You Know What I Love? School! (Plus Activity Angst)

School gives us a glorious level of consistency in our lives that I would otherwise be unable to achieve. Every morning, for four hours, there is ritual and order in Wyatt and Rory’s lives. Every day, for 6 hours, the same can be said for Lily. Every day, for seven hours, Sam is safe and surrounded by kids his own age, learning age-appropriate stuff at a school that suits him very well. And every day, when I get everybody back, I am actually glad to see them. (Sometimes not for very long, but hey, what can I say?) And they are glad to see me. And I can read to them, or maybe do a little project, or maybe just let them run wild and free, which they’re ready for.

We’re so lucky to have small schools that really truly do suit our kids. What I think we have a little too much of, though, is the other stuff. ACTIVITIES! WHat a struggle that is for me with Sam–because there’s a lot of stuff he likes to do, and I don’t want to take any of it away–but he needs his down time, too. RIght now we’re down to hockey, ballet and piano–and when I put it that way, it doesn’t feel like “down to”. It feels like a lot, although I know other families that do more, and certainly there’s more he’d like to do. Does piano really count as an activity? Should it? I’m a lousy pianist, but I almost think of it as more like basic literacy.

The thing is, at 8, no activity is just an activity. No, it’s time to start taking everything more seriously. So hockey is three times a week now. Ballet, if you want to be in the show–and who doesn’t–is two. Downhill skiing, when it starts (and when it does, ballet will have to go) is four times a week. Nordic two. I kind of write those off as more like outdoor play than real activities, but really, activities they are. Soccer? Twice a week this year, three times next. Theatre? Chorus? They all get bigger and badder and meaner this year. (We don’t do all these things, I’m just sayin’.)

I want the kids to experience and learn lots of things–team play, art, music, being on stage and public speaking, outdoor sports in a time of year when it’s easy to hole up inside. I want them to be with friends and part of a community. But there’s homework, and hey, what about family time? All this just to say that balance has already become a struggle, and Sam is only 8. It’s balance I’m trying to strike for him, really–he’s happy no matter what he’s doing. Does he want to do these things? Yes. Would he cry if I pulled one? I don’t think so–but I don’t want to. It seems to me that you shouldn’t have to, and yet, if you’re going to be on a team, or in a show, then of course there’s got to be work involved.

Two activities still seems fair to me. The question I ask myself is–does piano count as one? For Sam, I guess not–but when they’re all on this train, I suspect things are going to have to be different.

When I think about all of them with all activities, I shudder. When will they be together the way they are now? Half those hockey practices are at dinner time. ballet rehearsals tend to nail the weekend. So I’m back at the beginning–I want Sam (just Sam for now) to do this stuff. But I want him to be at home, too.

3 Responses to “You Know What I Love? School! (Plus Activity Angst)”

  1. Nancy says:

    My rule was one music and one sport per kid at a time, plus whatever else they wanted to do from the aftercare program at school (choir, spelling bee, girl scouts, theater group) because that didn’t involve me driving them anywhere. I cheated, however, in that I have two the same age and both girls, so often I could double dip on teams or lessons. But I think music is too important to call it an ‘activity’ and my kids still have to take something music related.

    As kids get older, they have to specialize. They just can’t do hockey and skiing and basketball, because they are all the same season. While they are young, let them try out a lot of things. Until you drop. Then they have to give things up.

    My friends have a piano teacher who comes to their house because they have 3 kids in lessons (plus two more toddlers). Their son is terrible (and I mean awful!) but it is cheaper to pay for him to continue lessons than to pay a babysitter to watch the other kids if she just took the girls to lessons.

    For me, it’s all about the driving. There are things my kids would like to do but I just can’t fit it into my schedule.

    Good luck.

  2. Paula says:

    I used to say 1 activity at a time but two years ago Jason, who’d been taking karate for 5 years, wanted to try other things. I hated to see him give up something he was so good (black belt) so I broke my rule and let him try short-term activities with karate being the only long-term one. So far he’s tried archery and fencing. Swimming lessons were a requirement in the summer until this year when he passed his jr. life guard level (can’t take life guard for 3 or 4 years since he’s 11). I’m trying to find an activity Jess can do where I can be in the room. She wants to do gymnastics so badly but has such separation anxiety and at 4 the local places won’t let the parents stay in the same room.

  3. I agree that after school activities held right after school on campus are key. They don’t add to household chaos (much)…..

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