Jedi skills bid holds no force with mum

AF­TER-SCHOOL MAZE TAMED

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy is a mother of three and a jour­nal­ist at The Aus­tralian. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mur­phymi­randa

HERE’S a school let­ter I never imag­ined I would be writ­ing: “Dear Mu­sic Teacher, sadly my daugh­ter has de­cided she no longer wishes to take up ukulele this year.”

It’s not that sad, to be hon­est.

The dis­card­ing of ukulele is a near-miss for the fam­ily eardrums that also help­fully re­moves an item from our crammed cal­en­dar of ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

As the school year lurches into gear, we’re tack­ling the in­sane, 15-piece 3D jig­saw puz­zle of fit­ting our chil­dren’s af­ter-hours pur­suits into the sched­ule.

There is — nat­u­rally — stacks of par­ent­ing de­bate on how much is too much when it comes to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties; whether in this over­pro­grammed age we’re over­load­ing kids.

(It’s tempt­ing as al­ways to sigh that when we were chil­dren our af­ter-school op­tions were a dizzy­ing ar­ray of choice be­tween play­ing with gravel or peel­ing the din­ner veg­eta­bles.)

I like the sen­si­ble sug­ges­tion of lim­it­ing a child’s for­mal ex­tra ac­tiv­i­ties to two a week, to pro­vide or­di­nary down­time and to build re­silience from be­ing al­lowed to get bored.

But with a bit of sport or mu­sic you’ve hit that tar­get be­fore you even start field­ing re­quests for French or dance or film­mak­ing or cod­ing or Scouts.

As the fam­ily’s Di­rec­tor of Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar Ac­tiv­i­ties, I ap­ply a ten­der-based process to de­ter­min­ing who does what and when.

First, all kids are in­vited sub­mit their am­bit claims. The Year 4 listed drama, pi­ano, choir, ukulele, soc­cer, Brown­ies. The Year 2 lob­bied for gym­nas­tics, swim­ming, net­ball, pi­ano, vi­olin, Brown­ies. The kindy kid wanted swim­ming, soc­cer and Jedi train­ing.

Next comes a strict as­sess­ment based on con­ve­nience.

Is it on a mum work day? Ex­pen­sive? Out­side a 5km ra­dius of the house? Does it need par­ent par­tic­i­pa­tion or mul­ti­ple days? Is it tuba or drums? Lose points.

Is it done at school, home, or can we pool trans­port? Will the other sib­lings be do­ing it? Will it tire them out? Is it cheap? Gain points.

Then, like in all dodgy ten­ders, I give an un­fair ad­van­tage — to swim­ming, which is es­sen­tial and goes straight to the top of the pile.

And I have a se­cret agenda: keep­ing the week­ends free be­fore some­one joins cricket, thus suck­ing up about 23 hours of Satur­day.

I an­nounced this term’s re­sults: swim­ming, gym­nas­tics, Brown­ies and pi­ano, plus drama at school. I can’t be­lieve it’s got so out of hand.

At least Jedi train­ing was out­side the 5km ra­dius.

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