Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the x(tra) factor

This year we're trying something new with our girls and staying away from extra-cirricular activities. Well, aside from the piano lessons that I'm giving them I guess.

But in terms of an out-of-the-house weekly activity...there are none of those this time around.

Ever since Joelle was in Kindergarten she took a dance class once a week - and when Malia was the same age, she started too. We found this to not be a very positive experience for a few reasons (most of which I won't bother getting in to), but one of them was that it felt like we were d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g the girls there every single week. And we hadn't even forced them to take the classes - they chose to. Last year was even worse because their lessons were on Saturdays, but even in previous years when they were during the week, it was a very regular issue. And on top of that, in spring they usually picked a two-month outdoor sport (soccer or baseball) and we had a spring session of swimming lessons. Towards the end a few of these would overlap and things would feel far too busy, but for the most part it was pretty well spaced out.

This year we had entertained a few other ideas as summer holidays were coming to a close, but in the end we decided on nothing. Gymnastics sparked my interest, but with the location of it and the cost - and the fact that while both girls seemed somewhat intrigued by it but never actually got excited about it - we just figured it wasn't worth the time, effort and money. There were a few other things that we had considered as well (Tae Kwon Do being one of them) but again, with the kids not really exhibiting any signs of gusto towards anything specific, we decided to take a year off from those kinds of things.

And let me tell you, I am so glad.

I don't know about anybody else, but we can hardly stay afloat with our regular day-to-day activities. Let me paint a little picture.

The girls walk in the door from school around 4:05pm. After they put away their things, wash up, grab a snack and each take their turn practicing piano (with me having to provide regular assistance, especially with Malia as she is brand new at piano) it's at least 4:45pm. At that time, the girls have about 45 minutes or so to play outside or something while I'm getting supper ready.

After supper, we clean up the table and the girls make their lunches for the next day. Then there are daily spelling words to review and home reading to be done (both of which take longer for Malia given her school struggles) and occasionally some extra homework - like Joelle's rock project she worked hard on every day last week.

By the time all of that is finished (around 7:00pm) there is usually a small chunk of time (less than an hour) to either head to the park, play outside with a friend, do some family trampolining or game playing before it's time for showers, a bedtime snack and a half hour of snuggles on the couch while watching a TV show before heading to bed for 8:30pm.

Then of course there are the occasional nights where I have a practice or meeting at church, in which case usually we head into the city for supper at my parents' house beforehand. In those cases, things like piano practicing and home reading get neglected.

We are somewhat considering putting the girls (or at least one of them) in a short-term Muay Tai Kick Boxing class that runs for 8 weeks from November - January. Again, not sure that the girls really have a strong feeling about it but that's likely partially because they don't really know what it is.

And in spring I'm sure Malia will play soccer again and Joelle might decide to give it another try too (after taking last year off of any spring sports), but again it's a short-term commitment. And then there are always our annual spring swimming lessons.

But in all honesty, I like not having anywhere to have to rush off to on a certain day (or two) of the week. Some people would be concerned about physical activity but let me assure you, they get more physical activity just by playing at the park or riding bikes or jumping on the trampoline than they ever did at their dance classes! Screen time is very minimal as well. They usually each watch a little bit of TV after school while the other one is practicing piano, and then we all watch something together before bed (about 20-30 minutes). Wii is only played on weekends - if that - and they play computer maybe 15 minutes per week (and that's probably being generous!). It's always a bit more difficult over winter to keep them active and away from screens, but I'm up for the challenge.

I think I just like what the idea represents. So often families are busy rushing from one activity to the next - and yes, while it's good to give children activities to keep them active and to provide social connections - there is also nothing wrong with choosing to spend more time at home doing things together as a family.

Taking time to just slow down and rest.

It all depends on what works best for your family. Some kids thrive on extra-cirricular activities and others don't. It's important to know what is best for your own children. And for right now, taking a step back from programs (especially all-year-long ones) was the right decision for us. My kids don't like being rushed and they are definitely more home-bodies. And Malia needs time to put in the proper effort into her school work. It's important that other activities don't interfere with the time she needs to spend practicing her spelling and working on her reading skills until she can catch up to where she should be.

Again, I'm not saying anything against extra-cirricular activities - and we are not opposed to doing other activities in the future. But it's all about balance, and this year I'm just really enjoying the new experience with less on the calendar and more time spent together.


Pamela said...

So. Awesome.

I often think it would be so nice to have no where to go. We are always on the go. Each of the kids have one official extra curricular activity-hockey, soccer, synchro-but of course that translates into a few days a week for practicing. They are also involved in kids club (girls as leaders-Kaden as an attender) and youth group. Kaden plays school sports and Kezia is the yearbook editor. I am a work - aholic and rarely leave the school before 5:30. *sigh* It's busy. However, they *LOVE* being involved in things and it's hard to know what to cut because they love doing everything. So, we do. Good for you for making it work for you....I still haven't figured it out!

The Brandt Family said...

Hubby and I were talking about this just this morning.
Ashley has piano lessons and both kids are in a weekly clubs program at church and skating lessons.
In addition to this we do 2 times a month at church.
Thankfully all of our activities minus the piano lessons are done as a family so we are all together spending time together.
But with swimming lessons in winter and spring sports I can see how we will be too busy.
We are talking about cutting all extra evening activities next year. I think it will be good for us.
Thanks for this great post.

pam said...

Good for you for recognizing what is best for your family and sticking to it. In summer I contemplated putting Annika into a full-year dance class (mostly because it seemed like EVERYBODY was doing it, even for toddlers!), but in the end we decided to just go with an 8-week class, which suits us much better (and also gives us freedom to try other things later in the year, like skating or gymnastics).

LaughingLady said...

We've always steered clear of things that will end up cluttering our evening time as well, although for whatever reason, it feels like we could use a bit more activity this year!

I guess with the girls having a slightly later bedtime and virtually no homework, they just have more spare time than they did last year! Spelling club starts up next week and curling will start in December, so that will add two after-school things to the routine. But the nice thing about both of those activities is they are right after school, and since the curling rink is only a block away from the school, all I'll need to do for both activities is meet the girls or pick them up afterwards and we'll still be home by 5:30.

(And if I was actually making the girls pack their lunches, that would take some time, too!!! I KNOW, I know, I said "the free ride is over," and had great intentions of having them do it, but so often, it's just leftovers that I put in containers after supper and then without even realizing it, I've done their job for them!!)

Roo said...

way to go mama!

Anonymous said...


I'm so impressed. I think families would be so much stronger if they spent less time running hither and yon and more time together at home. Good job choosing that option, contrary to popular opinion. :) I know some people can make it work and still remain close and connected and well-balanced. But, it takes a special case. Most of us could sure benefit from more time at home. I wish you all the best as you try out this new life. I think you're going to like it.

Roo said...

i was gonna add....sometimes (often) "less is more"....