The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie

Pondering Portals: Part Four- More Media

This is the portal that in so many ways is even more difficult than television screens, because phones that are everything (GPS, email, Internet, clocks) are everywhere, and many friends and family outside the immediate family of a  child who know of a family’s “no screen” wishes may still feel very comfortable sharing something off their phone or laptop or camera.

I would like to run through first what many Waldorf Schools outline as developmentally appropriate by age for children and some other areas of media, what I often see in Waldorf homeschooling communities who have both OLDER and younger children (I think if Waldorf homeschool communities have just children grades kindergarten through second grade, for example, some of these issues will not be as front and center as those who have a large proportion of children grades six and up. Things become more difficult with those older children!).  Please do take what resonates with you, know that families make decisions and do things counter to these recommendations, but that these ideas are food for thought and discussion within your own family. Continue reading

Pondering Portals: Part Three- Media

Hello Dear Readers,

I am sorry I have been away from here for some time now.  I have had a difficult time which I am sure I will write about at some point, but not today.    I am back today with a continuation of our series about portals, and pondering health for our children as they grow up.

The portal of media can be one of the most difficult things for families to navigate.   This is the post that probably will upset folks and irritate them, so I would like to remind you to take just what resonates with you.  Most of us probably make a few choices that are different than what I am laying out below, but I urge you to think mindfully about all of this and decide what is right for your family.

Those of you familiar with Waldorf Education may associate this method of education with no media, no computers, etc. but to me, this is not the intent behind Waldorf Education at all.  In fact, Rudolf Steiner felt that one had to love the time in which he or she lived, and that each period in history built something of a foundation for the next one.  In other words, we may now be living in the ‘age of machines’ but we are headed into an age of complete imagination, if we do things properly as a society. So we need to embrace where we are in time, but also in a way that makes sense for the development of the child.

The other point I would like to make is not specific to Waldorf Education, but just something I would like to point out, especially for my American readers.  Continue reading

Pondering Portals: Part Two–Books

We are talking today about pondering portals, and what to do when the protectiveness of the early years begins to open up.  I think, again, we must foster an attitude of health in our hearts, of acceptance and love for what happens when in our family, just the way we have a ho-hum attitude about complying with the legal age of drinking or when to drive a car.  Some things do come when, and it not like trying to hold a flood of things from the world back at all, but more about letting things unfold naturally as children grow. Continue reading

Pondering Portals: Part One

There is much made in books and blogs and articles on the Internet about what I call the “pink bubble” of the Waldorf Kindergarten for the early years of 0-7.  I have always maintained that this time should be actually less about the wooden toys and silks, and more about movement, getting children into their bodies, bodily care, being outside and connected to nature – and in the home environment, living the spiritual year and the spiritual culture of that family – and not talking small children to death with explanations and verbal banter.   In other words, a rhythmic, mindful (for the parents) and activity-oriented time.  For more about what I envision for these early years, you can find back posts regarding Waldorf at home by age.

However, the pink bubble doesn’t last forever, and as the six year old hones in on developmental change and growth, there are the inevitable questions…If the world begins to “open up”, how and when?  And how can we do this with a joyous heart, with balance and with fun?  We are, after all, living together at home as a family, which is inevitably different than creating a school environment.

First of all, I think we have to get over the idea that we are somehow “closing off” the world in the early years by offering less choices and more stability.  It is a little like saying we are “closing off” the world because we don’t allow our ten year old to drink alcohol or drive a car…that comes later in development, and we all accept that.  Yet, we too often look at what is healthy for human development as this “weird choice” (or a series of weird choices) that we are making and that we really somehow depriving our children.  I think we have to carry this healthy attitude, a vibrant attitude, a respectful attitude for the dignity of the child and of development into the grades ages and beyond.  I see many parents treating their ten or eleven year old like a fifteen year old, and I think it actually is harder at these ages of 7-10 and then 10 – 14 to really reach that balance the need of the child of reaching out into the community and later the world and the inroads that must be made into family life and into themselves as a human being for health. Continue reading