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In addition to school courses, your children
take many kinds of lessons: music, art, dance, swimming, tennis, singing, and
so forth. Such lessons may be just for fun or for developing a skill; they may
be for a set number of weeks or continued indefinitely. This makes four
categories: (1) lessons just for fun and for a fixed period, (2) lessons just
for fun but for an indefinite period, (3) lessons for developing a skill and
for a specific period, (4) lessons for developing skill and for an indefinite
period of time.

This structured learning is added to the regular
schoolwork. Now, although education is a good thing, enough is enough. If your
children spend six or seven hours a day within a structured learning
environment, more is abusive and leaves too little free time. No child should
take more than three types of extracurricular lessons; in fact, one or two is
probably quite enough. A rule of thumb might be the lessons (including
practice) should take no more than five hours total a week for any child.

Lessons just for fun and for a specific time
period should be totally at your child’s option, following the maximum time
guidelines suggested above. If your child wants to take such a lesson for a few
weeks, and if time is reasonably available, she should be permitted to,
assuming there is a qualified teacher. Your child should be expected to attend
all of the meetings and to follow through to their completion. Lessons just for
fun and for an indefinite period of time are somewhat different. For lessons of
this type, you are making a long-term commitment to pay for the lessons, and to
arrange for your child to be present. Should your child be made to continue the
lessons if she becomes bored or decides she does not like them anymore?
Suggested rule: Tell your child she can, at any point, let you know if she
wants to stop. After that, she must take three more lessons. If after taking
three more lessons, she still wants to quit, then she can. Remember, these
lessons are just for fun anyway. If they are no longer fun, they are no longer

The third type of lessons are for a limited
duration and for developing a specific skill or talent. Using swimming lessons
as an example, should your child be made to take swimming lessons? Swimming can
be learned within a limited time and is an important skill. Yes, your child
should be made to go to swimming lessons and to follow through with the course
whether interested or not.

Piano lessons are a good example of lessons
developing specific skills and talents over an unlimited duration. Should your
child be made to take piano lessons? Probably not. Your child is unlikely to do
well, and can easily develop negative attitudes and resistance unless initially
interested. Most young children, however, are quite interested in these types
of lessons, at least initially. They want to learn to play an instrument or to
develop their artistic talents. In time, the lessons may get tedious. It is a
lot of work to learn how to play the piano. Should you insist your child
practice? Should you allow him to quit if he wants to do so? Without practice,
lessons are a waste of time and money. No, your child may not want to practice.
Even if he gets fairly upset about it, insist he practice for thirty minutes a
day or he practice each assignment three or four times a day.

Piano or other skill-development lessons are
frequently more important to you than to your child. You can say to your child,
“I want you to learn how to play the piano and think it is a good thing
for you to pursue music. This means you have to practice on a regular basis
whether you want to or not.” It is unlikely this will cause your child to
resent music or other lessons. Your child’s increasing skill is reinforcing and
any praise he receives will be encouraging. Nonetheless, if practicing and
taking lessons is a daily problem over several weeks, and if your child’s skill
does not seem to be developing, then there is no point to continuing the
lessons. Yes, your children should at times be allowed to quit. In reference to
this type of lesson, though, the final decision should remain with you. It is
your responsibility to encourage and sometimes insist these skills and talents
be cultivated.

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