Activities and sorting them out

I remember when my kids were little and I was home with them. I needed to get out of the apartment, and I was trying to do everything as correctly as a middle-class white mom in a bad marriage could, so we took classes. Music classes, movement classes, art classes, dance classes, soccer classes.

It was pretty simple then. Just sign up for what the kids seemed to like and we could afford, and I'd try to pretend it was exciting for me while I was also hoping all the stimulation would help them become interesting people.

Thank goodness they got older, but now there are actual decisions to be made. I know there are people who load their kids up with as many classes as possible to try to make them "accomplished," and there are also people who think kids shouldn't take any because they "should just be kids." I think there's a balance, and that activities can be fun for kids while also giving them the chance to get good at something.

I tend to feel like kids need unstructured time to hatch their own plots and read and play what they want to. But that activities are good experiences with developing skills in a group setting, and also signposts for the week.

The question, for me, is figuring out what that balance is. Is three a week too much, even if two of them are part of an afterschool program? (What about kids who are in afterschool every day, then? What about kids who take none?)

I also wonder about committment. Specifically, when should a kid be allowed to quit something they don't enjoy? So far we've established a policy that if you are part of a team you need to finish up the season, and you need to finish out any series that's alreayd paid for. We also let our kids choose which activities they do, so wanting to quit is a result of discovering they didn't like something they thought they would.

For those of you with kids old enough to do activities on their own, how do you do it? Do your kids take classes or join activities? Who chooses which ones they do? How do you know when to quit?