The full title is Sign Me Up!: The Parents’ Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, Music Lessons, Dance Classes, and Other Extracurriculars and judging by the size of the tome I am about to crack open, it should be complete!
This weighty reference is actually several books in one. Part I is over one hundred pages of activity overview -- from keeping up with the Joneses to limiting activities, valuing downtime, dealing with siblings and when to call it quits. Part II is all about sports -- specializing early, team versus individual, finding the right coach, health issues, costs and then the sports themselves (archery to wrestling). Part III focuses on the arts (and performing arts) -- music, dance, singing and art (animation to woodworking). Part IV looks at intellectual and community activities -- from chess and foreign language study to scouts and 4-H.
Whew! Just reading the table of contents is mind-boggling enough, but don’t worry, Stacy DeBroff (author of Mom Central: The Ultimate Family Organizer and The Mom Book: 4,278 of Mom Central’s Tips for Moms, from Moms) takes readers by the hand and walks them through the maze. The overall hope is that we won’t create “schedules for our kids that resemble the calendar of a CEO.” Knowledge is a weapon to be used in stimulating our children’s intellect and/or building physical skills while allowing them time to still be kids.
Each guide to a specific sport breaks down into general benefits (e.g. builds strength, endurance, flexibility and balance), which kids tend to excel in this activity (e.g. bowling is not dependent upon strength or size), best age to start, what to look for when getting started (e.g. background of coach and their philosophy regarding the sport), safety and injury concerns and cost considerations. The art and performing arts section is likewise divided into manageable bites with advantages of particular instruments, downsides, best age to start, cost considerations and maintenance.
In addition, interview quotes from parents and coaches liberally included throughout the book add personalized perspectives. Each section is also followed by a resource chapter with contact information (and a brief description) of related organizations and websites.
On the downside -- Sign Me Up is a lot of reading! Finding the time to work through the book will be a challenge, but if you focus on the pages that relate to your child’s personal scenario, i.e. they’re an average athlete with an avid interest in baseball and you’d like them to learn to play piano, then you can skip the rest for now. You’ll quickly discover that you’re not alone -- “nearly six million children ages 5-14 participate in the sport of baseball and softball” and “approximately 62 million people in the United States play a musical instrument and 97% of parents polled feel their children benefit from a music education.” Read on and learn.
Navigating the parental highway is full of decision-making. Sign Me Up! is a detailed roadmap guaranteed to make the journey a little easier.