CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015
When I was a child, decades ago, my non-school free time was largely taken up with unstructured play that involved my neighbourhood friends. Then, baseball and hockey were the only out-of-school sports that were supported and organized by the local community. However, as I look at the schedules of my grandchildren, I realize that their entire off-school hours and weekends (apart from sleeping) could be easily consumed by "purchased" lessons and activities, with their parents' roles being reduced to that of deep-pocket funders and personal chauffeurs.
In Over-Scheduled Andrew, Andrew's love of acting leads to his joining the school's drama club. When Andrew's drama teacher suggests that his joining the debating club would assist him in improving his voice projection, he does so. As the excerpt above evidences, Andrew's success as a debater leads, in turn, to a suggestion from his friend, Calvin, that Andrew should join the chess club. Andrew acknowledges that three clubs were a lot, but he believed that he could successfully manage them timewise. However, then he signed up for out-of-school ballet and karate classes to assist him in mastering the dance routines that were part of the drama production. Andrew's improved physical coordination causes the school's tennis coach to recruit him while another school friend convinces Andrew to take on the editorship of the school's newspaper. Additionally "Grandma insisted that [Andrew] learn to play the bagpipes." It's almost as if Andrew has become addicted to extracurricular activities as he adds the French film club, singing lessons and Spanish classes to his already crowded schedule.
However, Andrew's over-involvement in so many activities finally takes a toll on him physically, emotionally and mentally, and he begins to make errors in all the areas in which he had previously succeeded. A fatigued Andrew reaches his lowest point when he falls asleep offstage during the drama club's performance, and, as a consequence, he misses his entrance cue and the opportunity to perform in the play. A now wiser Andrew recognizes that "[c]learly, he was doing too much", and so he cuts back on his scheduled activities, retaining only the drama and French film clubs. Andrew can now use the "liberated" time for something which had been all but eliminated from his over-scheduled life - free, unstructured play with his friends.
According to a note on the copyright page, "The artwork was rendered digitally and with a great deal of over-scheduling." Endpapers provide Andrew's schedule for a week. Particularly telling are Andrew's added notes, such as Sunday's "Visit Edie!", Friday's "SLEEP" and Saturday's "SHOWER!". Few youngsters would be happy with Saturday's schedule that begins with "sleep in until 5:30 a.m.!!!!" Spires' use of several images on a single page underlines how busy Andrew's life is becoming.
While Over-Scheduled Andrew is intended for an early years audience, its message should also serve as a cautionary tale for parents who might be tempted to over-schedule their own children's lives while forgetting that we all need time to just "play".
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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