The other night I was with some homeschooling families. While alone with one mother, a conversation began which started off with whether or not our children would begin taking a martial arts class together. This is something her son asked her about starting doing and it is something that my younger son has been asking to do for about a year. Also our Pediatrician said that my older son should be doing martial arts for regular exercise. Her son was asking if he could start taking a class along with a friend (or two) so she asked if my kids were interested in starting martial arts classes. So, I am researching prices and comparing schedules of the various martial arts studios in our area. We are both still trying to figure out if the classes fit into our schedules and budgets.
I am concerned with what I consider to be a high price for these classes. I worry too, that adding these new classes to our family’s schedule will make our lives miserable and over-scheduled. I have the homeschooling schedule and extra-curricular activity schedule set up now and it is nice and open, it is presently not over-scheduled at all. This is typical, to have things nailed down in a good arrangement then the closer that fall comes, more and more opportunities come up and it is hard to say no. (Another thing that presented itself last week was an invitation for my younger son to join a monthly boy’s book discussion group.)
I told my friend that I think it is interesting and bothersome at the same time, that I quit my gym membership which was $70 per month, then later, I joined and then quit a different gym that was (just) $15 per month in order to save money, yet I am contemplating starting martial arts which will cost $140 per month for two classes per week, for each child. I asked why it is that I would hesitate to spend a fraction of that amount to give myself opportunities to exercise for ‘good health’ yet I would consider spending so much more for a total of 90 minutes of classes for my children (each)? When Having walked past that martial arts studio many times before, I have seen it literally jammed with students, which means that so many parents are shelling out $140 per month for eight 45 minute martial arts classes per month for their children, some of whom are just three and four years old!
Another homeschooling mother joined the conversation at some point. We had a long discussion of many topics about how children in our area spend their time, about over-scheduling and about how our own childhoods were so different than our own. I won’t get into all of that right now but I’ll share that the conversation was so interesting I could make several blog entries about my thoughts on the topics we discussed.
I vowed that night that since I have still-unanswered questions on these topics, and since I don’t understand how my children’s generation is being raised so differently than my generation, that I wanted to resume reading “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” (formerly published under a different title “Hyper Parenting”) by Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise. I believe it was the summer of 2005 in which I read the first half of the book and then I lost interest and shelved it. I will admit too that I worried that the authors would think that homeschooling was the ultimate thing that a hyper-parent would do.
So Monday I picked the book off my shelf and resumed reading it. I backtracked a bit to the beginning of Chapter Five. With a fresh mind and with renewed interest in the topic I am tearing through the book. I am underlining passages, marking paragraphs and taking notes. The book is blowing me away as it is so applicable to my life and to that of my friends in my local area. The examples cited in the book are very realistic to what I see going on around here.
I really feel like I need some perspective and some wisdom from someone else who is not a parent of young children right now. I was also going to say I want some perspective from parents who don’t live in high-pressure Fairfield County, however, both authors of this book are from Fairfield County. I feel like I need a dose of wisdom from someone who is not right in the fray yet someone who ‘gets’ what is going on. I say this because so many times when I try to discuss this with my friends or acquaintances, they don’t agree with me, they are living the over-scheduled life and they keep telling me that it is good and right to be that way. Yet I don’t agree, for some reasons that I can’t quite pinpoint. I feel that the authors really have a grasp of what is going on in reality and I hope they can help me with their insight and experience.
Hyper-Parenting website (official website of the book and the authors)
Note there are some speech transcripts and articles on the site that you can read for free. One good article is a summary about how to avoid the hyper-parenting trap.
Update 9/01/07: We drove home from our last summer trip today and I did finish the book on the way home. The book is excellent and the last couple of chapters were the most of what I needed to hear. If I can find the time I'll blog more of my thoughts about this book and how these issues apply to my own family's life.
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