Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finishing Reading “The Over-Scheduled Child” This Week

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.

Technorati Tags: , , , >


Kim said...

All right! An upper-New Haven County view from someone who does all their homeschooling activities and shopping in Fairfield County. Too much going on! I have my homeschooling daughters in ONE activity each (and it's the same one at the same time). Now my oldest is quite dedicated and it takes up four hours of time each week (7 hours if you include travel time) broken into three different sessions. That's enough for me. She would like horseback riding lessons, musical instrument lessons, and/or voice lessons and I can't and won't do it (for one thing, way too expensive).

I have no issues telling her that we can't afford it and that the time spent in her current activity is enough.

Of course we have all this time in our schedule but when we ask about play dates other people are too busy to fit it in! We have way more luck getting together with her friends from her private school than with any of the homeschoolers.

When I see how creative my kids are with making up games and finding other ways to amuse themselves (and how relaxed we are that we don't have a slew of activities to be late for), I couldn't imagine it any other way. And we've done the other way!

Nine Texans and friends.... said...

How about thoughts from a homeschooling mom who used to live in Fairfield County, but now lives in South TX?
You'd think the situation would be worlds apart. Not at all.
Overscheduling and making sure Jimmy and Beth get every class, camp, club and field trip in is as rampant here as it is in CT.
There is more $$ in CT, the opportunities often more extravagant and expensive but the pressure to go, go, go is just as bad with homeschoolers and institutional schoolers here in TX. And here we must drive much farther to do anything (I live in a rural area 30 miles outside the city).
Homeschooling in TX is much more organized and widespread. We have homeschool dance, gymnastics, swim team, fencing even. There are homeschooling co-ops in my area that field high school football teams, offer full credit lab sciences, sponsor overnight trips etc......there is a LOT offered for homeschoolers here if you want to use it.

I find the overscheduling mostly with homeschoolers- middle school and younger. By upper middle school and high school MOST children and parents either find something they like and focus on one or two extracurriculars and excel or find that the demands of academics at that level do not lend towards running around all day every day and something has to give. You still have the families that think the more extra curriculars listed on that transcript the better it looks to admissions boards. Sadly, those students usually end up with a list of things they tried but nothing that they accomplished.

I believe in balance. No one should feel guilty for not participating in every opportunity presented, even if the child wants to do it. Decisions and choices must be made. They may have to drop one activity to pick something else up, this helps them learn priorities too.

You decide how much time and money you can devote to extracurriculars then make the decisions what will fit and then say no to everything else without guilt. Maybe make room in your schedule for a spontaneous once or twice a month trip or class.

Our schedule?

Monday morning: Reader's Theater (oldest 4)
Monday afternoon: Odyssey of the Mind (Katie)
Tuesday evening: Civil Air Patrol (Jack and Ian will join next year)
Wednesday afternoon: dance (Emma)
Thursday evening: riding lessons (Grace), Chess Club (Jack)

occasionally we'll go to Park Day on Friday mornings or have some friends over during an afternoon.
The rest of our time is academics and lots of playing in the dirt, bike riding, drawing, pretending, reading and unscheduled life. It's still a bit too busy but with 7 children we're busy even if we are *doing* nothing :-)

christinemm said...

Nine Texans, Interesting to hear your feedback since you know what it is like here and now you're down there. So this is not just a CT or a Fairfield County thing!

Reading this book had me so paranoid yesterday that I paused to make a list of everything that I chose NOT to do which I was seriously considering. Maybe I'll blog that list.

Thanks for leaving comments on my blog posts!

christinemm said...

Nine Texans, Interesting to hear your feedback since you know what it is like here and now you're down there. So this is not just a CT or a Fairfield County thing!

Reading this book had me so paranoid yesterday that I paused to make a list of everything that I chose NOT to do which I was seriously considering. Maybe I'll blog that list.

Thanks for leaving comments on my blog posts!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


Maybe we are undersheduled?

We have: Mondays--Boy Scouts
(some weekend involvement for camp outs and service projects)

Wednesdays: Religious School

Saturdays: Torah Study--at least twice a month

Sunday: Torah Study--twice a month.

That's it!
N. needs lots of down time and time to do Kamana.

Oh, and Tuesday-Thursday--I have classes in the morning, but nothing for N.

Crimson Wife said...

There was an article in "USA Today" last year about how only 25% of kids are in 3+ organized activities and 40% do none. The thing is, almost everyone we know falls into the former group and I don't know *ANYONE* in the latter group. So I really think that it depends on your own neighborhood's social norms. We live in an affluent suburb of San Francisco near Silicon Valley (probably very similar to Fairfield County in terms of income but a larger percent of South & East Asians in the population).

christinemm said...

Elishiva, sorry I didn't respond sooner.

I wanted to say to you that each family defines what is right for them. I hope you didn't think I was being judgemental saying if someone does more than me they are wrong or less than me they are wrong.

Everyone has different tolerance levels for how many appointments they can handle. Not only is this true for the homeschooling parent but also for each child. One of my sons likes to be home more and left to be alone while the other doesn't like to be alone and would like to be on the go all the time.

What we do changes from year to year and the family dynamic changes year to year. I am just trying to find a balance that is right for us for right now.

I have been having some interesting converstations about how much each family is doing with their kids and how it feels to them, as I saw HS moms in person this week. We are all so different. Some are very happy to have many appointments outside the home, while others feel frazzled by that.

christinemm said...

Crimson Wife, Thanks for your comment and the link to USA Today's article.

I don't believe the info in USA Today for a minute. I would like to read the original studies. Some of what they said was misleading. For example to talk about teens doing 20 hours of outside activities a week, well that is a LONG TIME. Around here the kids shuttle off for 45 minutes here, an hour there. A bigger issue is the total time involved, driving 20 minutes one way, getting there 10 minutes early, spending 60 minutes at the event, then getting ready to go and getting home, 25 minutes. Add up all that TIME not just count the time at the actual event.

How about the teens doing travel sports that drive 3-4-5 hours or more one way to the event and sleep over in hotels usually with just one parent? The family is split with one parent at home and the other at the travel sports.

Another thing I see around here is very busy elementary aged students, then they start dropping off activities by middle school. And I am talking about kids aged 3 and 4 having many different things they do.

We also need to add in to the 'outside activities' appointments such as playdates. Those are appointments!

Even the kids I know of in rural Maine, in a poor town that I visit where my relatives live, the kids do activities. For a low-income town, they just installed a new baseball field and night lights for Little League games. And Scouts is popular up there, too.

For homeschoolers, the 'outside activities' also include for some of us, 'academic' endeavors which we feel fulfill some of what schooled kids do in school and take the place of what we'd have to teach at home. Yet for me I have to count into the hectic-ness, that we are doing outside classes/activities with appointments and timelines and deadlines and expectations to meet.

I wonder if for 'outside activities' the researchers counted before and after school babysitting programs, they should have. So if low-income kids who go to school have before and/or after school care that is an 'appointment' an a 'group class' type of thing, to me that is an activity.

I am going to see if I can find the original research that USA Today quoted. One of my big beefs with newspapers and most magazines is they fail to ever quote or reference the original study name, authors, dates, or where they were published!