a children's ballet class with a teacher showing a move
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Are The Thousands of Dollars Spent on Lessons For My Kid Worth It?

Mar 28, 2022

I remember sitting in the audience of my daughter’s debut ballet recital. My parents tagged along for the experience. Because who could resist watching a throng of toddlers-turned-ballerinas promenading in kitty cat costumes?

It's the kind of moment I had dreamed of since I became a mother — the thrill of sitting in an auditorium filled with other excited parents. Watching memories unfold before our eyes as our kids flourish doing something they love.

Only my daughter was just three years old.

And she never asked to sign up for ballet lessons. In fact, she had no idea what ballet even was.

"What did we expect? Swan Lake?"

So rather than pirouetting across the stage, she lumbered onto it. And instead of dutifully executing the graceful choreography, she looked totally perturbed at being thrust in front of wild-eyed parents. While we enthusiastically waved in our seats while snapping pics, she didn’t dance a step. Instead, she stood frozen in the blaze of the floodlights.

But we oohed and awed over the cuteness anyway. Because what did we expect? Swan Lake? She was practically a baby. She had years ahead of her to blossom into the high-kicking hoofer of our dreams. She just needed more lessons.


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What's in a dance class?

Then the big kids came out for their chance to tread the boards. I elbowed my husband to pay close attention. This was the moment we’d see where all those classes, dance shoe purchases, costume rentals and recital tickets were heading! How all those Saturday morning lessons would ultimately pay off!

"While the performers had oodles of enthusiasm, some didn’t have much rhythm."

And from the wings leapt a dozen preteen performers. And oh, how they kicked and twirled and leapt with the energy only those cracking the double digits can muster. The music built to a dizzying climax. The house exploded into thunderous applause followed by an uproarious extended standing ovation.

But uh, between you and me? Most weren’t exactly Broadway-bound. While the performers had oodles of enthusiasm, some didn’t have much rhythm. A couple had trouble remembering the routine while another was two steps behind.

Not being related to anyone currently on stage, my dad leaned over and whispered, “So that’s what $10,000 of dance lessons buys you?”

He was, of course, joking, but he had a point. Dance lessons or piano lessons or basketball clinics don’t provide your child with talent. They just give them the skills to explore.


In the fall of 2020, CBC Kids News talked to teens about returning to extracurricular activities that were paused by the pandemic and what that meant for them.


It's not all about talent

So, I've wondered, why bother? Why make the investment if your kid isn’t particularly gifted at an activity? If the money spent on all these lessons won't produce a prima ballerina or concert pianist or even the next Billie Eilish, wouldn’t the money go to better use in an RESP or even my RRSP?

"Why make the investment if your kid isn’t particularly gifted at an activity?"

It's something I've thought about as I look around my home at the relics of discarded lessons of the past. An electric piano collects dust in our living room, begging for someone to tickle its ivories. A neglected ukulele is buried under a pile of mitts in our hallway, crying for its strings to be plucked. Abandoned singing books around here have transitioned into makeshift coffee coasters. A pair of outgrown ballet slippers languishes in a drawer dreaming of coming out of retirement.

Yet, I believe all those lessons have been completely worth it.

Music lessons, dance classes, art lessons and swimming courses have been investments in my daughter — not as an artist or performer or athlete — but as a person.

I’m trying to help cultivate an engaged citizen who has an appreciation for things outside of her own comfort zone. An individual who knows how to collaborate and who can work on a team. A young lady who has explored different parts of her imagination and pushed herself physically.

And if she isn’t great at it or doesn’t love it, that’s OK. The time and money expended have helped hone her interests and gain important insights into her true interests, abilities and passions in life.

I only wish all my investments delivered such positive returns.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the co-artistic director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the co-host and producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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