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Balancing academics with training and... life

Discussion in 'Parent Forum' started by TherapistDad, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. We have worked with her teachers in elementary school and school principals, counselors and district folks beyond elementary to come up with a schedule throughout the years that provides balance for my daughter. We started modifying her schedule at school in third grade. She just isn’t one of those kids that can handle go go go without some down time.

    As the years have passed she is able to handle more and more and has been able to add to her schedule some additional extracurriculars that she is interested in. She still gets the sleep she needs (maybe not the totally recommended maximum amount, but a good amount that she does well on), has time to herself, time to rest and do her homework etc. She is now just starting out freshman year and is on a hybrid schedule.

    She takes four classes at school and then leaves at lunch time. A few days a week she may choose to stay and eat lunch with her friends, other days she comes home for down time or homework before spending five hours in the gym plus 45 minute each way commute each afternoon. She then takes a class at an online private school. She came into high school with two years of high school math and two years of spanish so we only need to cover five class periods.

    She has a 4.0 gpa, participates with the school and friends and extracurriculars that are important to her and is a level 10 gymnast training 25 hours a week.

    I think the message here is that to make the gymnastics life work there is going to have to be something that gives. For many it is sleep. I feel that this hybrid schedule we have created provides us the best of all worlds, but some would feel that we are compromising her education and/or her social Lif. I don’t see it that way at all. This way she has the time and energy to put her full self into gymnastics and school and she can pick and choose her social engagement and other activities. And she loves her bed and gets lots of sleep. Very important to her.

    Unfortunately, flexibility is key in this life as it doesn’t just take over your daughter’s life but the entire family’s. Family and personal priorities change and having hard and fast rules about things just doesn’t work. Everyone must make their own choices and I am a big believer that the choice to pursue this sport at the highest levels should be entered fully informed. It is only going to get worse from here, much worse. Now is the time to decide whether this is a lifestyle your family can commit to because it doesn’t really work half in.

    Now, there are lots of options usually for different levels of commitment in gymnastics. Going the super serious route isn’t the only option and not wanting this crazy existence for your familly certainly shouldn’t mean she has to give up gym entirely, but a lower key program may be a better fit.
    gymmom10, Flipfloppy, L10 mom and 4 others like this.
  2. My girls *need* 10 hours of sleep a night too. Their peers look at them like they’re weird for not staying up all night but they’re just not into being tired. Ha!
  3. Sleep is so interesting to me. My sons are 12 and 15. Every article I read says people that age need "8 to 10" hours of sleep. But I am not sure how that number is arrived at. 8 would never be enough on a regular basis for my kids. 10 hours is what we try for, but with my son in HS and doing a sport practice as well as 2-3 hours of homework every day (or more- yesterday his homework took 5 hours) it is simply not possible. 9 hours is what we shoot for, but too often it is 8 hours of sleep and that is NOT enough for him.
    kimute likes this.
  4. Thanks so much all you guys for such quick and thoughtful responses!!! I honestly don't think it will be a huge problem this year (homework stuff), but I want to make sure we instil good habits now. As she gets older, I anticipate that her sleep requirements may lessen, and she may already have developed the discipline to get the homework done before she evens leave school (that's what my DS has done more often than not).

    Yes, I live in Canada... and while homeschooling is a possibility, it's not an option for our family. Our DD would go nuts if she can't see her best friends from school. As for homework... we spoke to teachers about this, and for this year at least, homework is based on the day's learning, so they don't give out homework ahead of time. It's intended to reinforce what they learned in class. Based on my DS experience (he's 3 years older), at some point in later grades, they assign homework on a week-to-week basis (and he used to complete all of the week's homework on day 1). But for now, getting homework ahead of time is a no go. Skipping homework is also a no-go, as they take up homework every morning, so we want to avoid anything that would make our DD feel like she's falling behind. We do send our kids to a private school, and they do accommodate for competitive athletes so we're fortunate that way.

    I think this year may require some experimentation. We might try to get her to complete her homework at the gym after the training is done and then take her home afterwards (using the car ride home as a time to decompress from everything and get her in a good mindspace for sleep). If she's too tired (although she has yet to complain about being too tired after a training session), I could get her to do something in the morning... but I'd really rather her do it at night before she sleeps... simply because I think it's better for her learning and retention. Also want her to do homework in a stress free environment, and our mornings can tend to be a bit chaotic as we try to get our kids out of the house. I've seen many of the older girls sit there and do their homework after they complete their training.

    But I hear you guys about sacrifice and not being able to have it all and I totally agree with you guys here. I think when we are pushed to the limits, decisions we make will reveal where our true priorities lie -- and it's true... at this stage, I don't think we probably aren't being pushed that far yet. Thanks so much for sharing from your personal experiences though... it really gives me some ideas on how to prepare for the road ahead. This really is a great community... thankful I stumbled across this earlier this month.
    thefellowsmom likes this.
  5. This Thread has me thinking about our Kids and School. I remind my daughter that school is important, I give her the whys and you shoulds. I do wonder if school is in some way exactly like gymnastics? What I mean is we can not force our children to do gymnastics, while some try. We can not will them to level 10, it must come from within them. We can not will our children into college or a 4.0 GPA, it has to come from inside. Does anyone have any thoughts on how children perceive school and how as a parent you can help them come to realize that education is important?

    I am a realist, not every child should attend college there is nothing wrong with trades. How do we help the kids determine what career path is best for each as an individual?
    sce, M2Abi and Seeker like this.
  6. For career path, I think it is really just what interests them. I totally agree that college is not for everyone, but I do think MOST people should have some sort of education after high school. Whether that education comes from a trade school, an apprenticeship, the military, college, or something else doesn’t really matter. But a high school diploma just doesn’t get you very far any more.

    We show that education is important to our family through actions. Dd can miss practice if she has a big test or project. We don’t let her skip school for no reason. We go to back to school nights and meet the teachers. We ask about her classes. We show an interest in what she is learning.
    triplethreat+1 likes this.
  7. Why should we be encouraging our kids to determine career paths? There's entirely too much emphasis on pre-professionalism in secondary education right now. Ideally they should get the critical tools and self knowledge they need to figure this out for themselves, and the confidence, broad skill base, and flexibility to change paths if they learn that they would prefer a different one than where they start initially.

    This may be a vast oversimplification, but the two touchstones for me are 1) you get out in proportion to what you put in and 2) do the best you can to succeed but learn from your mistakes and failures and don't make excuses.

    I've tried to build the conditions under which my offspring can succeed, but it's their job to choose what they want, and they have increasingly taken on responsibility for setting their own priorities. I think that a lot of life involves recognizing what you can and cannot do, and figuring out how to prioritize what is most important, so I have not tried to figure out workarounds and special exceptions to enable my kids to do it all.

    We have stayed with conventional public school and have not pursued any schedule adjustments. Eldest opted to stop doing organized sports during his junior year in high school, because doing scientific research was more important to him and he was putting a lot of time into music. He is now doing two science majors in college and actively solicited and accepted an offer from a school that minimized costs so that he can enter graduate school without any debt. Middle dropped back to XCel a few years ago because of injuries but also to have more time to work on her art. She now plans to do art as one of two college majors and will select schools on the basis of their being able to offer opportunities in studio art, but she also wishes to continue gym for fun. Youngest is very invested in gym and has chosen not to do other things so that he can do gym, continue with his music, and maintain the high GPA he wants to maximize his academic scholarship prospects. They have all made very different choices, and I couldn't possibly be prouder of all three of them.
    PinPin, Seeker, coachmolly and 2 others like this.
  8. My kids were always the kids in bed at 8 pm each night...until gymnastics started altering that routine around 2nd grade (only 2 weeknights at that point). We finally had to just shift our schedules and routines to make it work. My daughter learned very young how to balance homework, working in the car, at the gym if she got there early and working ahead on homework on nights when she didn't have to. We also realized that school started later (when she was in elementary school) so she could sleep in longer in the morning. It meant I had to drive her to school but she got almost 45 more minutes of sleep. Fast forward to 8th grade and school starts early (she's out for the bus by 6:45 am) but she's home before 3. She has learned that she has to work on homework any opportunity she can. Instead of socializing during any free time at school, she's doing homework. I'm actually amazed at how little work she has to do when she comes home compared to some of her friends, all because she's become a pro at time management. I work at a high school. I cannot believe how late some of these students are up each night - but it's not activities keeping them awake. It's poor time management and/or poor decisions most of the time! (they will tell me - "I was dumb and just stayed up!"). Even with my DD's heavy workload, I think she still manages to get more sleep than most of her peers, maintain straight A's and is really learning if something is important, you can usually make it work. There are a few times when she needs to skip gym or be picked up early so she can get her work done but we rarely have a night where she isn't getting 8+ hours of sleep. I will say my kids (and really our family in general) are not big sleepers. No one is lounging around in bed and sleeping in even when we don't have to get up! We all have our limits though. I know we won't homeschool for gymnastics. It's just not something we are willing to do for this sport. We won't drive more than 45 minutes to get to a gym. Each family has to decide what they will work with and what they won't. If 10 hours of sleep is what you won't bend on, then so be it. I actually wish my kids could sleep for 10 hours but their bodies don't require it- they gave up napping around the age of 2. I will say that neither of my kids are night owls though. They do a great job of exhausting themselves with activities each day and hit the pillow easily each night and wake on their own most mornings.
    profmom likes this.
  9. Alert the media - I actually agree 100% with profmom's entire post. :)

    Especially this bit:
    profmom and raenndrops like this.
  10. Hi, sounds like we are are in a pretty similar situation. Our daughter is 8, also in 3rd grade, and now training for level 4. Last year was about 12 hours per week, four days per week. This year is 15.5 hrs/wk, 4d/wk. The increase has been easier for us, since gymnastics started two years ago, but the adjustment will take some time for you.

    It's quite likely that you will find our own sense of balance to be quite skewed, but in order to make sure that she develops in other areas, we also have her in Suzuki violin (daily practice, three classes/wk, now on book 6), ballet (two 1.5 hr classes/wk for level 4), science and math classes outside of school (each 2 hrs/wk), and swimming (1 hr/wk). The number of activities originally came about in part because we didn't get a slot in our elementary school's afterschool program (also our school system is strange with most weekdays being 8:20-3 but every Tuesday being 8:20-12:30 and a handful of other early release days scattered through the school year). She also enjoys reading, usually 3-7 books per week, playing with her younger brother, and weekly movie night (her only real screen time) or play date on weekends.

    Every child is different in terms of sleep requirements. Both of ours usually fall asleep shortly after 9 pm and wake up on their own shortly after 6 am (our son, who is younger, still takes a daily afternoon nap). She eats breakfast and reads or does some homework, then practices violin for 45-60 minutes before school at 8:20. On the evenings when she has gymnastics practice until 8 pm, I bring her dinner so that she can start eating in the car (otherwise, we always try to eat together as a family). She sometimes takes a short nap in the car on the way to practice, and our entire family takes a nap (hers is usually shorter than her brother's, but it's a good opportunity to catch up, especially if she hasn't been feeling well) on Sunday afternoons. Homework requirements have been pretty minimal so far, but can generally be completed before practice, while finishing up dinner at home, or in the mornings.

    We have had her help prioritizing her activities (she used to also take additional dance classes elsewhere, which she would have liked to continue, but she understood that sometimes certain choices rule out other options), and I did my best to fit as much as I could into the available time slots. We also made some negotiations, like her Suzuki group class being Book 4-5 because that was the only that would fit, as well as getting permission from the studio owner to miss the third weekly ballet class because of conflict with the gymnastics schedule. Last year, we were able to enjoy one weekend day without any activities every week, but unfortunately, that was not possible this year. If necessary, we will sacrifice the Saturday afternoon math class and the Sunday afternoon swim class (though trying to swim in the ocean this summer was a good reminder that she could be a stronger swimmer) in order to accommodate her needs. She also understands that more gymnastics in the coming years will mean stopping activities.

    Don't forget that social life does include time at school and in activities, so it's not necessarily an either/or. Plenty of camaraderie and goofing off still occurs during practices, recess, etc.

    kimute likes this.
  11. I observed something interesting recently. Some days my DD is done with gym at 6:30 PM and other days 8:45 PM. She gets to bed no earlier on the 6:30 days. She does good stuff-- has dinner with family, goofs with sister, etc. But is still doing HW until around 10 PM. On 8:45 days, she is an efficiency machine and also finishes up around 10 PM. I always wondered why non gym kids were up late doing HW. These kids really do learn amazing time management. At least when they need it.
    PinPin and gymnastmom05 like this.
  12. I tend to agree and I think that was partially what I was asking. I think parents tend to apply too much pressure and influence on their children when planning for the future. I want my children to think for themselves, find things that make them happy, and be good people. It seems some kids have a desire for education while others do not, I wonder if there is something in this scenario that can be quantified?
    Exgymmomx3 and PinPin like this.
  13. I love this- but it is basically how I parent, so I’m biased. Ha! I even go as far as to not consider myself my kids’ homeschool teacher. I call myself their educational facilitator. That is what I do, help to connect them with the things they actively seek when parental involvement is required (ie paying for college courses or giving permission to travel abroad). My kids sometimes make choices that make me uncomfortable, but I just sit in the discomfort and let them do their thing.
    M2Abi likes this.
  14. I read the article and liked what I read. Many things I already do and some good ideas that I will research further. Thanks a million.
  15. I don't think the key to success is nessesarily trying to convince kids that school is important. I think the key is to help our kids ENJOY school.

    Why are the kids so driven, hard working and passionate at gymnastics? Because they LOVE it! Children and Teens don't nessesarily have the ability to grasp the depth of importance of their education. But if they enjoynthe experience and the learning then not only are they more likely to achieve to their potential, but they are more likely to continue to want to learn for life after school.

    So how do you help a kid enjoy school? Take the pressure off, praise them for what they do, show an interest in the work they do and the things they are learning, read together, allow them to choose the subjects they enjoy, focus less on good grades and more on the learning process.
  16. @Aussie_coach I totally agree, but I hesitate to say I do not think that is the current thought in most schools. I think like everything else many school administrators are driven by test scores and nothing more.
    Seeker likes this.
  17. YG is now almost 14 and STILL naps on the way to gym most days. On those afternoons she comes to my house after school, she does homework until she falls asleep ... then I wake her up 15 minutes before we have to leave for gym. She will still sleep in the car (car baby) on the way there and sometimes on the way home too.
    PinPin likes this.
  18. And sadly becoming more and more that way as time goes on.
    PinPin likes this.
  19. I think you would find that they are less driven by scores than you think. I know we look at ours, and we see where our gaps are, but we definitely are more focused on the kiddos. Our leadership is great with focusing on the whole child and not just improving test scores.
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