid in life.

enclee
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by enclee » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:44 am

miamivice wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:31 am
bryanm wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 am

Making sure they love reading (in whatever subject matter they choose)

This is the part that drives me nuts about online forums. Folks say things that sound good in principle but in practice are impossible.

I have a daughter (second grade) who hates reading. She is good at it but doesn't enjoy it. What should I do to change her dislike of reading into a love of reading?

The answer is there is nothing I can do. She knows what reading is, and she is old enough to decide what she does or does not like. She doesn't like reading just like she doesn't like walking in mud puddles. There is nothing I can do to ensure she loves reading.
Depends how limited you define reading as an activity. Reading novels or age-appropriate books can be boring for kids, but there's more interactive ways to incorporate reading. It could be as simple as reading subtitles to her favorite tv shows or movies, you can both read along and even voice act. Other ways could be learning to cook new recipes and have your daughter read the recipe to you, or if you have a wood shop same thing just find something new and have her read it to you.

You just have to keep experimenting.

bryanm
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by bryanm » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:44 am

miamivice wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:31 am
bryanm wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:33 am

Making sure they love reading (in whatever subject matter they choose)

This is the part that drives me nuts about online forums. Folks say things that sound good in principle but in practice are impossible.

I have a daughter (second grade) who hates reading. She is good at it but doesn't enjoy it. What should I do to change her dislike of reading into a love of reading?

The answer is there is nothing I can do. She knows what reading is, and she is old enough to decide what she does or does not like. She doesn't like reading just like she doesn't like walking in mud puddles. There is nothing I can do to ensure she loves reading.
I'm sorry you feel that way! And I'm not going to tell you you're wrong either; you know your kid best. My point was that these should be the focus points, not that they're always achievable. If you're kid doesn't like reading, that doesn't mean enrolling in lots of extracurriculars is going to fix anything.

I'm not an educator (I was just parroting my wife, who is), but in the interest of trying to help, I will add a few thoughts that I've gleaned from her. The first is that just because a kid doesn't like to read now doesn't mean they never will. I would encourage you to keep trying. The second is that "keep trying" doesn't mean ram your head against a wall. There are a number of ways to teach reading that aren't classical reading. My wife uses graphic novels (aka comic books) extensively, and the kids love them. "Narwhal -
Unicorn of the Sea" might be a good one for a 2nd grader. She also uses video games that require reading (even when reading isn't the point of the game). The fundamental point is that reading is key to so much of everyday life, so we should be able to teach it using things from everyday life. Just because a kid isn't in love with classic literature doesn't mean they aren't a "reader." Hope that helps. (If it doesn't, welcome to the internet, where everyone has advice that sucks.)

enclee
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by enclee » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:49 am

veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:41 pm
Or am I just trying to keep up with the Jones’ and am secretly jealous of the parents of those kids who are doing advanced work. Am I just in the weeds and just need to slog through and everything will be fine in the end?
You're trying to keep up with Jones', and from your description of the neighbor it's clear you're envious. Let your kids, relax and enjoy being kids and more importantly enjoy having kids. Also, keep in mind some kids are more suited to being the big fish in the ocean with other big fish, but others excel at being the big fish in the small pond. Who knows maybe they'd feel more confident and positive being in an easier environment, where they are the top %.

Isabelle77
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Isabelle77 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:54 am

Don't do this to your children. They're going to hate school and burn out. That's the best case scenario, I recommend you read up on the growing mental health crisis affecting college students and some of the theories as to its origins.

A few book recommendations if you don't mind.

Last Child in the Woods - by Richard Louv

How to Raise an Adult - by Julie Lythcott-Haims

The Coddling of the American Mind - by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

malabargold
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by malabargold » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:57 am

Help accentuate the attributes that come naturally
to your children, not those that don’t.

You’ll both be happier and more fulfilled.

JBTX
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by JBTX » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:04 pm

If the kids are hating it, and they are otherwise doing well in school, drop these activities. I generally think kids will gravitate to their ability and a lot of that has to do with their motivations and interests. Burning them out early probably is counter-productive.

If the kids are struggling academically and need help that is another story.

My daughter has some academic struggles early and starting 6th grade we engaged a tutor which helped her greatly. She phased out of the tutor by 7th grade and by 8th grade was doing well on her own.

Whatyear?
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by Whatyear? » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:09 pm

As a parent to three current high-schoolers, I totally agree with what most others have said so far - let them be who they are. Not everyone can be top of the class, and different people are motivated by different things. Let the kids know you encourage then to do well, but don't scold them for getting B's.

I have a senior in HS who gets the occasional A, mostly B's, occasional C. Sometimes D's on exams. But she is super-motivated in general in school, sports, work, etc. and because that comes from within it will definitely pay dividends. I have no worries about her, even though she is in the lower HALF of her HS class.

I have a sophomore who is unbelievably tough on herself academically and would absolutely die if she didn't make high honors every semester. But again it comes from within - other than congratulating her on her report cards I've had no hand in it. She doesn't have a job and is absolutely unmotivated by money, but she is also an elite athlete. She'll be fine, too, but transitioning from school to the "real world" will probably not be as easy for her as daughter #1.

Then I have a freshman who is sort of in between. Makes honors every semester, but not high honors. Pretty good at tennis but doesn't kill herself at it. Would work if she could but she's only 14. Motivated enough by money that I expect she'll get a job when she can and will have no problem transitioning from school to the working world.

My belabored point - if they're doing fine and not struggling or seriously lagging their peers, let them be. That's success!

BarbBrooklyn
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:13 pm

These "academic" activities are simply practice, not enrichment, imo. (Parent of 3, grandparent of 2, retired School Psychologist, former camp director)

Paying for music lessons, if your children are interested is a far better investment, both in terms of increasing their attention span and helping them make the connection that practice makes for better performance. Also, learning to perform in front of an audience is a life skill that will stand them in good stead for decades.

Swimming also teaches self-efficacy and an "I can do this" ethos.
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

KlangFool
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by KlangFool » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:18 pm

OP,

<<Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it>>

https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/201 ... -gets-mit/

No. If a high school student in Inner Mongolia can ace MIT class and get into MIT, why do you think that those courses matters?

I am going to answer your question in 2 different ways:

You believe that those courses help your children compete in the real world. My answer is it does not. In the real world, anyone that is motivated and resourceful enough will be able to compete and surpass your children in an unconventional path. While your kids spending more time in high school classes, they are taking MIT college-level classes via the Internet.

The worse part of this is by overscheduling their lives, they have no free time and mean to be resourceful. They do not know how to take the initiative to find, do, and learn something.

There is another bigger picture of this:

Formal education is necessary but insufficient for someone to be successful in life. But, by focusing 100% of their lives and time on formal education, they will be lacking the essential life skills.

What are their hobbies? Do they play games? Are they in any kind of sports or team sports? What do they do for fun?

The world is changing rapidly.

KlangFool

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beyou
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by beyou » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:22 pm

It is one thing to make healthy activities available to them, another to force them into it. I made anything and everything available to my kids, and let them figure out what is motivating to them.

Also note the difference between enrichment and supplemental tutoring to keep up. Enrichment options should be available since you can afford it. Tutoring I would push harder if there is a learning gap in capability.

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veindoc
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by veindoc » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:26 pm

Lots of good replies and too many to quote.

By way of explanation the private tutor arose because my oldest was not reading midway through kindergarten. I was having little luck teaching him and got the tutor to help him along. It took her like a week. It was amazing. Similarly middle child had a pretty significant speech delay was 4.5 and did not know colors, numbers and the rest. She got him ready for kindergarten for me. The five year old has no need for a tutor but simply wanted to get in on the fun. The tutor doles our snacks post session. All three of the kids have attention issues. The oldest has severe ADD that impairs functioning both at school and at home but has been doing quite well on meds. The youngest two routinely get comments from teachers that they are not paying attention or focusing compared to their peers. I don’t notice this at home so we’ve been monitoring it. The tutor for me at least provides me with some comfort that if they are missing the material in school because they were zoning, she will ensure that it is reinforced again. But maybe they don’t really need her. They do like her very much though.

I do think I was trying too hard to keep up with Jones. The smart kids all do kumon and math enrichment. And if my kid is not doing it does that mean they are not smart? I just have to drown out the background noise. My kids are amazing and talented in their own individual way. Even if it can’t be graded or doesn’t result in a certificate or gold star. They actually are avid readers and love to learn but only about things they like. They (the oldest two anyway) simply don’t like school and seem intent to put forth the least amount of effort towards it. It’s like something unpleasant they have to do and will get through as quickly as possible to get to the good stuff. Like me with dishes or picking up dirty socks. The scolding with the 86 had to do with the fact every single wrong answer on that test was the result of careless errors. He knew all the answers. He skipped one question, half answered the other and miscalculated on the last. This frustrates me and confuses me because I was the exact opposite. I have a few cousins that never liked school and had parents that did not stress its importance and they dropped out of college. I have to wonder if their parents pushed a bit more if the outcome might have been different? I don’t know.

But I guess that’s just my kids. I think they understand how I feel about school and I will do my best to reiterate that to get to where they want to be in life, school is part of it. I just have to figure out a way to do it in a non threatening or competitive way. Because I do think I come on too strong with academics. We already spend quite a bit of time fostering their interests with drawing classes for kid 1 and trips to the museum for all. My explorer already gets National Geographic kids and little passports. And my firefighter is already equipped with his hat, uniform, and whistle (which he blows incessantly).

enclee
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by enclee » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:33 pm

veindoc wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:26 pm

But I guess that’s just my kids. I think they understand how I feel about school and I will do my best to reiterate that to get to where they want to be in life, school is part of it. I just have to figure out a way to do it in a non threatening or competitive way. Because I do think I come on too strong with academics. We already spend quite a bit of time fostering their interests with drawing classes for kid 1 and trips to the museum for all. My explorer already gets National Geographic kids and little passports. And my firefighter is already equipped with his hat, uniform, and whistle (which he blows incessantly).
I would focus that question on yourself, but yes school is valuable but there are other paths that don't rely on school. What do you envision as successful for your kids? Would you be happy, if they took the blue collar route or would you be disappointed?

wstrdg
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by wstrdg » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:59 pm

That sounds like a heavy schedule for kids so young. And they don't enjoy it.

Why not invest that money in creative learning toys that they enjoy (Lego, KNEX, Snap Circuits, for example) or creative computer programs (coding, cartooning, video production) or sports equipment (bikes, trampoline, basketball hoop). And make regular trips to your local library, even if reading isn't a favorite activity -- libraries today have more than books: puzzles, videos, games, etc.

Take a look at this for ideas: http://www.elenco.com/

SC Anteater
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by SC Anteater » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:11 pm

veindoc wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:26 pm
Lots of good replies and too many to quote.

By way of explanation the private tutor arose because my oldest was not reading midway through kindergarten. I was having little luck teaching him and got the tutor to help him along. It took her like a week. It was amazing. Similarly middle child had a pretty significant speech delay was 4.5 and did not know colors, numbers and the rest. She got him ready for kindergarten for me. The five year old has no need for a tutor but simply wanted to get in on the fun. The tutor doles our snacks post session. All three of the kids have attention issues. The oldest has severe ADD that impairs functioning both at school and at home but has been doing quite well on meds. The youngest two routinely get comments from teachers that they are not paying attention or focusing compared to their peers. I don’t notice this at home so we’ve been monitoring it. The tutor for me at least provides me with some comfort that if they are missing the material in school because they were zoning, she will ensure that it is reinforced again. But maybe they don’t really need her. They do like her very much though.

I do think I was trying too hard to keep up with Jones. The smart kids all do kumon and math enrichment. And if my kid is not doing it does that mean they are not smart? I just have to drown out the background noise. My kids are amazing and talented in their own individual way. Even if it can’t be graded or doesn’t result in a certificate or gold star. They actually are avid readers and love to learn but only about things they like. They (the oldest two anyway) simply don’t like school and seem intent to put forth the least amount of effort towards it. It’s like something unpleasant they have to do and will get through as quickly as possible to get to the good stuff. Like me with dishes or picking up dirty socks. The scolding with the 86 had to do with the fact every single wrong answer on that test was the result of careless errors. He knew all the answers. He skipped one question, half answered the other and miscalculated on the last. This frustrates me and confuses me because I was the exact opposite. I have a few cousins that never liked school and had parents that did not stress its importance and they dropped out of college. I have to wonder if their parents pushed a bit more if the outcome might have been different? I don’t know.

But I guess that’s just my kids. I think they understand how I feel about school and I will do my best to reiterate that to get to where they want to be in life, school is part of it. I just have to figure out a way to do it in a non threatening or competitive way. Because I do think I come on too strong with academics. We already spend quite a bit of time fostering their interests with drawing classes for kid 1 and trips to the museum for all. My explorer already gets National Geographic kids and little passports. And my firefighter is already equipped with his hat, uniform, and whistle (which he blows incessantly).
How much physical activity are your kids getting? All these 'enrichment' classes sound like a lot of sitting around, which is terrible for ADD/ADHD type kids. I know kids don't run around in the neighborhood for 2 hours after school like they used to (though mine did, a decade ago), but I'd find ways to let them run themselves around after school if I was going to pay for any type of enrichment.

researcher
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by researcher » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:12 pm

veindoc wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:26 pm
I drank the kool aid and have my kids enrolled in a handful of these activities. The problem is my kids hate it. I fight with them to do the homework assigned by these places.

The tutor for me at least provides me with some comfort that if they are missing the material in school because they were zoning, she will ensure that it is reinforced again.

They actually are avid readers... They (the oldest two anyway) simply don’t like school and seem intent to put forth the least amount of effort towards it. It’s like something unpleasant they have to do and will get through as quickly as possible to get to the good stuff.
Your kids currently spend...
- 7 hours/day at school, PLUS
- xx hours/day with a tutor "reinforcing" the same stuff they just learned at school, PLUS
- xx hours/day on multiple "academic enrichment" programs you've forced them to do (and the associated homework)

Quite frankly, this sound exhausting and frustrating for an adult, let alone for such young kids.
It sounds like they are putting an enormous amount of time and effort towards education.

Maybe all of this is making their educational experience "unpleasant."
Maybe they don't have enough time in the day for the "good stuff."

interestediniras
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Re: Are academic enrichment courses for school age kids worth it

Post by interestediniras » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:18 pm

Not reading the preceding discussion. The answer is simply no, it is not worth it. School is bad enough. Preferably you would reduce the number of hours spent in school, actually.

If you want your kids to learn math, then get a copy of Serge Lang's Basic Mathematics and work through it with them. One hour spent with that book is probably worth 100+ hours of "math education" in American schools. Yes, that includes the "good" American schools.
Last edited by interestediniras on Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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