I wrote about this sometime last year, it was one of the biggest surprises as a parent to a children in primary/elementary school. And now we have now reached the 1 month mark since the new school year began and we’ve had requests for the following:
- Optional floor hockey program (during school hours) $80 per child. Total = $160
- Optional gymnastics program (during school hours) $130 per child. Total = $260
- Optional skating program (during school hours) $200 per child + must have a helmet with a face guard and skates (which we would need to purchase). Looking at second hand options + skating fees x 2 = $500
- Farm trip $17 per child = $34
- 2 night overnight camp $225 per child = $450
plus fundraisers by purchasing books + labels.
Total (minus the fundraisers) = $1384!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is 1 month into the school year for a child in grade 1 and a child in grade 3! The school is not in a wealthy area, it is not filled with parents with large incomes. I would imagine that amount was a challenge for most families. And yet, while I’ve said no to all of the “optional” extras (except the farm trip, though they didn’t attend as my cheque was late (innocent mistake, we were away for medical appts)), for most of the activities, my children were the only students not to attend, for the rest (like skating) they were one of 3-4 children in grades 1-6 who were not enrolled.
I have many thoughts running around my head about this. When I see school administrators driving BMW’s, I often think they may struggle to understand parents of more average means. The vast majority of families in the school have only one child, and two seems to be the max. I often wonder if our modern age, smaller family means our views of norms and “must haves” for children has become disoriented, simply because for family’s with 2 working parents and 1-2 kids, there is usually more disposable income. And then I wonder about this whole idea of providing for our children and what that means. I contemplate why people feel such pressure to give children access to every activity, why people would go into debt so their children can have access to what a school dictates is “best”, at a time which may not even be developmentally appropriate. Certainly for my Grade 1 and Grade 3 sweeties, a $500 trip away for 60 hours isn’t it. And I doubt they are alone.
I did once overhear another child say to my daughter that she never does the fun stuff with her class, she was quiet and I did wince in sadness for a moment. Afterwards I asked her how she felt about the comment and she said “well they don’t know how much fun we have at home”. And in that moment, I learned from her, yet again.
As a mother, who knows her children best, this year we did add in some additional activities to the one we did last year. But before jumping at any program or doing it simply because every other child is, I thought about priorities, what was gained from the activity, whether this was the right time for it and whether that gain could be made from anything else. In order to afford the activities, one for each child was a birthday gift and they have one additional activity each which was carefully planned and had to be within our budget.
I don’t have the money to spend more than $1300 in a month for some fun “extras”. And if I did, I’m quite certain I’d make the same choice – I’d rather that money be spent on time together, or on some needed therapies for my children. And if school administrators can’t understand it, then that really isn’t our problem. Though I do so wish they would stop and think about how it may make children & families feel who can’t participate.