April 8, 2011
By Stephanie Pappas
Over-scheduling is a hot topic, but in the end, parents have to strike
their own balance. LiveScience asked parents and experts how they set the
extracurricular agenda for their own kids. One thing is for sure: Every
family is different.
"There's a difference between doing a lot and accomplishing a lot. In what
I see, students erroneously pile on more activities because they believe
that the more you do the better chance you have of getting into Harvard.
And that's just simply not true.
Successful college applicants generally are not well-rounded, they're
well-lopsided. So I usually advise students to spend more time on fewer
activities. Do what you like, do a lot of it, and excel at it."
- Steven Goodman, Educational Consultant and Admissions Strategist,
"As a mom to a high-schooler, middle-schooler and grammar-school child I
am amazed at what a raging issue this is.
My kids are all very involved in scheduled activities and we are also able
to find lots of time for unscheduled play. My son rides his bike and his
Ground Drifter to other friends' houses in the neighborhood, my older
daughter frequently just hangs out with her friends and my youngest loves
to play anything in the driveway with either me or my husband. They are
all very active - dance, karate, drum lessons, boy scouts, baseball,
lacrosse, tennis and horseback riding but there is also ample time to just
have down time and hang out.
I don't quite get the 'dilemma' and why kids can't have both in their
lives! I am also a working mom, so I don't have the luxury of being home
to be sure this is all happening - my kids figure it out on their own!"
- Bev Flaxington, consultant, adjunct professor at Suffolk University and
author of "Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior"
(ATA Press, 2010)
"Our five school-age children are heavily involved in extracurriculars. My
husband and I have found that two of our kids are very competitive and
award-driven. These two don't mind jumping from activity to activity. The
other three enjoy being involved in something but get burned out if they
don't have time each night to unwind and do their own thing.
With so many activities going on it is not uncommon for us to jump from
soccer practice to wrestling practice (or football depending on the
season) to dance class, math tutoring, a choir concert or church group to
basketball practice. Very rarely do we have a day off from an activity.
Our weekends are often spent out of town due to tournaments. The kids
really enjoy spending time in other cities, seeing new places and, of
course, swimming in the hotel pools. To make it fun, we have added what
the kids call our 'hall of fame' to the front hallway of our house. It's
an entire hallway dedicated to their achievements. They love being able to
add a new award or medal to the shrine!"
- Mandy Alexander, mother of eight in Hudsonville, Mich.
"My kids love everything and want to do everything. I believe kids can be
overscheduled, plus it is expensive and time-consuming to have them
participate in everything they wish, but I also know that it keeps them
out of trouble and is good for them physically and emotionally. At this
point, I allow my son (12), who enjoys competitive swimming, to train
before school 3 times a week, and after school five times a week and on
Saturday mornings. My 10 year old does swimming and karate (though he
swims less often). It is a madhouse of driving and organizing for me, but
they are happy and we frequently discuss how they feel - if they are happy
and enjoying what they do. I think we have found a balance."
- Lori Harasem, events coordinator at the Galt Museum and Archives in
"I had my children later in life at the age of 41 and 44, after conceiving
naturally. My children are now 8 and 5 years old. I grew up in the 1960's
and early '70's - a time I now call the 'Huckleberry Finn' era. I think
the age of technology and over-scheduling has adverse effect both on
parents and kids. The modern parent trap we get caught in is the sense
that that if we are not running our kids to classes and events 24/7, we're
failing them and that they will fail in a competitive world. The frenzy
has a certain amount of idiocy inherent to it. When I was growing up, we
had a chance to smell the flowers, to go on adventures together and use
our imaginations to make them up. My children were shocked to learn that I
actually built a "fort" out of blankets, chairs and skipping rope in my
room on a rainy summer day."
- Angel La Liberte, Santa Cruz, Calif., founder of the A Child After 40
"I have three children who are all involved in some kind of activity
either before or after school. My 12-year-old son stays after school some
days to play basketball, and he also has soccer practice two nights a week
and games on Sunday. My 8-year-old son stays after school a few times a
month for Cub Scouts and has piano lessons once a week, and my 6-year-old
daughter goes to story time and plays basketball before school, has soccer
on Saturdays and has piano lessons once a week.
All my kids really enjoy the activities they are involved in, and I never
get any complaints. A part of me feels that they need this type of 'fun'
structure outside of the school environment, where there is a little less
pressure. Plus, to them, it's more time with their friends. On the days
that we're not running around, they enjoy spending time outside (when the
weather is nice) with friends (or each other), or just playing in the
house. It might seem like they are 'over-scheduled,' but not too many
activities overlap each other, which makes it a little easier. I'm a
stay-at-home mom, so I don't mind taking them to the places they need to
- Christen S. Prete, author in Poughkeepsie, NY.
"As much as I hate to admit it, I do think our kids are over-scheduled.
And I'm not only doing it, but like many moms, I'm the victim in terms of
exhaustion running from one thing to another. However … our world is
different today. When we grew up, we'd play for hours until dark in the
neighborhood, had full reign of the streets, and didn't worry as much
about safety. The whole, 'It takes a village,' was a great concept - and
hanging out was what we did.
I do think that kids need more down time, and that they should take
responsibility in terms of helping to arrange carpools and ways to make it
easier for mom to facilitate their wild schedules, and that they shouldn't
be allowed to be over-scheduled to the point that it interferes with
homework or causes them stress or anxiety.
However, if we're "over-scheduling" them in sports that keep their little
bodies active, there are many benefits in terms of physical activity,
healthy diversions from electronics or drugs and alcohol.
So I guess I'm a little bit on the fence. I'd say a 'healthy amount of
scheduled activities,' if kept in balance, is a good thing!"
- Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The MomTini Lounge and mom of 3 boys in
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