Help! We are in extra-curricular activities overload! What ideas do you have for evaluating our priorities and changing this?
Now that we’ve discovered HOD, my endless quest for the perfect curriculum is over! Now God has been leading me to evaluate other areas. I’ve read some books that have challenged my thinking about how we’re using our non-academic hours. We’ve fallen into the trap of extra-curricular activities overload. We do soccer twice a week, ballet twice a week, piano lessons, music/singing twice a week, and a Friday morning history/science co-op. My kids have been asking to stay home more. I’m more tired and edgy than I’d like to be. Dad is wondering why we’re eating out too much. I’d love to hear if you’ve evaluated priorities in a similar way, what resources were helpful, and what overarching goals you have for your family. And if we stay home in the afternoons more often, what are some ideas for things to do?
“Ms. Please Help Us with Our Extra-Curricular Activities Overload!”
Dear “Ms. Please Help Us with Our Extra-Curricular Activities Overload,”
My husband and I read “The Socialization Trap,” and it totally changed the path upon which we were headed activity-wise with our family. At the time we read that book, we were involved in everything there was to be involved with at church (i.e. nursery, teaching Children’s Church, teaching Sunday School, youth group leaders, church deacon and later elder, spiritual gift teachers, men’s groups, women’s group, VBS, etc.) and doing outside sports as well (i.e. t-ball, softball, soccer, swimming, etc.). With 3 sons (aged 9, 6, 3, and a child on the way), plus a family business, homeschooling, and my husband working a full-time job, we knew things needed to change.
My husband and I were on extra-curricular activities overload!
Both my husband and I had always been very active in everything. We were high school sweethearts who dearly loved playing sports and being involved in all things musical (i.e. marching band, jazz band, choir, swing choir, music competitions, plays and musicals, etc.). Likewise, we were involved with everything you could possibly be involved with at church from youth group to Sunday School to catechism to choir and so on. We carried that enthusiasm into college and then later into our married life.
Reading “The Socialization Trap” and talking to my oldest sister helped us make a change.
By the time we read “The Socialization Trap,” we were weary and running out of steam. My older sister cautioned us to really think before beginning certain activities (as once they are begun they are hard to stop, and also what you do for one child you will feel you need to do for another). This was timely advice for us, as we were seeing our nights being filled with sitting by various ball diamonds in different towns (headed toward not even being together as a family at these events, as our boys would all be in differing leagues due to their age spread). We were already glimpsing it that summer, as we had one on the verge of beginning a traveling baseball team at age 9, and the other just out of t-ball, with our next child headed into t-ball (not to mention soccer or swimming)!
Instead of extra-curricular activities overload, we chose family activities to do together.
So, we made a major life decision that summer that we would be done with organized sports and activities. Our oldest son balked a bit. Our next two sons never did. For us, the sense of relief was huge. Our summers became less busy immediately. My sister and her sons and our boys played at the park twice a week. We started having picnics and nature walks. The boys played catch in the backyard, played soccer, threw the football, made up their own rules and had a blast! We got a blow up pool for the backyard and the boys swam and swam in it every day.
Our sons had free time and developed lifelong hobbies.
They had free time and developed hobbies. They began to learn to work out their disagreements rather than arguing, because they knew they only had each other. I used to tell my boys that my sisters and I were somewhat alike and somewhat different. Yet, our arguments were usually short-lived, because when you grow up on a farm 4 miles from town as we did, you quickly realize that to stay mad at your only playmates is very dull. So, we usually made up quickly when we argued (and we still do today)!
Today, our sons love to play sports, watch movies, play games, and more!
Fast-forward to today! Our boys school in the morning, work in the late afternoons, and still get together with their cousins. They’ve never been involved in organized sports, but they dearly love to play soccer, catch, football, basketball, and kickball. They are outside every day, often even on work days, as for their breaks they hustle out to play a quick game of backyard soccer or football. They ride bikes, swim in the pool, play basketball at the gym and the park, build snow forts, have movie nights, and play board games at the local coffee house.
We enjoy being home, having free time, and pursuing hobbies.
We are home most days. Within our home, we all live, school, eat, work, and play. Really, we are together continually! The boys have learned to get along with each other (and with my husband and me), to enjoy being home, to look forward to daily home-cooked meals (which at times are less wonderful than others), and to covet their free time to pursue their hobbies. My oldest son recently told me, “I love my life!” This did my heart such good, as I often have wondered whether we are choosing the right path.
Though our sons and nephews are very different, they are still best friends – from the oldest down to the youngest.
I share all this not to have you think that I believe this is the “one right way” to approach activities. Instead, I share it to show a different way. The blessings to reap from this type of path are that our boys enjoy playing sports just for the fun of it and with whatever number of people are able to play. They are all very different from one another, yet they are best friends from the oldest down to the youngest. Of course they still argue and have their differences, but they have learned how to resolve their differences and how to respect the differences among them.
Free time is viewed as a privilege, and overall our boys are happy.
Our oldest son holds a tremendous amount of influence in the lives of our younger kiddos. This makes him an incredible mentor. School holds a special importance, and routine is a part of their lives. Our kiddos never complain of boredom as they view free time as a privilege. They do not spend their days waiting to go to the next activity. Sometimes there are feelings of isolation. Sometimes the boys have wished they played organized sports or were involved in more things. Yet, overall our boys are happy. In looking back, the change we made was necessary for us. We could not have continued with all we do within our home without the shift in thinking.
Life without extra-curricular activities can still be joyful and full.
For those of you who feel you are in a similar place, I want to encourage you that life without organized activities is still joyful and full. I believe the Lord’s best looks different for each family, which is something my sisters and I discuss regularly. I know there is uncertainty with any choice, and I pray the Lord’s wisdom and guidance for all of us as we seek His path for our unique families.