Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My Thoughts & Some Quotes from: “The Over-Scheduled Child”: Introduction & Our Fall Plans

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the eighteen page introduction to “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” by Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise.

Our book addresses a way of life that is undermining contemporary family life, not only here in the United States, but in many other countries. Good, involved parenting has turned into a relentless to-do list. (page xvi)

YES! It seems every mother I know has a never-ending to-do list! And the family schedules are dominated by child-centered activities. Families whose children attend school revolve their life around the school calendar, primarily, and around extra-curricular activities, secondarily. Homeschooling families either center their lives around the homeschooling schedule or around the sports, classes, or whatever scheduled activities the family participates in.

The media gives a nod to the need for down time, “letting kids be kids”, but the agglomeration of all the articles and news reports we read and hear pressure us in the opposite direction. Barraged with messages from experts who tell us how to raise our children right, we well-meaning mothers and fathers end up worrying about matters big and small, striving to micro-manage every detail of our kids’ lives, sometimes starting before birth. (page xvi-xvii)

It is true that the bombardment starts with pregnancy, or possibly even with conception. Certainly those going through infertility can attest to the amount of information and rules that they already restrict their lives.

We’ve heard from many parents who tried to clear their calendars, and were made to feel selfish by families whose kid managed, somehow, to juggle several sports, flute lessons, and advanced French classes in one season. Are they better parents than us? Will their children have an advantage over ours, now and in the future? (page xvii)

This is what I am going through right now…pressure from friends to sign up for more activities, and comments that my children will somehow suffer if they don’t more than we are already doing.

This means we must ask ourselves some difficult questions. To succeed in life, does every child really need the level of intense involvement that has come to characterize family life in America today? Does unquestioning acceptance of this fast-track lifestyle indicate a bankruptcy of common sense? Are all American families so far gone in this madness that, in our blindness, we simply see no alternative? Or is there, perhaps, a better, easier, more balanced and rewarding way for families to live?

We believe there can be. By learning to recognize hyper-parenting for what it is and starting to apply the brakes to our insanely fast-moving lives, we will not only immediately improve the quality of daily life for our families, but we also will improve the odds for happiness in the future. In the meantime we can probably save time and money as well by becoming both intelligent consumers of all the kiddy stuff gypped our way and educated assessors of advice and edicts we can’t help but absorb as we move around in our media-drenched world. And our kids may get back their childhood, a gift most of them would be extremely grateful for. (pages xxxi-xxxii)

As I write this I have finalized our schedule for the fall. I think this is enough for extra-curricular activities:

1. Cub Scouts, one meeting per week, for older son, younger son attends and participates (unofficially, as BSA allows) as well and I am a volunteer Leader.

2. Book discussion class for older son, meets weekly. Younger son and I will spend time together in the library while the class takes place.

3. World History co-op, twice monthly, both children will participate, with emphasis on the older child, younger child will participate only if he wants to join in with the older children.

4. Chess Club for homeschoolers, meets once per month. Mainly a social event, to see other friends and to practice chess skills, so I guess this counts a thinking skills, mathematical type enrichment experience. Right now I believe both children will participate, but if my younger son doesn’t want to, he will join other younger children for free play socialization time in the room next door.

5. Music Appreciation Class, meets weekly, both children will participate in this paid class taught by professional music teachers. I am happy that this class is for mixed ages which just happens to be the correct ages for my two children to do this together. This is a subject I felt I have not spent adequate time teaching in our homeschooling, so it fills a gap.

As I blogged about last spring, I feel that more physical exercise is gained through bike riding than participation in Little League baseball. Bike riding also includes our whole family, rather than forcing some of us to be spectators. We already own bikes, so bike riding doesn't cost us anything. Lastly, bike riding can be done when we want, not when the team schedule dictates. I plan to have both children riding their bikes for fitness. I will either walk briskly, jog, or ride my own bike for exercise during this time as well. So neither child will participate in “fall ball” with Little League. I also am passing on soccer as my older son hates it, my younger does like it, but I want to save money and have a less clogged schedule.

I really am going to set my sights on putting academics as a high priority this year and hope we get a smooth running routine in place to make sure that is accomplished. I want a harmonious home first and foremost. I want academic goals accomplished. I am going to try very hard to see that the "extra's" don't get in the way of those two goals!

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