Music, Art, & Dance

by winemama

Did your kids take any lessons when they were toddlers? Dance or gymnastics? Suzuki violin or piano lessons? Acting, etc?

Do you think the arts are beneficial for kids? Has your school district cut funding for the arts?

Share your own arts stories (your own or your kids).


98 thoughts on “Music, Art, & Dance

  1. DD#1 – tried dance, tried gymnastics, tried martial arts, tried art in the last Pre-K through 2nd grade mainly in day care as an add on or in after school care. Art lasted the longest. DD#2 – only tried the gymnastics and art in the same vein, again art lasted the longest. None were a large cost or commitment.

    Our elementary had minimal art in elementary, just the kind incorporated into the routine projects. Then last year hired a part time art teacher, so the kids are getting more now than mine did. Except for one year, due to budget cuts they, had a dedicated music class, which the current teacher does a great job with. Band started in 4th grade. DD#1 – has taken band since then, DD#2 – skipped last year (due to teacher), but is back in now. In MS, they have had the option to take art electives. DD#2 opted into ceramics 1 & 2.

    Benefits: Any kind of movement – dance, sports, martial arts – that keep them active is beneficial, especially if they otherwise lean toward sedintary activities, and that multiplies if it is something they can enjoy later in life. Music is a life long skill they can enjoy, even if they don’t do it professionally. My DD#1 finds playing her instrument relaxing, so even if it is just for stress relief, there is a beneft. In elementary school and above some of these activities have them involved with a different group of peers than their classmates. I think that helped my DD#1 a lot as she has fewer social skills and it put her in groups with others who shared an interest.

  2. DSS played tuba, but that’s it arts-wise. He probably would have benefited from more arts-related classes.

    I played clarinet. I took a lot of dance over the years — ballet, jazz, etc. I would love to learn how to draw, but all the art classes when I was a kid were just like the one Beezus Quimby had to take, where the teachers just exhorted you to be creative. Yeah, how about a little technique, lady? I used to play recorder, too, but I’ve let that lapse. I keep meaning to see if I can find a recorder teacher around here, but it’s kind of intimidating to be a beginner as an adult.

  3. RMS – I love those scenes in Ramona when Beezus is at art class. Especially when their mother makes Beezus take Ramona with her and Ramon at 4 just plays outside by herself in the sandbox. I always laugh about how no one would ever do this now (also because you would get arrested).

    We have a no activities until you’re 4 rule. DD does art at the after school program and goes to art camp in the summer and on off days of school. She’s done some really neat things and that’s her favorite activity. She plays softball now during the fall and spring. Since DS just turned 4 I’ve dutifully signed him up for fall soccer. He’s really a ball of energy so I think it will be fun for him. DD’s school has a neat after school program so my preference is that she does things there because it’s so easy. She’s done karate, yoga, art and drama in the past.

  4. Both my kids take martial arts, DD takes dance and DS plays in band through school. They both swim and DS does rec soccer. All these things they have now done for a couple of years. As my kids have taken more and more lessons in each activity they have become better and have tended to enjoy these activities more. It takes time to get to a decent level of competence. They also get to interact with different groups of kids and adults and I think it has definitely helped with their social skills. New groups of kids, adults etc. don’t faze them and they always seem to make a few friends here and there. By now they know a lot of kids from our area who go to different schools.

  5. Our schools have cut back so that the kids basically have art and music one day a week each in ES, although it becomes an every-other day thing. DD plays a lower-brass instrument (a/k/a the “college scholarship section” as per her ES teacher, yeah right). I have never thought it meant much to her, since it’s not like she practices or anything, and I offered lessons but she turned me down (hmm, perhaps because I told her she’d need to practice!). But we were just at the Edinburgh Tattoo, and she was absolutely rapt listening to the bands and over the moon excited about the whole thing, so I’m going to count that as a win.

    Outside of school, we had a one-thing-at-a-time (+ swimming) rule to maintain sanity. For both kids, that has mostly been sports; neither one is particularly gifted artistically, and for DD our biggest priority was finding an energy outlet. So we never got into the dance-and-violin scene that seems so prominent here. DS actually loves art and has done some after-school art clubs, and he does periodically surprise me with how well he can draw. He is partially color-blind, so not exactly a viable career choice there, :-) but he enjoys it (yesterday he origami-ed a ninja star), so we’ll certainly encourage him to continue.

    I do think creative stuff is an outlet. School and the business world can be very left-brain, so doing things that turn off that part and turn on the other side of things is really refreshing. I used to take classes (pottery, pastels) just because they were different and I knew I would be bad at it; I’ll probably pick that up again when I am back to having some time on my hands.

  6. Our elementary school was an arts magnet school. The students are in musicals, dance, learn how to play the recorder, and take regular art classes. One of the most popular after school activities is the art club. It was nice to have this exposure at school, because they get little exposure to the arts at home.

    DH and I have little interest and appreciation for art, dance, music, etc. Our kids’ interests have focused on STEM stuff–summer science camp, Minecraft modding (coding-lite), showing off how many digits of pi they can memorize, etc. If they had artistic interests, we would support that, but they do not and we don’t push.

  7. DD took piano 3rd through 5th grade then switched to band in middle school (6th grade). She stayed in band through 9th grade. This year (10th grade), she’s dropping it so she can take computer programming. DD’s middle school had a great music program – easily 2/3 of the kids were in band, orchestra or choir. There were 4 different levels of band (actually 5 if you include jazz band).

    DS hates being told what to do so he’s done less on the music front. We did piano lessons for a while until I decided the hassle of trying to get him to practice wasn’t worth it. He may take band next year when he starts middle school in order to get out of gym. If you take both music and a foreign language, you don’t have enough periods to also take gym and you can get a waiver (but you do have to make it up with an outside sport/athletic activity).

  8. I would like to take piano lessons after the kids are gone and I have more free time.

  9. We did have the kids take the requisite sports in elementary school–soccer, gymnastics, and flag football. They both swim well–this is non-negotiable. They also enjoy skiing. Their main sport now is racquetball, which they play with DH. I like this, because it’s a sport that they can easily continue as adults. They also run and lift weights, which they can also continue as adults.

  10. as a kid and through high school I was in choir, band & orchestra (saxophone), drama, and show choir. I really think the saxophone gave me a lot of confidence I needed as a teenager and I made lots of close friends at school through the music related groups.

  11. I never had any art related artistic talent (drawing, painting) but I wasn’t a fan of either art teacher I had in elementary. in middle school you had to choose art band or choir (I chose band). My sister and uncle (and his daughter) all have great artistic talents. I’m envious. I do think about taking a class as an adult.

  12. Our district has eliminated third grade band and orchestra, which was really sad to me. My older two grumbled continually about violin lessons until they hit third grade and discovered they loved playing music with other kids. Once that happened, they actually practiced eagerly, and my middle one in particular (the not very musically talented one), would run in to the house after school whenever they got a new piece, and immediately want to practice it. He is switching to string bass this year, and is so excited about it. My daughter had to miss out on that, and wait until 4th grade (this year) to do orchestra. I think she has lost something – 4th graders are already so cynical about things compared to 3rd graders.

    Another thing that has happened which may or may not be related to budget cuts is that for two years in a row now, the only section of HS orchestra is scheduled to conflict with the only section of French. It is so unfair and has decimated the orchestra, which may be the point I guess (a way to get rid of the orchestra teacher?). Most of the kids taking French were also in orchestra. They run multiple sections of Spanish – why not schedule orchestra to conflict with one of those instead? My oldest has not gotten to do orchestra for two years now, and he is so sad about it. Unlike my middle kid, my oldest actually has musical ability and was concertmaster his last year in orchestra.

  13. Totally off-topic: congrats to the Houston-area folks on the LLWS win — what a game!! (I didn’t see it, but I do watch ESPN in the mornings!).

  14. The only sport I’ve ever been any good at was swimming, but fortunately that’s a life-long sport that you can do almost anywhere without a team or a lot of equipment. DD tried dance and gymnastics, but she has been swimming for 2 years now and seems to like it, which makes me happy. I know my way around a swim meet much better than a dance competition or gymnastics meet, and that’s before I even think about the whole body image problem, sexualization of little girls, etc.

    I also did art and music throughout my life. I took piano lessons from age 8 – 16 and then again in college, one summer to prep for a pageant, and again after college for a while. In school, I switched between band (played xylophone, marimba, bells, chimes, triangle, and other auxiliary percussion) and art as my elective courses, and I did marching band & yearbook staff as my extracurriculars. I designed the yearbook cover my senior year and was voted most artistic by my classmates.

    DD took some group piano lessons offered at daycare, and then we signed her up for private lessons in Kindergarten. That didn’t go very well so we stopped and tried again with a different teacher in 1st grade. She still didn’t have the maturity to deal with one-on-one lessons plus practice, so we gave up again. In 2nd grade she was old enough for a local theatre class, which she LOVES and is doing again this year (1 night/week with performances in Dec & May). Now in 3rd grade, her music teacher offers an after-school (1 day/week) percussion band, so we’re trying again with the music. She is already playing xylophone, so maybe the piano training helped, and she is more likely to behave properly in a full class with a teacher she already knows and respects.

    DD’s elementary school has art, library, and guidance (family life education, bullying, etc.) for 1 hour one day per week, and on the other 2 days they get 30 min. each of music and PE. I have really liked the art coming out of her formal art class. They actually learn about famous artists and then create their own version of a famous work or something in that artist’s style. My kid appears to have some talent too!

  15. Our school has a really strong arts program, and it’s very diverse. I am amazed at the breadth of talent of the teachers. This year this is a “STEAM” focus – STEM + art. It’s interesting what they’re doing.

  16. We are the types that have our kids do all the lessons and activities. I grew up that way myself, and while my husband’s family did not push him to do lots of activities, by middle school he said he was signing himself up for any activity he could get to. Even as adults, we like to take lessons – I was doing recorder lessons for a long time, and my husband was in a bagpipe band and has a Chinese tutor. I guess it is the same thing that makes us enjoy very active vacations.

    Right now, the kids do a sport each (soccer for the two younger right now, and cross country for the oldest), Chinese school, and violin lessons. My oldest also does a chamber music program in the spring and summer, and takes programming classes. All of them do the once a month library clubs for their various ages, and really love those. My middle kid is on the library book trivia team – they are going to a county wide competition in October. My daughter really wants to take horse riding lessons, but dang those lessons are expensive.

  17. @ Mooshi, I agree, that is sad. Last spring for the first time our school had 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders play a concert together (orchestra). Each grade played the same music, and all at the same time, but each grade had a progressively more difficult part of it. It was so stunningly beautiful I cried (and I am not really a crier at things like that). To hear those kids come together and play, it was literally and metaphorically transforming. And as you say especially with little 3rd graders in the mix.

    I am not musical, so I’m not describing it well, but it beat any professional performance I’ve ever seen.

  18. This discussion reminded me that DD’s first school (the one that got so overwhelming later on) did an awesome job bringing in a local dance teacher for the kids. She taught more modern stuff (e.g., hip-hop vs. ballet). DD had zero talent but LOVED it and threw herself into it with all she had, which made for adorable cute little kid “recitals.” That’s the one thing I regret about leaving that place.

  19. Lark, they did something like that this summer when my oldest did a 2 week violin traditions of the world camp. There were kids of quite a wide age range in the camp, so the performance had to be creative. One of the songs they did was an Appalachian oldtime tune, the kind that tends to repeat over and over with variations. So each kid got a solo on one repetition, with a variation suited to his or her musical level. Because it was a fun energetic tune, it worked really well, and I kind of felt the same way you did listening to it. They also let my son, who is a good oldtime style fiddler, play a contradance tune while all the other kids did a traditional dance to it.

  20. Both my kids like crafts. My DD makes cute things and I am amazed that the craft supplies and kits she wanted are actually being used. I am waiting to see what sort of higher level arts/craft classes are offered.
    DH was such a skeptic about band because DS sounded awful the first year but was amazed that while playing together at the concerts all the screechy sounds were drowned out and all we could hear was music.

  21. Unlike most instruments, violin can be started really early. My oldest started when he was 4, the middle kid at 6 (he had some coordination issues so he wasn’t ready before then) and the youngest at 5. For young kids, Suzuki is the best way to go. Generally, Suzuki teachers will take kids at 3.

  22. yeah, that is why I was thinking of violin to start out, I’ll have to look into teachers

  23. if you don’t mind me asking, how much would you spend on a starter instrument? He can get kind of wild (as can all 4 year olds)

  24. You can usually rent the starter violin. Find the teacher first because he or she will usually have a good idea where to locate an instrument.

  25. I understand about wild kids. My overly energetic daughter just broke her violin bow last week by sitting on it. Luckily it was a cheap bow and she was due to move to a larger instrument anyway (which we conveniently already owned – we have every size at this point), so we just tossed it.

  26. Wine: I’d try and find a class with both girls and boys. DS1 tried one piano lesson and decided it was not for him because he was the only boy. DS2 stayed in gymnastics because there was another boy besides him in the class.

  27. DS1 just started piano as a third grader. I don’t think my kids are ready to read music, focus on fingering, etc. any earlier but I think Suzuki probably gives kids a better ear for music. I have to sit with him during some/most of his practice sessions because he doesn’t yet realize when he gets timing wrong, plays a wrong note, hammers the keys, etc.

    Our schools offer PE and music once/week. Art was discontinued due to budget cuts but this past year a mom who is also a certified teacher offered art pretty regularly so I’ve been happy about that. DS1 did an after school drawing class last year but then kind of lost interest and picking him up after it this year may or may not be doable. The twins play soccer. I hope to do private swim lessons between soccer seasons, but I can’t handle swimming and soccer at the same time. My kids don’t like swimming and are not particularly good at it. Two of the three are non-floaters like me. I eventually learned to swim at a basic level, but I never learned to float.

    I like to attend plays/musicals at the local high schools and community theater so my kids have been exposed to some of that. I remember going to The Sound of Music when the twins were in preschool and being seated next to Mr WCE’s second level manager. We sat on an aisle end and everyone behaved but the kids weren’t heavy enough to hold the seats down in the old-style theater so we either had to hold the kid or hold down the seat with a leg. They all fell asleep sometime during the second act, fortunately.

  28. No guys commenting?

    I took a lot of dance as a kid and sorely regret giving it up these last few years, especially because I sucks at athletics.

    My school art class experience is similar to RMS- no technique taught ever.

    Kidlet seems to be athletic like DH, but also loves to boogie to music. Thanks for the violin idea!

  29. One of the reasons I like SUzuki is that the kids learn by ear. I think it is really important to learn by ear before learning to read, because after all, one is producing something meant to be heard, not read. And it is a skill that generalizes to all instruments. All of my kids have a good ear now, and none of them had trouble learning to read notes when it was time.

  30. I had to take dance as a kid, both ballet and tap. I was SO BAD at it!! I kind of schlepped my way through tap, but ballet was traumatic because I am very inflexible and could not do any of the things they wanted us to do. So I used to sneak off with another girls and hide under the cafeteria tables (dance lessons were at my school).

    We put my DD in Chinese dance when she was 4. It was OK until the performance, when she realized she was going to have to wear a silk dress with flowers on it, tassles in her hair, and makeup. She was completely glowering when she took the stage. She kind of slid back and forth with the other kids for a bit, then stopped cold and started scratching her behind. When the teacher who was offstage hissed at her to dance, she announced in the loudest possible voice “My butt itches!”. That was the end of dance for her.

  31. No guys commenting?

    Oldest took guitar in his usual fashion…excitement about doing it beginning about 3rd grade, little effort put in practicing, ever, until he finally gave it up after 6th grade.

    Middle took piano ~2nd grade – 7th or 8th. Had a ear for music, but just got tired of it. There was no regular role for piano in any of the school bands/orchestras/ensembles at his ALL BOYS school. I think if there had been he would have continued. He also did DramaKids for about a year, seemed to like it, teacher said he was very good, but he never wanted to pursue drama beyond one class in HS.
    He also did little kid gymnastics for a couple of years, but when he turned 5, then it was actual work/exercise, not just playing, and he didn’t like it.

    Youngest took piano for a couple of years, then switched to drums. Rented a snare(?) drum for him, but drums were not that exciting to him after about a year.

  32. Fred, my DS took piano for a year and switched to drums. I insisted on the piano first. After a few years we have invested in a full drum set and industrial strength ear plugs. He has kept it up and is good, he did great in a rock band camp this summer. He will play percussion for the first time in the school band this year, 7th grade, but they don’t use actual drums until Jazz Band so it will be xylophone etc.. I hope he keeps it up through high school since he is good and is NOT and athlete.

    DD took piano from 7 to 14 and also was good but never practiced. I finally told her that if she didn’t practice she would have to pay for the pricey lessons herself – so she quit. She now takes voice lessons, much less expensive, and is the Choir this year, I hope she likes it.

  33. Mooshi, why don’t the kids drop out of French instead? Spanish is a much more useful language to learn these days anyway.

  34. We did piano lessons for a while until I decided the hassle of trying to get him to practice wasn’t worth it.

    That’s our kids. DD to flute lessons then drum lessons, and DS took guitar lessons, but neither of them wanted to practice so we stopped. It’s too bad because DS has really good musical potential.

  35. I started violin at age 4 (I chose it after a musical trolley type program) and continued through HS. I always hated practicing, but became somewhat proficient. I loved chamber music and orchestra–so cool to see how many parts can come together! I started with a plastic violin, then had a 1/16 size. I hope my parents still have it–would be fun to have DD try it in a few years.

  36. As usual with DS the trick is to get him to stick to whatever it is, once the newness has worn out. Once he is over that hump and actually starts to learn and gains competence he finds that he has actually made good progress. This has happened in band, in spite of slacker habits and not practicing. For him, the key is to just go to whatever class where he tends to focus and listen.
    It will be interesting when DD takes band to see which instrument she picks. The requirement is one year of piano if you want to take saxophone, French horn or percussion. I am dragging me feet on the piano sign up.

  37. Mine are all doing theater (three different levels) and chorus again this year. The younger two are also in middle school band. My daughter made first chair trombone and she is very pleased.

    Visual arts is something they could use more of, but it’s hard to see where we would fit it into the schedule. My youngest would like to be involved with our local makerspace but again, it’s hard to see where the time would come from (and a parent would have to be involved with him).

    In addition to the arts-related activities, my daughter will be back to swimming once her leg is sufficiently healed, my youngest will hopefully be starting that too although he’s pushing to return to gymnastics, and my oldest has a couple of school clubs he’s looking to do.

    Winemama, both my boys did ballet in the past. They enjoyed it. My oldest was most recently doing it on a casual once-a-week basis but had to quit just over a year ago because it conflicted with chorus. For boys, I think you need to find the right studio as one that’s focused more on little girls and not putting on actual ballets (so not thinking about bringing the boys along for future partnering) may be off-puttingly pink and sparkly.

  38. “may be off-puttingly pink and sparkly.” pink and sparkly would actually interest DS right now. I don’t think DH would let me put him in ballet though

  39. I don’t think DH would let me put him in ballet though

    Why? Too gay? It really is the foundation for all other kinds of dance. Even hip-hop.

  40. DS already loves pink, disney princesses and unicorns LOL that doesn’t bother DH (and by the way my brother is gay and we would both love and except DS if he was) but the other day DH made a comment like I was trying to make DS girly, whatever

  41. I am making Junior take ballroom dancing. Really! He hates it as much as I did when I was his age. Like me, he goes to a place that is kajillions of social classes above ours. It costs way more than I can afford. And I am only making him do it for a year. I hate to admit it, and my mother would be snickering, but being able to waltz, do a proper tango and a fox trot can really impress the ladies and gents, I suppose. It is not something many people can do. (Or care to.)

    Surprisingly, Junior is fairly good at it. Unlike me, however, he doesn’t have to wear tails to the lessons or white gloves for the recitals, either. A few years ago, perhaps on TOS, I told all of you that I know how to do a formal bow properly. It was ballroom dance that taught me that perfectly useless skill.

    As much as I hated it, and as much as I’d still hate it, being able to do the formal dances has served me well– rarely– but it has. Who would think PTM could dance to classical music?

  42. DH took ballroom dance/social dance as a youth, and boy howdy did it serve him well. He never actually hated it, though. And *I* was impressed, and I know some of his previous girlfriends were impressed, and we danced up a storm at DSS’s wedding. Social dance is a great investment for boys.

  43. Denver Dad, French is a family language for us. Just like all the Italian-American kids take Italian in our district (yes, our school offers Italian), our kids, and the few other kids of Quebecois ancestry in our area take French. French is actually pretty practical, maybe not as much as Spanish or Chinese (which is also in some sense a family language for us), but still practical. Remember that Quebec is an easy drive for us. And French is one of the most common second languages in the world. I can speak French myself, and find that it so often comes in handy when people in other countries don’t speak English but know some French.
    Also, my husband and I can help the kids with French, but couldn’t with Spanish.

  44. One other thing – like I said, lots of kids take Italian in our district. Now Italian is really not a practical language at all – it isn’t even a common second language. The kids who take it are only taking it because it is a family language for them. And I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

  45. Funny language anecdote – DD became a lot more serious this year about learning her characters when she got in tight with the Japanese crowd at school, and realized her Japanese friends could all read characters.

  46. My DH says he wishes someone had made him take ballroom dancing as a kid. His father and the older male generation in his family were all really good dancers, and going out to dance to polka bands was a big part of their social lives. My DH says he wishes he could do that too.

  47. “I never learned to float.”

    I thought whether or not one floats was a function of density. Being very dense, I am not a natural floater.

  48. “Surprisingly, Junior is fairly good at it. Unlike me, however, he doesn’t have to wear tails to the lessons or white gloves for the recitals, either.”

    Sounds like the kind of activity HM’s son might enjoy, with the tails, gloves, etc.

  49. “Now Italian is really not a practical language at all ”

    Won’t it help them in music?

  50. not especially. The number of Italian terms encountered in music is pretty small, and pretty easy to remember without knowing the language.

  51. Wine, I concur with Mooshi, a lot of kids start violin as young as 3. DS started a bit late (1st grade), but DD started at 4.

    We bought our kids’ instruments when they started, rather than rent. Look for a violin shop that has a good trade-in policy. The two shops here that we’ve used credit back 75% to 80% of the purchase price when we trade in a violin we bought from them, so if your kid(s) stick with it for a while, buying may very well end up less costly than renting.

    Keep in mind that your kid will keep outgrowing the violin until he either stops or grows into a full-size violin. With rentals, upsizing doesn’t typically cost as much as if you buy.

    In our case, much of the upsizing cost was mitigated because DD used hand-me-downs from DS.

    For starting out, I’d suggest looking at a used instrument possibly a former rental. For a preschooler, you can start at about $200-$300 for a new kit, including violin, case, bow, and rosin, possibly less for used. You might be able to get a beginner instrument quite cheaply on Craigslist, but if you don’t know what to look for, you might get one that’s not playable.

  52. “she was absolutely rapt listening to the bands and over the moon excited about the whole thing”

    One of the benefits of learning an instrument, even if only to a beginning level, is that it is often accompanied with an increased appreciation and enjoyment of music.

    I imagine this may also be true of art, but I’ve never had much art education and don’t really appreciate art that much. I did, however, appreciate the Strads and other instruments on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (as did DS).

  53. Wine, you might check out websites of Southwest Strings, Shar Music, Johnson String, and others for an idea of what a starter violin costs.

  54. very timely as I was texting with some of the dance moms in my carpool about which dance class the girls are going to take in the fall. I just can’t wait to drive that lovely bunch of tween girls next year. I am really hoping that the mean one drops out this year to focus on soccer. I was melting in a line in disneyland while texting, but I really didn’t want to deal with the reality of carpools, dance classes and school that start next week.

    DD has been dancing since she was a toddler. She loves it, and she is a really good dancer vs sports – she is more of a recreational player. I didn’t let her do any of the competitive dance classes or teams as she got older because I saw it consume every minute of some of her friend’s time through HS.

    I do wish that I had spent less money on certain classes when she was really too young – such as swimming when she was a baby. I think the music classes that she took as a toddler were great because I was able to meet a lot of other moms on my one day off from work, and she really seemed to enjoy the classes.

    If I think about how much we’ve spent on dance, dance costumes, and dance shows – it is a lot, and it probably could have paid for the renovations in one of my bathrooms.

    I really don’t want to return to the east coast this weekend. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was from the renovations, and the stress at home. I feel terrible for the folks in CA because of the drought, but the weather was amazing here. We spent time all over the state, and the only negative was the traffic!!! I love to come here for vacations, or work. I just know that the traffic would drive me nuts if I lived here.

  55. Lauren – the traffic seems to be at an all time high right now where I live – it is starting to wear on me. Especially on the first day of school this week, so much worse than prior years. I hope it will thin out as people get their carpools set and adjust their work start times to avoid school traffic.

  56. The traffic in the Bay Area is bad, but the traffic in LA and Orange County is crazy. They have so many freeways as compared to Bay Area and it feels like 90% of them are jammed.

  57. I am in total agreement on LA – when I got my first job out of college I had to specify where I was willing to work – government agency with field offices all over the country – I told them I was willing to work anywhere but LA – just because of the traffic – and that was 25ish years ago. I ended up staying in SF and used public transit if on “on the road”

  58. Aw, man, missed this topic bc was out with the kids all day!

    #1 child takes piano, started last year, and is starting choir this year, yay! #2 and #3 are too young for formal lessons yet – I am not a suzuki fan so won’t start them until 6-7. They all take ballet at a more classical studio, so no recitals with $75 costumes or anything like that. I may try to start #1 and #2 in soccer this year but I think it will probably conflict with ballet, so will do swimming instead if that happens. #3 will also probably take gymnastics while #1 and #2 are in math class.

    #1 is also very into drawing/art and I think I need to have DH take her to the MFA to do some kind of drawing there. She is very good at copying things, way better than I ever was – gets that from DH.

  59. My kids both did YMCA soccer starting at about 4. My daughter did dance and cheer in elementary. I didn’t put them in a lot of activities because we had a ton of neighborhood kids and they big loved just playing after school. I think it was great for them, but when they wanted to play sports in middle school, everyone else had been playing since they were five years old. I came to regret the choice.

    I did social dance/cotillion when I was younger and agree that the ability to dance those dances is a huge plus. It lets me dance with my dad, which is a memory I will always treasure. I will make my son take lessons before our next family wedding.

    On language, my kids take Spanish because it just makes sense living in Houston. The other option at my son’s school is Turkish, which has limited practical usage for him.

  60. Before you signed your kids up for all these activities, how much thought did you give to the end game for them?

    I know for some activities, it was pretty straightforward. For swimming, I wanted the kids to know how to swim well enough to be able to enjoy the ocean and pools, and to not drown under ordinary circumstances. With martial arts, I wanted them to learn how to fall without getting hurt.

    With violin, we didn’t really plan it initially, but it turns out the main reason we want them to continue is for the peer group in orchestra and chamber.

    Beyond that, what is/was your goal in getting your kids into these activities? Is/was it to stuff their college applications? Possibly become professional musicians/athletes/dancers/actors?

    I know of many cases in which the activities backfired on the parents. E.g., some parents who wanted their kid to be an MD, but sent her to violin lessons. She ended up loving violin so much she’s majoring in violin performance, which caused the parents quite a bit of anguish, was the source of conflict in the family, and was definitely not why they sent her to violin lessons.

  61. She discovered she loved music so much that she wants to make it her life’s work? Terrible. If only they’d signed her up for something she hated.

  62. Mooshi, there’s nothing wrong with taking French or Italian. I just found it interesting that in mentioning the conflict, you made it sound like dropping French is simply not an option.

  63. Before you signed your kids up for all these activities, how much thought did you give to the end game for them?

    Almost none. Like Finn said, swim lessons were a requirement for safety reasons. My goal for them now is for them to be able to play their favorite sports in high school. Not because I think they should be stars or get scholarships, just because they love playing and there aren’t opportunities at that age if you don’t make the HS team. (There are club/travel sports, but you have to be even better to make those teams than you do the HS teams.) DS has a pretty good shot to play HS baseball, and if he decides to play football they don’t cut anyone, but I’m not optimistic about DD and softball. She loves, loves, loves the game, but she is just not an athlete. And it didn’t help that with the medical problems she’s been dealing with, this year (the spring season and now fall) have been almost totally wasted. We still have half the fall season left (I know, they start ridiculously early and it’s only 6 weeks plus playoffs) and she’s coming around. She’s really got to pick it up next year.

  64. How much I think about signing up for an activity depends on the commitment. I signed DS1 up for piano because I want him to be able to read music in both clefs and to understand music at some level. Making him practice/practicing with him right now is a longish term commitment. I think the rule in our family will be 2 years of piano, like it or not. If he wants to sign up for elementary school orchestra, we’d probably allow that if it works with the family schedule and isn’t too expensive. Learning to swim and learning to read music are, in my opinion, important skills.

    I signed him up for the 6 week after-school drawing classes because he asked to sign up, it wasn’t too expensive and I could handle the late pickup on the day the class was offered. I let him sign up for checkers/chess club this year for the same reason-it was a chance to play with other kids and he wanted to. My twins may get to play indoor soccer because they want to, I want them to burn off energy in the winter, and the cost is moderate.

  65. I’m in the airport and I noticed our favorite author is #17 best seller in Paradiies. Right next to Judy Blume at #18. Way to go!!

  66. Ooh, nice news about our favorite author’s book. I still wonder if/when a movie will be made. I just learned that the new Robert Redford / Nick Nolte movie is based on Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. This makes me want to read the book and see the movie. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail is already on my list to read, and I am dreaming of walking more of the AT. Anyone want to come with me? Caveat: you may have to carry me part of the way!

  67. COC: I highly recommend A Walk in the Woods. It’s very entertaining and you learn some thing about the Appalachian Trail along the way.

    You’ll never find me on that type of hike–I like my comforts too much!

  68. You’ll never find me on that type of hike–I like my comforts too much!

    Haha, yes, the places with nice restaurants and accomodations in natural surroundings are nice, aren’t they? A beautiful day hike followed by a nice dinner (cooked by someone else) and then a good night’s sleep in a real bed.

  69. We liked Aspen. My youngest (tuxedo boy) in particular fell in love with it and wants us to move there.

  70. It’s probably not that much more expensive than Hawaii. Low on beaches, though.

  71. Vail and Aspen are both great, but be careful if you have problems with altitude, and stay away from Summit County if you do.

  72. ” I highly recommend A Walk in the Woods. It’s very entertaining and you learn some thing about the Appalachian Trail along the way.”

    Shortly after reading this post, I read this:


  73. Sorry I missed the topic. I had piano lessons for many years as a kid and think I benefited not at all. I have no ear for music or rhythm, and I doubt it would be worse if I had no exposure at all to formal music training.

    We did some intensive museum visiting this summer. I want my children to have a good understanding of art, as I think it tells the story of ideas and values in this country. So, along with a few friends and some sketchbooks, we sat in five major galleries and drew what we saw. It was impressive to see the kids freeze and actually look at the work – easier than I expected. It didn’t hurt that some major exhibits around here had some scatalogic humor and naked things to look at. We did find that nothing attracts the positive attention of docents faster than kids engaged in the art.

    I don’t like that schools focus on the making of art instead of the story (at least in my personal experience). I really believe that kids learn a lot from looking carefully at things, and museum time helps with that. I also like to hear them make arguments about what it their favorite, most interesting,etc.

  74. Thanks to Totebaggers for the tip on buying an extra set of textbooks for home. It has helped DS come home with a much lighter back pack.

  75. Understanding the art in many museums requires knowing a lot about Bible stories.

  76. HM & RMS – here is another book y’all might enjoy – Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul B. Newman. It describes the origin of a lot of English words that I found interesting.

  77. Ada, my mother who was an art teacher would have totally agreed with your statement that there is too much focus on the making of art rather than the story. I think it is because in K12, there is a belief that art is a respite from academics rather than an academic subject itself.

  78. Finn – I want the kids to develop their ear for music and learn how to read music. Also I would love for them to be more coordinated than I was (took a lot of effort for me to learn all the choreo in HS shows), thus more sports/dance than I had. I suspect that I will allow the girls to drop ballet (maybe in lieu of modern or jazz but NOT competition-y) as they get more toward puberty.

  79. Is “dance team” competitive? I know it sounds competitive. I have a friend whose daughter went to a SLAC and was on the dance team, but judging from the videos, it doesn’t look, ah, all that competitive.

  80. RMS – I think Lauren’s daughter does competitions, and many of the “contemp” kids you see on SYTYCD are from competition-oriented studios. I think the members of dance teams may come from that pool too, but IIRC they have a lot of hairography and choreo that doesn’t appear super difficult.

  81. I was impressed at the wide variety of body shapes on the team. InMyDay you wouldn’t have seen a single girl over (contemporary) size 0.

  82. “Now Italian is really not a practical language at all ”

    Won’t it help them in music?

    I would think it would help to sing Italian operas

  83. MM – yes! I was surprised in my daughter’s class that naughtiness resulted in having to sit quietly and not participate in art class. I don’t think it should be treated as a special privilege.

  84. They don’t have art class per se here, but I have at least one child who would view exclusion from art class as a reward not punishment.

  85. “Before you signed your kids up for all these activities, how much thought did you give to the end game for them?”


    Swimming = safety.

    Gymnastics = “use up some of that freaking energy”

    Karate: she wanted to try it; I liked it for the personal safety aspects (not the specific routines; more that I wanted her to feel comfortable with fighting/wrestling vs. facing it for the first time in a dangerous situation).

    Everything else boils down to “find something you love and will enjoy doing.” I grew up with metaphorical blinders; I got to play the violin because we already owned one and couldn’t afford something different; I got to do swim team because I could do it free through my mom’s school; I got to play whatever sports the cheap rec league and school offered. It matters to me that we can offer our kids a larger world to find the thing(s) that they love.

    So it will come as precisely no surprise to anyone that my kids so far like the same boring stuff I did — school band, rec league basketball/softball. :-)

  86. @RMS – the dance teams I have seen have girls of all ethnicities. My DD is confident enough that she won’t mind if she is the only ethnic kid on the team but it helps. Also, I know this is so not Totebaggy but American Girl Doll which come in all flavors has helped with this.

  87. “Is “dance team” competitive?”

    It can be. I’ve heard some of them select members by audition.

  88. I asked about end game is because we’ve had to confront that recently.

    DD has played softball for several years. She’s a competent player, but has never been a standout, and in her first year on the school team didn’t get much playing time. She doesn’t really, really love the game like some of the girls; she enjoys playing, but I think she enjoys the company of her teammates as much as playing.

    After her summer club season, she announced that was it for her WRT softball. DW, some of her coaches, and some other moms encouraged her to continue; DW seemed particularly disappointed, as she’d put in a lot of time as a team mom.

    I don’t see DD continuing competitively beyond HS; even in HS, it’s not clear that she’d get a lot of PT, or even make a team, depending on how many other girls are on the teams. After some thought, I figured she’s coming up on her end game; if this is it, that’s fine with me. Part of her wanting to quit now is that she wants to try some new things, especially as she enters HS (e.g., speech and debate), and she doesn’t think she can do those and continue with softball, which gets increasingly competitive and demanding of time.

    For now, she was talked into staying with softball for at least the next club season and the school season which follows. She’ll be one of the older girls this year, so we’re hoping she gets more playing time and has more fun. I’ll be fine if she stops after that; she’s already gained enough skill to be a competent player if she decides later to play recreationally (e.g., college intramurals, company leagues). I think DW will be OK with that too, and this gives her a chance to ramp down as a team mom.

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