Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Extracurricular activities

A topic idea from an SF K Files reader:

"I was wondering if you could post a thread about extra curricular activities where people could weigh in. I am wondering what people have found for their kids in all areas: dance and capoeira, gymnastics, music lessons, martial arts (Tao Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, Jujisu--how do they compare), swimming, soccer, baseball, tennis, etc. Also it would be useful if commenters could note the location of the place when rating it."

31 comments:

  1. My daughter (Alice) wants to take ballet and art after school. Any suggestions? Has anyone tried the art classes at Precita Eyes in the Mission?

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  2. We've tried the art class at Fort Mason which was pretty good. My daughter loves ice skating classes at the Yerba Buena ice rink. I give the ice skating a big thumbs-up.

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  3. My daughter loved the art class at SF Children's Art Center - Fort Mason.

    Soccer Kids has a pretty good soccer program and classes all over the city for ages 3 and up, I think. Some coaches better than others and smaller groups definitely better than big ones.

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  4. My daughter spent years swimming at La Petit Baleen in San Bruno and loved every minute. They now have an amazing facility at Crissy Field, where I take the baby. I would highly recommend their teachers and the program overall, for any age.

    Also, we've had excellent experiences at ODC Dance School in the Mission.

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  5. I'm always hearing about parents searching for a teacher for a particular musical instrument (I was one myself at one time). The Community Music Center (on Capp St. in the Mission) is your all-purpose resource, starting with very young kids: www.sfcmc.org

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  6. We've beem very happy with SFLL for kids' baseball. The $125 covers uniform, coaching, games, etc. It's a quality organization. Park-and-Rec also offers kids' baseball (for free) but it's hit or miss in terms of coaches (some ok, some awful).

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  7. To Caroline and anyone else- do you have any ideas if your kid is young - 5 years old, is definitely musical, but you're not sure what insturment to go for, just becuase he is interested in several - eg. drums, guitar, even the french horn! He is a fan of Michael Tilson Thomas, but also enjoys The Mermen and even the Ramones.
    He doesn't need to go to class to just bang on insturments, becuase we do that at home already.

    Thanks for any insight.

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  8. Great question. At that age, it's like picking which language immersion program you want (well, let's pretend you have the choice, anyway) -- you have to take a guess at which will be the best fit for your kid in the long run.

    Of course, there are (famously) programs specifically designed to teach violin to kids that young.

    I asked my musician son, and he says, "Let the kid pick!" If my kid was willing and I could just choose, I'd start him on piano, though. It's a solid basis for everything else, or of course he could just remain a pianist. My son, who at 17 1/2 is a serious jazz trumpet player, messes around on the piano but regrets not having formally learned it. (He can't say we didn't repeatedly offer, luckily.)

    I played violin and viola as a kid (and dropped them), but now I can really see benefits to the instruments my kids have chosen, trumpet and trombone. At beginning/intermediate levels, band is just more fun than orchestra, and those are among the instruments that extend to jazz, Latin, rock, soul, funk etc.

    Funny you mention French horn. That's what one of my son's best friends plays. It's a beautiful instrument, but he's left out of all the cool jazz/Latin/funk bands that his friends are in. He says it doesn't matter because French horn (and classical) is what he loves, though.

    All that said, my son was really emphatic about letting your son decide!

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  9. I have heard good things about Calliope for Ballet in Noe, and my niece goes there. www.dancecalliope.com/ Check out the cute photos.

    I agree that SOCCERKIDS does a great job. They understand kids, make it fun, keep it moving, and play lots of skill building games as well as little scrimmage games within the class. Coach Shawn is awesome. We hired him for one of Miles' birthday parties and all the kids had a ball. We parents got to talk and eat while another adult wore out the kids.

    It is so important that the people running the kid activity actually understand kids, what is age appropriate etc. I have found with other activities a certain cluelessness about what is appropriate for little kids, and it is incredibly frustrating to watch.

    In the disappointment category for us have been: Hip Hop classes at Dance Mission (for 5-7 year olds) (I can elaborate if anyone wants), and this summer's baseball at St Mary's Park. Yesterday's practice - which will likely be our last - had late kids doing twice as many jumping jacks (50), and then 10 pushups in the center of a circle while all the other kids counted. Aside from the weird and scary singling out of some kids, it also meant that NOBODY was actually throwing a ball. And really, do kids have any control over being on time? We had arrived late, and my son never did go out to join the kids as he was afraid he wasin trouble and didn't want to do the exercizes alone. A normal response I htin for a 6 year old. The practice started at 3:00 and we left at 4:00. No baseball at all had yet been played.

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  10. Star Dance in the Inner sunset has been great for our daughter. She has been going since 3.5 and is entering second grade. They have combined, tap ballet and tumbling classes for the first few years and then you can decide on jazz or ballet. Viking soccer and Viking micro soccer are also good and start soccer at 5 if not earlier. Parents organize their own teams and coaches.

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  11. My 5yo is loving Pacific Wushu on 30th and San Jose. Sort of a cross between tai chi and kung fu. Teacher Philip is brilliant with the kids.

    Other delights: Let's Play in Spanish, at Clipper and Sanchez; piano, with Renee Marie Hart, on Cortland.

    We love the Childrens' Art Center and Community Music Center too. The recitals at CMC are great outings for the kids.

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  12. Oh yeah ...

    www.sfkids.org has a very comprehensive list of this kind of activity, and will add anything you send them.

    It is so hard to believe, but there was a time when I initially couldn't find a soccer league for my then-tiny son. I only knew about Vikings, and when I called the number in the phone book nobody returned my call. Actually you have to know about a team and come in that way; the system isn't super-welcoming to newcomers and the unconnected. But the Stonestown YMCA came to the rescue -- their youth leagues are (or at least were) totally disorganized, but were still a part of our lives for many years.

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  13. Kathy B, I'm wondering if the baseball coach at St. Mary's is the same one (Coach Willie) who used to be at Parque Ninos. He used to yell at the 5-6 y.o. kids he coached (including my son) for messing up (i.e. not catching a ball) and also had them do "pain drills" (holding arms horizontally for up to 10 min) as punishment. Apparently he successfully coached teens at the Mission Rec center, but his approach was completely inappropriate for younger kids. This is an example of what I meant by "miss" when I said earlier that the Park-and-Rec coaches were hit or miss.

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  14. My friend's tale of Irish dance is similar -- her daughter was in early elementary. The teacher was just a tough-cookie disciplinarian and it was no fun at all, but the girl and her parents decided to stick it out till after the big St. Patrick's Day parade performance they were preparing for. It was pouring rain the day of the parade, but the soaking-wet kids gamely put on their best performance on the float for the judges. Then the float moved on and turned a corner, as my friend tells it -- and as soon as they were out of sight of the judges' stand all the girls burst into tears, practically in unison. They immediately found another school. Sorry I don't remember anything about what school or teacher it was; I can find out.

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  15. Yesterday's practice - which will likely be our last - had late kids doing twice as many jumping jacks (50), and then 10 pushups in the center of a circle while all the other kids counted. Aside from the weird and scary singling out of some kids, it also meant that NOBODY was actually throwing a ball. And really, do kids have any control over being on time?

    That's actually considered good coaching and teaches the value of teamwork, and it works. You're right -- kids don't have control over being on time; they count on you for that.

    I would recommend making sure you understand (if not agree with) the program's philosophy and the coach's methodology before signing up. Some programs are more recreational and drop-in oriented, while others are more competitive and tough love-y.

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  16. hi
    No the coach is not Willie, and he is actually pretty encouraging in general but he has way too many kids and no help. (They have a completely ineffectual teenager there too who never says a word and shows no initiative.)

    I understand the point made by 11:59. We saw a pretty tough coach at one of the games recently, but within his toughness he was yelling instruction, and encouragement and seemed quite aware of both the capabilities and the realities of coaching to 6 year olds. This league is 5-7 year olds, so they are still little kids. I think if the coach better understood that the little ones are brand new to all of this stuff and outlined his plan for them they would know what was going on. "I'm going to be tough at times, but it's because of x, y & z..." My kid is a real rule follower and gets nervous if he doesn't know what the parameters are.

    While the tough love coaching style may have it's role, generally it's annoying that they do so little actual playing or skill building.

    The first week, when they had to do push ups two people at a time (not knowing how to do them so hands way too far out beyond the shoulders which makes it tougher, and given no direction) the other kids got yelled at for talking while they waited their turn. "If you're talking you'll do 10 more push ups." That stuck with my son who a little while later flagged me over. I thought he was going to ask for water but he buried his face in my tummy and said "I'm not doing this, I'm not doing this." When I got him to say more he said "At soccer when you're talking, the coach says 'stop talking', here you have to do pushups!"

    I encouraged him to wait for batting which was next so he did, but his body language the whole time was so reserved and uncertain. Afraid of messing up and getting yelled at. Later he started to cry and we left. This is completely different than soccer (SoccerKids) where he runs to the field and never stops jiggling with excitement the whole time he is there.

    After the first difficult practice we got some books on baseball, have been playing catch, batting, watching baseball etc so that when the coach says "get in baseball stance" he knows what he's talking about. I also told him that some men talk more gruffly (welcome to the world of men, sweet boy) but it's not that they're mean...

    Miles agreed he wanted to go back (his best friend is in this), and has done better with each practice, learning more, gaining confidence, learning to cover the bases and such - learning the very basics of baseball. But yesterday with the punishment exercises I couldn't even get him on the field.

    Not sure if he'll continue. I am sure there is a better baseball experience out there even with a tough coach.

    sorry this was so long!

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  17. Kathy B., you might want to try Fall Ball with SF Little League. Their approach to coaching is to encourage the kids, esp at the Farm level (little kids). Also, Fall Ball has more relaxing schedule and overall approach than the big season in the spring.

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  18. Thanks to the last poster. In my frstration last night I looke dup SFLL, but Fall Ball registration is closed.

    On lateness: When we signed up, the practices were suppose to be from 4:00-5:30, but on the first day they changed it to 3:00-5:00. This makes it difficult since camp ends at 3:00. Have you ever tried to get a kid from Silver Tree early? Holy hassle with the schlep all the way in, and then out again. So yes, being on time is up to me, and my heart is racing the whole time I am trying to get to Silver Tree and hike in and get Miles and find lunch box and hurry him back out of the canyon, so I sometimes tell myself to just stop. *They* changed the baseball start time AFTER we signed up which means I get less work time, and the overall practice is a half hour longer than previously expected, so I am compromising. I leave 15 minutes earlier to pick him up, and we still arrive 15-20 minutes late. (Mostly because the darned canyon has so many things a 6 year old wants to show his Mom "This is where we buried the dead bird! Here are the little plums we eat.")

    The late thing is such a sore subject for me as I HATE being late. (Don't get me started!) I was a very punctual person until I married a time thief and then bore another one.

    Maybe if coach had us Moms doing push-ups for lateness he'd get a better result. Certainly my upper arms could use it.

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  19. Kathy, your Silver Tree early pick-up description is priceless.

    I would next suggest telling the coach that you had planned on the original time, and that between work and camp you just can't get there until 3:20. See if you can work out a compromise wherein Miles is expected to show up at 3:20, not 3:00. I have been in your shoes, as I am the parent (in a divorce situation, no less) who is always leaving work early and doing the schlepping. When it gets away from me I am running, sweat coming out of my pores and a wild look in my eyes--C'mon kids! We're going to be late, again!--it is SO much better for all when I find a way to structure life to avoid this. I know the feeling so well though.

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  20. 5:07 - that's it exactly, sweating, wild eyed, stressed. Sometimes I ask myself why I am killing myself. Does the kid even want to go? I tell you, it's a little disheartening after all of the hurrying when he DOESN'T join in. In general I am trying to learn how to go with the flow. Not my nature.

    Anyway, good advice about just talking to the coach. Duh!

    -Kathy

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  21. Anyone know of any dance classes for boys that are not ballet? Jazz, tap, modern, etc? I guess ballet would be ok too, but he's pretty "free form" and might not like the structure of it.

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  22. re, baseball: we certainly had both ups and downs when my son started playing baseball through Park and Rec at 6--he is now 11, we switched to Little League many seasons ago. SFLL is very well run and he's had some excellent coaches, some of the 'tough love' type, some not. While it is well-organized, he has definitely had some not so great coaches as well. Each season is different. But he loves it and I have come to love it, too--in spite of the increasingly grueling practice/game schedule every spring. Anyway, Fall Ball is great and less intense--I bet you'll get in off the wait list if you sign up now--worth a try.

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  23. @12:33, do you mean only boys or classes that will accept/actually have boys? ODC is a great option and there are boys there.

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  24. I mean dance classes that actually have/accept boys (not boys only) :)
    thanks for the info...I will check out ODC

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  25. good coaching -- how is shaming children in front of their peers good coaching? especially when they're little ones who, as kathy b. pointed out, have little control over whether they arrive somewhere on time ...

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  26. on a related note, anyone have any advice/book recommendations for teaching a child to become more resilient? our daughter is really sensitive in a lot of ways, and takes things very much to heart. (she would've been crushed by that coach's actions, but the trouble is the world is full of situations like that) and she gets so frustrated when she can't figure something out on her own (we thought about holding her back a year, to build her confidence through more socialization at a pre-K level, but we just can't afford it. And I do wonder if that would do any good, as I imagine we'll always have this issue with her due to her personality.

    i was even more so as a child, so it's not like this comes out of nowhere, but i can't say my parents gave me a heck of a lot of great coping skills; i just outgrew it to a degree as i got older. anyway, if anyone has a child with a similar temperament and has any suggestions, i'd love hearing them.

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  27. good coaching -- how is shaming children in front of their peers good coaching?

    Whether you're 5 or 50, being late affects the whole team. We could offer a lengthy, new age, role-playing session to explain this concept to kids. But it's the parents who need to be trained. So better to do a few pushups and build a few muscles while we wait until the offended parties drop out because they believe it's more important to preserve the right to be late than it is to be on time.

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  28. 7:40, I'm not sure about a book, but my understanding is that kids learn resilience by being allowed to fail and realize it's not the end of the world. This is why it's helpful for parents to be cautious about jumping in and trying to resolve every conflict, solve every injustice, etc for their kids. Kids who learn to pick themselves up and get on with things are typically more resilient.

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  29. 10:49 here with another thought: this is exactly why playing sports can be really beneficial for kids. My son (a very competitive and athletic kid) has learned to accept that he won't win every game, but that it's important to try his best. He's also learned to cooperate with his teammates and to celebrate when his team does well even when it's not he who scored the basket, goal, or home-run.

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  30. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel is my all-time favorite book about teaching kids (and parents) resillience. Highly recommended. She's a great speaker, too!

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  31. My son was also very easily frustrated if he couldn't figure something out or made a mistake. We constantly told him it was okay to make mistakes and we'd almost over-emphasize our own mistakes just to show him it wasn't the end of the world. At first none of our efforts seemed to have any impact. But thankfully, he became much more accepting of himself during kindergarten last year. He's still not very excited to try new things when he thinks he might fail, but when he does make mistakes he's not as distraught over it.

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