It’s been a transient year for our family. One year in the mountains. When we moved earlier this year, we decided as a family, to take a year off from extracurricular activities. No soccer, ballet, Rhee Tae Kwon Do, music, art and ice-skating. Nothing. It’s been a wonderful thing for our family. There’s been no rushing around after school, no panicking to find ballet slippers and ice-skates, no Saturday mornings filled with hours and hours of sport, just hours of play and more family-time. We even stopped to smell the roses (literally) after school because we had time.
Here’s the problem: I desperately want my children to have both opportunities and time to just play. I’m just not sure if I can achieve both. This year it’s been nothing, the year before it was everything. Is there a middle ground? I’m trying to find the balance.
This year, I’ve noticed my children play for longer periods, engineer more complex games and are more creative. I’ve also noticed an increase in the time we spend as a family, from eating dinner together to playing red rover in the back yard. I attribute this directly to the amount of “free” time the children have to use their minds without structure and instruction and also, the extra time we have as a family because we aren’t ferrying four children around to different events. We’ve truly experienced a year of good old-fashioned play and family-time. I’m so glad we’ve become acquainted again.
It can take time to get in the groove in terms of creative thinking and play, and time is something families often don’t have. Capturing Creativity by Robert Epstein is a good read on the subject of unlocking creativity.
I aim to give my children many opportunities to learn new skills and to pursue activities they love. Doing these sort of activities can help with organisation, social skills and confidence. This is important — I know — but at what cost? That is what I’m trying to work out.
I found this excellent article on the subject: Family Times: Seeking Balance — Pros and Cons of Extracurricular Activities.
Our family will be moving again soon and I will be introducing some extra activities into our life. However, I’m determined to take what I’ve learned this year into account. I’ve been thinking hard about how I can encourage unstructed play for my children so they can run, ride bikes, make cubbies and explore; yet also invest time so they can learn new skills in an area they love.
How many extra curricular activities is too much? I’d rather not put a number on it because it really depends on each family. As I introduce some extracurricular next year I’ll be keeping this in mind:
Family: Family comes first. If the extracurricular activities are hurting the family, it’s not worth it. It’s really not.
Children: Are the children stressed? Have they lost the ability to play for long periods? I don’t want my children to lose the ability to be their own teachers, to be creative or to solve problems.
This year, our family have been reacquainted with old-fashioned concept of family-time and play. It’s been, by far, the best year in terms of growth for our family unit. I’m not giving up on extracurricular activities, I’m trying to make sure they fit in our family without damaging it.
I’d love to know: what do you think about extracurricular activities? How does your family find the balance?