I have great admiration for people who will work tirelessly at a particular skill in order to reach mastery and of athletes who practice over and over until they reach high levels of proficiency. Bottom line: it takes hard work to reach excellence!
I also believe that what we do with our time (and let’s face it, for both student and parent the majority of our time is spent “working”), is a means to draw us closer to God. St. Paul writes that “God uses all things as a means for our good!” When we consider the life of a “student,” we must never underestimate this vocation unfolding at this time in the lives of our children. I can clearly remember my 7th grade teacher telling our class that our vocation at the time was to be “student” or “learner!” This is what God desires for our children now, and so we trust that this learning experience will be the means to help them to grow as saints, as children of God. To reach a level of excellence requires practice, focus and a great deal of hard work!
I encourage each parent to make the role of “student” a priority for your child. Extra-curricular activities are a wonderful means to develop a well-rounded child, and in fact can teach so many valuable lessons! Studies show that athletic sports or lessons on a musical instrument do in fact help to raise academic achievement. However, I would caution families to not stretch your child too much. More is not always better. When children are involved in too many “extras” their focus dissipates and they become easily overwhelmed. One or two “extras” (sports, dance, karate, music lessons, pottery, etc.) is my recommendation. That way, children can focus on their primary “vocation” right now, which is to be student—learner.