The Follow-Up To Day Seven Of Twenty More Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

The question of the week is:   “How many activities is right for the older ( aged 9 and up) child?”

That is a hard one, isn’t it?  I bet if you asked 100  homeschooling families, you might get close to 100 different answers!  I think different families, even families who love homeschooling in a similar way,  still have different values and different ways of approaching things.

Many homeschooling families seem to be reluctant to do activities for their child over the age of nine because of the impact this has on the younger children in the family – the driving, the time involved, the financial end of things.  I do understand.  That is a consideration.

However, looking at a nine or ten year old developmentally, it is not that the family is less important to a 9 year old, but most 9 and 10 year olds are appreciative of some space and time to be with their peers, to be separate from their younger siblings, and happy to try out something new with a trusted adult outside of the family. The world is opening up, and these older children need opportunities to be a part of it in a protected and healthy way.   Other trusted adults can be an important and welcome part of a nine and ten year old’s life.

If you are planning to homeschool high school, there may another angle to think about activities from as well.  I have heard from many mothers of children in high school who were formerly homeschooled, and the parents all said that the lack of  social experiences outside the home during the ages of 9-14  later became a huge part of their child’s wish to have a public or private high school experience if this was not addressed well within the child’s homeschooling experience of those ages.

So, the question, to me,  is not whether a nine or ten year old and up should be involved in activities, but what activities best reflect the family’s values and the child’s needs, and how do we balance this for the whole family.

Some families have said that each child can do one sport activity and one music activity, but then quickly realize that sometimes this is way too much depending upon practice times and such and how many children have separate activities.

My suggestion is to look carefully at what is required for any activity:  the cost, the practices, the games or competitions or events that are involved, any extra costs and extra practices incurred for those things and decide from there.  Look carefully at all the alternatives: if you decide soccer matches your child and your family well, does it have to be the crazy competition soccer league that practices three nights a week plus travel away games or could you find a recreational league that plays one night a week and has a game one night a week.

I think you also have to look carefully at your child. I have one older child who lives for rhythmic gymnastics and she does compete, (although in rhythmic gymnastics she is only competing once or twice a year at this point).  It is not always easy to get her to practice; especially when Daddy is traveling!  But, for this more inward child, for her temperament and personality, this is something so very important and a huge part of her social circle and developing her body.

Where I live, it seems that sports gets a really bad rap amongst many homeschooling families as being too competitive, taking up too much time, too damaging on the younger siblings.

I think personally think movement is important; sports are not the only way to achieve this for the nine and ten year old to be sure but I think it could be an important way to combat the increasing sedentary ways of many nine and ten year olds who really want to just sit and read and whose play consists of mainly sitting and talking.   Again it depends on the child, on the sport, the coach, and on the family.

I have some friends who try to couch an active day with two “at-home” days on either side.  I have other friends who are happy to do activities so long as they take place after 3 P.M   I have still other friends who are happy to do activities so long as their child can walk there, or someone else can carpool or drive their child at least part of the time.  Perhaps looking at the whole week will help provide a clue as to the balance your family needs.

Whatever your decision, my only thought is to have a cheerful and positive attitude.  If you feel negative, you hate the class or practice time, you hate the traffic, you don’t like this or that and little Jimmy is missing his nap and isn’t that awful….well, then it sucks all the joy out of it for your older child.  So, please make your decision about your older child, and then keep any complaining to yourself when the time comes to actually get out of the house and do something!

I would love to hear your experiences with activities!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

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5 thoughts on “The Follow-Up To Day Seven Of Twenty More Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

  1. We allow one activity per child until they are old enough to be able to arrange rides and get to places, which normally happens for us around 12-13. We allow them to ride the bus together and go to activities where they can buddy up. My big boys are in scouting together and so they have scouts a couple times a week. My daughter takes theater – Super Sam is 6, he takes nothing, just giant smiles and hugs from his mama everyday. It works. I have to teach them to stay on top of their calendar and that if it doesn’t get put on my calendar then it doesn’t exist, that is a tough lesson but they have all only had to experience the loss of an activity once or twice. We also have church each week and this is a big social point for my children, they are super active and have activities weekly.

    I do think you are right – I think keeping them active *enough* keeps them from wanting to do so much outside stuff later. My boys express often the desire to STAY home and not engage in all that their friends might be. My daughter is very social, but we have met that need with close friends and penpals, as well as her love of theater.

    For music, I just have to brag on a great teacher for a minute. Jodie at homemusicmaking.com is our music teacher. We live in Utah, she lives in Georgia! My daughter has Skype piano lessons with her each week, VERY reasonable, it comes right into our home, it doesn’t interrupt school, I LOVE it!! She is going to do guitar later on too and I fully expect she’ll help us with penny whistle/recorder this coming year. I feel super blessed by her.

    Blessings!

  2. I wanted to comment because this is a very challenging subject for me. My children are still young (7 and almost 5) so they are not in any activities yet, but this is something I will have to face very soon. This is such a personal struggle for me because I was an over-scheduled child. I know they say that we all come to Waldorf to heal parts of ourselves and I know this was one of the big draws for me. I have done lots of inner work on this subject and am no longer angry, but I grieve the loss of the childhood that we all dream of having. I didn’t get the chance to really have a childhood once I started school. It started with a dance class and a gymnastics class when I was 5 and quickly became excessively more than that. By the time I was 10, I had a dance class each afternoon after school, except one and gymnastics team practice every night from 5-8. The one afternoon that I didn’t have dance, there was girl scouts. And on Saturday morning I also had a 2 hour dance class for a competitive dance team. I know that I’m preaching to the choir here and that most Waldorf families are not like this, but I just wanted to share this one important point. My mom was not pushing me or living vicariously through me, she was just letting me have 100% choice. I can remember my brother (who is 5 years older than me and my only sibling) yelling at my mom about my scheduled life. And I can also clearly remember her saying, that she was not deciding this, I wanted to do this. And she was absolutely right. I was the the one who said I LOVED dance and gymnastics. She would tell me that I could stop anytime I wanted, but I didn’t want to. I’m sure I would have been very upset if she had forced me to stop an activity, but now as a 36 year old mother, I wish she would have. I wish she would have held that space and said, choose 1 class or even one activity because this is too much for our family. She even worked at my dance/gymnastics studio as a receptionist in the evenings to pay for all these activities. I can remember slamming down dinner behind the desk between dance classes and gym. I just wonder what my childhood might have been like if I wasn’t the one making the decisions for myself, in this area. I hear parents say all the time, that their child loves this and that activity and that they would shrivel up and die if they couldn’t do it. The child doesn’t have the life experience to know any better. I didn’t. And so I’m left wondering and fiercely protecting the childhoods of my own children. I know that I will need to find a happy medium. Sorry this got so long….Thanks for letting me vent :)

    • Cami!
      No, I am glad you DID vent…I think it is an important message, and I hope I was clear enough in my post that it is the parents’ job to figure this out, to set the boundaries, to know what will work for the whole family and to know what is WAY TOO MUCH. I am so glad you shared, because I think that is a really prevelant thing in our society today – Oh, but they like it so much….yes, and they will also like having a break too!
      I think the other thing that has changed so much is that sports used to be by season and now the same sport runs all year round. As a pediatric physical therapist, the early age in which competitive sports are beginning is really, really concerning and also the fact that children are training hard all year round. THere are no breaks hardly.

      Thanks so much for writing in!
      Blessings,
      Carrie

    • Cami, I really, really appreciate your voice here. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I very often hear people talking about how their child likes something or is doing it because he/she wants to, and this trumps their feelings as a parent. I don’t know exactly how to find this balance (and I have only a six and four year old who are, so far, homebodies), but this is an important challenge to think about. I love how you perfectly you conveyed the fact that what a child or teenager “wants” outwardly may not even be what they are necessarily craving on the inside.

      Goodness, there is so much to process in your comment. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

  3. For a long time, my children didn’t participate in anything outside of our weekly co-op gatherings. They were all young and for this homebody mama, it fit the bill. As they have grown older, their desire to participate in sports has led me to seek alternatives that not only satisfy their needs, but our family’s as well. We are lucky to have been a part of a homeschooling soccer league last fall that not only was free to participate in (!!!), but all three of my boys were able to play on the same day, at the same time (during the afternoon) and there were no other days that required involvement. Win/win if you ask me! My older boys also are active in their scouting group, as is their Dad. My second born was recently gifted a 6 week participation in a basketball clinic at one of our indoor sports centers. Again, it allowed him to be involved in an athletic sport, but we didn’t have a huge time commitement (an hour on Saturday). We will stick to this plan heading forward into the upcoming fall season and it may change for next spring depending on how strongly they want to participate in spring sport. I am still on the hunt for a music teacher ;-)

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