3 Life Lessons from my Busy Childhood

posted by Andrea | 02/13/2013

AYSO soccer

AYSO soccer in Kindergarten  |  with my sisters in 5th grade

Growing up, I was always involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible (big surprise, huh!)

I feel fortunate that my parents were not only willing to cart me (and my 2 sisters) around to every single sporting event, band concert, piano practice, sewing lesson, etc., but they actually encouraged us to do as many extra-curricular activities as we wanted to do.

And while I totally understand there is only so much one child or one family can be involved in, I also think there are 3 important reasons all kids should be involved in some extra-curricular activities (at least based on my own experiences).

piano and choir

piano recital in 4th grade  |  choir in 2nd grade

1. Being involved helped me plan ahead, prioritize, and learn responsibility.

I can vividly remember being in 2nd grade and “planning ahead” because I had choir practice right after school — which meant my mom had to drive me downtown for the afternoon. I had to make sure I packed an extra snack in my lunch that day so I wouldn’t be hungry at practice. I realize this might not sound like a big deal, but as a second grader, I knew Tuesdays were always the day when I’d need that extra snack, and this taught me to not only think about what day it was, but also plan ahead.

Another example from high school… I played 3 sports all through high school, so there was rarely a day when I didn’t have a practice or a game after school. I also was in the honor’s choir which met every day before school. Because of this, there were days when I was gone from 6:40am – 9:30 or 10:00pm. They were long days, but I loved everything I did, and I learned a lot of responsibility too. Not only did I have to make sure I was up on time to get out the door, I also had to make sure my lunch, clothing, sports gear, music, etc. were all packed and ready to go the night before. I had to prioritize constantly to make sure I did all my homework and studied for tests during my study hall or in between events.

I realize that some high school students might not be able to handle so much responsibility, but even being involved in one extra-curricular activity is bound to teach some sort of positive lesson about planning ahead, prioritizing, and responsibility.

volleyball

high school & college volleyball

2 Being involved helped me develop physical, mental, social, and emotional skills.

Obviously, these activities helped me learn new physical and mental skills like:

  • how to kick a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, throw a softball, or serve a volleyball
  • how to play an instrument, play the piano, and sing in a choir
  • how to use a sewing machine
  • how to make the best use out of my time each day
  • how to problem solve and make the best decision for that specific time and event
  • etc. etc.

However, they also helped me to improve my social and emotional skills as well.

Believe it or not, I was extremly shy growing up. I didn’t like to talk to adults if I could get around it and I wasn’t great at mingling with large groups of peers I didn’t know. So being involved in community sports teams, church groups, school music and sports groups, and an area-wide choir forced me to interact with others (peers and adults) in a more casual environment that didn’t seem as overwhelming at the time.

These activities also taught me that I wasn’t going to win every time, I wasn’t always going to get my way, I would make mistakes, and I couldn’t be the best at everything (this one took me a while!) These social and emotional lessons were invaluable — and not something I could have learned by watching or reading.

french horn

band camp in 6th grade   |   marching band in 9th grade

3. Being involved gave me so many new experiences.

As I mentioned before, I participated in more competitive sports and musical groups than I can begin to list. My parents strongly encouraged us to be involved in sports and music all through high school and college (they also came to every single one of our games, concerts, etc.) Yes, it was busy at times, but honestly, some of my best childhood memories are from these events. 

SPORTS:

  • Winning the softball conference championship my senior year in high school
  • Coming back from losing 1-15 (old volleyball scoring) to win the entire tournament
  • Being the captain of many sports teams throughout high school and college
  • Spring break trips down south with our teams
  • Traveling with sports teams throughout the summer
  • LONG road trips to and from games when I was in college
  • Winning the Little League World Series in softball

MUSIC:

  • More piano recitals, choir concerts, and band concerts than I can count
  • Being a member of a top children’s choir in our area
  • Traveling to state solo ensemble for band and choir
  • Singing in the White House and touring Washington DC with my high school honor’s choir
  • Participating in two high school musicals
  • Spending parts of two summers at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (a.k.a. “band camp”!)

I could go on and on… but I think you get the picture.

softball champs

world series champions!

Being involved in so many extra-curricular activities helped me learn valuable life skills and provided the opportunity for so many fun, unique experiences I would have otherwise missed out on (including the reason I met Dave).

And for the record, I always had summer jobs throughout high school, and I worked two part-time jobs my entire college career – so it IS possible to be involved in the “fun” activities and have a job :)

sewing style show

sewing class style show in 4th grade :)

Obviously, Nora isn’t ready to join the choir or the volleyball team just yet, however, we’re still trying to get her involved in a few baby-appropriate activities like playdates with other toddlers and a new Music n’ Motion group at a local church. It’s fun to see her learning new skills and interacting with other toddlers (it’s a nice break for me too!)

high school softball

high school softball

For those of you who have older children, do you have any family “rules” or guidelines for how many extra-curricular activities your kids can be involved in?  Do you ever force (or strongly encourage) them to be involved in certain groups or activities because you know it will be good for them?

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36 comments

  1. Paula

    02/13/2013

    Love the marching band uniform. That is my alma mater too. Did you have to wear the blue feather plumes on your hat? I can’t tell from the picture.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Paula, the blue feather plumes were present… just not in the picture!

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  2. Jane

    02/13/2013

    I was the 6th child….if I couldn’t walk to it, I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even a Girl Scout! Back then, we only had one car, but I lived in the city. I had tons of time to dream, swim, play with my friends and I loved it. There were a few activities I wanted to do in high school but I didn’t have the money or ride home…so basically I was a really, really, good student. The only real organized activity I did was piano lessons.

    With my own family of four, the only thing I required of all of them was piano lessons. Part of that was my own upbringing, part of it is that my oldest child is a musician, part of it is I believe music lessons are valuable to many aspects of life. I’ll put in a plug for Kindermusik when Nora is old enough. My kids loved it and it transitions really well into piano lessons.

    For sports or anything else, my kids had to beg me so that I knew they really wanted to participate. I say that with a little tongue in cheek, but also a bit of reality. I really didn’t want to start my oldest son in T-ball at age 5 and drag all my little babies around in cars all day. Many decisions were based on location and how it would fit into our family life. He blames me today for not starting him early enough. (He’s a musician….) My youngest had the advantage that he could start activities a little younger.

    By junior high and high school, activities picked up and my life turned upside down! I agree with the many valuable lessons that kids can learn, and mine have had wonderful mentors and situations that they have experienced. There have been some less than desirable coaches and mentors, too….

    I still feel that the family dinner table is the most important activity for my kids. It is there that we can discuss, argue, debate, talk…. so I don’t like activities that interfere with that. It can be very difficult to manage activity schedules, meal planning and actual eating.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jane!
    I probably should have mentioned in my post that some how (I’m still not sure how) we almost ALWAYS ate dinner together as a family every night. Sometimes we ate at 4:00 in the afternoon, other times it wasn’t until 7:30pm, but my mom almost always got us to sit down together for a meal… which I also think is super important.

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  3. Stephanie

    02/13/2013

    I was also extremely active in many extra curricular activities growing up – 3 sports, Student Council, multiple clubs, job…and I loved every minute. I look back now and realize how helpful it was in developing organizational habits, multitasking, personal responsibility, leadership and self esteem.

    I now have a 7 year daughter and 4 year old twin boys. My daughter plays one sport per season (I think sports for girls are an amazing opportunity for them!). She also started Brownies this year because I wanted her to be part of a group that learns about social responsibility, friendship and leadership. My twin boys just started playing hockey and we’ve signed them up for T-Ball this spring.

    My rule is one sport per season while they are young and one more extra curricular activity by 1st or 2nd grade. My husband and I both work full time, so we are somewhat limited in how much we can cart around 3 kids from activity to activity. Family time and down time have to factor in the equation – I don’t want my kids to feel over-scheduled and stressed by the extra activities. I want them to feel that they are benefits to their day to day schedules.

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    Debby Reply:

    I agree Stephanie. One sport per season when they are young. I always let my girls try anything and if they didn’t like it, they had to finish out the season. Then we would never sign up again. I have two girls that play high school soccer, cheer for high school basketball, and run track. The discipline they have learned keeps them more focused in school. We still eat a good number of dinners together. It may be in the stands of the gym, but we are together. Andrea is right the life lessons with activities are priceless. I was always busy growing up. I wasn’t an athlete, but I was in the band, flag corp, and numerous clubs. My mom had the motto too that if you are busy, there is no time for trouble.

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  4. Melissa

    02/13/2013

    My oldest is involved with Awana at church and she’s played soccer this past fall and will again this spring. That’s about it for us. I don’t want to shuttle them around everywhere constantly, there’s no downtime, or kid time. This balance works for us right now. Now my youngest is only 5 and I have a feeling she might demand to do more :) We’ll see how that works out.

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  5. Tracy

    02/13/2013

    I come from a “few activities” family and my husband is from an “every activity” family so we are trying to find a balance with our own children. At first the rule was to try a few things and then pick the one you really like and focus on that. But my oldest likes many things (NOT sports!) and my middle child loves ALL sports. So making them pick one seems sort of silly. We kind of play by ear right now and try not to get too busy in process : )

    (PS- I’m from West Michigan and sometimes forget you are as well until I see a shirt that says “Unity” or see you mention Calvin!)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Tracey — West Michigander here :)
    We had friends whos parents only let them pick ONE thing — so they picked soccer because that’s what everyone did when we were 6-10 years old. But by the time they got to middle school and high school, they realized they really didn’t like soccer and they probably would be much better at a different sport or even a musica instrument. But soccer was their “one thing” so they ended up missing out on developing other potencial talents.

    I like that you are just “going with the flow” and playing it be ear until you see their talents and skills starting to develop!

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  6. Maria

    02/13/2013

    Wow I always thought Nora looked like you, but now I see she is totally your “mini me”. :-) My husband is the youngest of 3 and his parents were always to tired and to busy to take him to activities. We have decided to only have one child so that we will have the time and money for him to participate in every activity his little heart desires.

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  7. Julie

    02/13/2013

    My kids are still in elementary school and I already and have always said that only one program/sport a season per child. It is just to costly. It is a lot for us to haul them each to a different location at different times. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible with work schedules, we are just a bit to far from town to drop them off and then go back and get them for an hour practice. We like our “family time” and if everyone is in many sports don’t it doesn’t really allow for much of that. We don’t eat fast food and at this sesason in our lives everything is made from scratch (even ketchup and mustard…its because of a nutritional program we are currently on)so, that makes it quite difficult at times..not to mention that its a rule we eat TOGETHER every night.
    I’m pretty sure I am in the minority, but it really becomes too much and then everyone is crabby..as evidence when we have multiple over lapping programs/sports.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I don’t think you’re in the minority at all – I think there’s a trend toward doing less.

    But with all of this, I think it really depends on the child. I was involved in EVERYTHING in high school (and a lot in college, too), but I was and still am an overachiever and thrived on the challenge. My siblings still did plenty but not as much as I did.

    My husband wants our children to be in martial arts and I’d like to give them piano lessons, too (I can teach them myself). I’d also like them to start an instrument when they’re in 4th-5th grade or so as that’s what my parents had all of us do and it was really beneficial.

    But other than that, I think we’ll take it as it comes. Cost is definitely a big factor, and I also don’t want to be carting around my younger ones to their older siblings’ activities all the time.

    I see moms of just one child bringing their kiddo to everything (music class, art class, early childhood classes, Little Gym, etc.) when they’re so young and I say to myself, “Yeah, that was me with my first one, too.” And then I had a second (and am pregnant with #3) and that all flew out the window. :) Enjoy having just one because life changes even more with multiple children!

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    Shelia B. Reply:

    Julie – you are definitely not in the majority. That’s the exact rule we have in our home. I am a divorced, single mom of 3 so life is a little more than CRAZY.. Their dad is very much involved and helps out a lot with practices and games. But I live in the country approx. 15-20 min from any activities ocurring so it’s timely. And their dad lives 25 minutes from me so it ‘s a lot of work getting back and forth to places plus having to work full time. And costly doesn’t even begin to describe it. Thank Goodness for grandparents willing to help!!! But my kids love the things they do but they also love just being kids and playing outside or just relaxing at home. So, it’s a good balance for us.

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  8. Liz

    02/13/2013

    Growing up, I wasn’t involved in anything. My parents weren’t willing to drive me to practices, games, lessons. Nor were they willing to shell out any money for an activity even if I had a way to transport myself. It sucked (to put it mildly). I wanted to play a musical instrument, I wanted to be involved on a team. I wanted to have something that was mine to do.

    Dh and I talked a lot about it before we had our daughter. Ever since she’s been able to waddle, we’ve kept her physically challenged. For awhile it was gymnastics, then dance and now soccer. She’s played piano since she was 5 (she’s always had the longest fingers of any person I’ve ever seen…and I have some LONG fingers). She’s in NJHS and volunteers constantly.

    Our days are crazy busy…up at 6 to practice piano for 45 minutes and bed at 8 to 10.

    And I agree with Andrea, it’s made her organized, resourceful, and practical. She’s always looking ahead to what needs to be done and what can be done right now (and who has wifi so she can do her math). I have other parents, teachers and coaches tell me all the time how responsible she is. And she’s 12!

    But it’s not all work, work, work. We make sure to play…and we play hard. We ski and hike. She loves going to the rifle range with her grandpa. And helping out at animal rescue events. She’ll try anything once…even rode a bull at a rodeo this summer.

    As a family, we have a priority list…work/school, piano, soccer, volunteering and then whatever else that fits.

    I wish my parents had thought about the choices they were making with a little more foresight.

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  9. Jamie

    02/13/2013

    We keep it simple…Awana and Soccer (fall and spring). My youngest is showing a real interest in music so when he gets a bit older I may add in lessons of some sort but for now they just get to enjoy being kids.

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  10. The Gaertegang

    02/13/2013

    I think focusing more on being together as a family is a better choice. Growing up I was involved in sports, rodeo, 4-H, and held a job when I old enough. When I was younger, I had to choose between animals and sports, both are time consuming and costly. I think this was a great lessen to teach me I can’t do it all. It’s important to teach our children to make choices and not indulge them in doing everything they want. Yes, it’s good to try new things and explore what we are gifted at, but not all at the same time. When we let our children make all the choices, they are tempted to over commit and not be able to do all their commitments to their best ability. As adults I think we need to be very careful when “encouraging” our children to be involved in doing too many things, because this busy crazy schedule has many bad consequences. Less time together as a family, less time together as a married couple, less time around the table together, a financial stress on families (most adults don’t want to admit to their kids they can’t afford to give them endless options). I could go on, but I think you get the point. Do children learn time management? Yes. Do children learn good social skills? Yes. Are there many other things they learn along the way? Yes. Let’s not forget, 100 years ago, before all these “organized activities”, kids were better behaved, more respecting, better at time management, and the list goes on. Why? I believe strongly because families were together with other families bonding, teaching, & training their children.
    I’m seriously not saying, be hermits and participate in nothing. That would be an extreme (& unhealthy) in the opposite direction. I’m just trying to emphasize that busy is not best for 99% of the population, whether child or adult. Great topic, great discussion, thanks for allowing everyone’s input.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Davis Reply:

    Well said. When life is over I want to look back at how I invested in relationships, not just how much I accomplished. I want the same thing for my children because I believe relationships are eternal while other things are not.
    My mom kept us super busy as a kid so she could add more to her brag list and relieve herself of some responsibility. While I am not suggesting anyone here would do such, I think we’d all do well to check our motives. We want to be sensitive to what’s best for the individual child. While I’m thankful for the many opportunities I was afforded I do believe the focus on self was a bit unhealthy. I began to measure myself by my test scores and accomplishments. (It didn’t help that my mother worked for a major university!) When I wasn’t able to live up to all the pressure my “self-esteem” took a dive and I almost did too. It took me years to start believing in unconditional love and acceptance. My parents tried hard and I’m thankful, but sadly I don’t even remember half the stuff they put so much time and money into. Not to mention, I often learned a lot of bad behavior to go along with the good and I was subject to ill-treatment by others. Once I took a martial arts class with my dad who was a 3rd degree black belt and yet the guy who taught with my dad made advances at me. That’s only one example!
    I’m not saying we should be hermits, but I think parents could benefit from having a family mission statement and making choices wisely that will help them accomplish their ultimate goal.
    Now that a couple of my children are almost grown I also see how important it is to treasure the time you have because it doesn’t last forever!!

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  11. Melanie

    02/13/2013

    My 4 teenage daughters are very busy…2 in basketball with the school and travel team…2 in cross country…drama…art…viola lessons…dance lessons…church activities…etc. I believe keeping them busy (not overly busy) helps keep them focused and out if trouble. Sometimes we’re too busy but they all still have straight As. One daughter would sit at home and watch TV all the time if I let her…so next fall we’ve decided she’s going to try cross country. She needs something physical to do. I hate to think of it as forcing…but as I’ve talked with other sports parents they think its a good thing. She just needs some encouragement…and I think the competitiveness will help her to believe in herself.

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  12. Summer

    02/13/2013

    I want to offer something on the flip side… I believe that the sports have become SO competitive and the parents are really something not to be desired in this age. With five children, I have seen just about everything beyond shocking now. (Completely different from when we were growing up!) I believe children SHOULD be active and involved… however, not so busy you can’t afford the sports (time-wise included) or with people that ruin a ‘fun experience’ for the kids trying to live vicariously through the child. Many parents are out of hand these days, at least in what I have witnessed.

    I am watching families with 7 year olds doing 5 days of gymnastics for 3 hours a night. The daughter is exhausted and completely a brat. As she should be… I would be too! It’s not good for her OR the family values. Some families are LIVING out of their minivans in my area… from sport to sport to sport and the stress they are creating for themselves trying to have it all and do it all is staggering. Just listening to some of these parents whose fuses are shot from ALL the constant stream of activities is just sad.

    It all goes back to the BALANCE that we seek. Everything in moderation. What’s right for one, may not be right for another. But as they get older, I have seen a decline in sportmanship, team players, and coaching.

    Not trying to be negative, but bring awareness of how much you really can handle as a mother, a family, and paying attention to the important things for your family and not keeping up with what society pressures us into.

    Off my soapbox! lol

    [Reply]

    Deni Reply:

    I’m with you Summer! There is too much pressure on kids today, nothing like when I was growing up. Things are out of control, no balance.

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    Sherry Reply:

    I agree Summer. Both of my boys played hockey growing up.

    Throughout their time playing they each was good enough to play “travel” hockey. We chose to keep them in local league not only because there was less of a time commitment from us but also because hubby and I are not very competitive and just could not handle the “travel” parents mentality. It seemed that winning was all that was important but my eyes always went to that poor child sitting on the bench, never getting to play because he was deemed not as good as some of the other players. It always broke my heart.

    Our boys were allowed one activity each per season so that there was still family time together.

    [Reply]

    Kathleen Reply:

    My boys are young, 8 and 6, but we already found ourselves caught up in the constant activity trap last year. Our oldest was playing baseball and soccer, taking martial arts twice a week, taking painting lessons once a week, attending Sunday School and Youth Group, and was a Cub Scout on top of it. And that was just his extra-curricular schedule–add in homework, his younger brother’s schedule–add to that the fact that I work 3 to 4 days a week, volunteer with the church, my husband coaches baseball and soccer, and then my husband and I made the mistake of volunteering to be the scout den leaders–it was just nuts. We realized we were ALL stressed and running from one activity to another, feeding them fast food in the car, dragging two tired kids to sit in childcare at the gym on the rare occasions we had time to work out, or spending ALL WEEKEND cleaning the house because it was in such disarray from the preceding busy week–instead of enjoying family hikes and camping like we used to do, we were stressing about planning Cub Scout meetings and activities and, again, dragging two tired boys to Cub Scout meetings every other Friday night. It was too much. We got together as a family and made the choice to commit more to our family and less to the outside world. We dropped martial arts and Cub Scouts–I dropped my gym membership and opted to exercise at home and outside, with my boys, instead–we’ve cut painting lessons to every other week instead of every week–and we are all a whole lot happier–not to mention, we eased some of the financial burden we feel too, so I can work less and be with the boys more. There are many wonderful opportunities for children and teens and I wish I had been more involved as a kid/teen–but I am all for balance–when family time suffers as a result of extracurricular activities, I feel something is wrong. That’s just what works for us, anyway. We are definitely not a type A family!

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  13. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    02/13/2013

    I homeschooled my kids so we didn’t have as much opportunity. However, that’s one of the reasons we did it – we didn’t want to be running from thing to thing to thing. We wanted peace and a slower life.

    The kids were usually involved in only one thing outside of school-related activities. For a while it was music lessons. Then it was karate for my son and gymnastics for my daughter. But usually just one thing.

    I didn’t force them to do things. I don’t know whether there’s a right or wrong answer for that. I think you have to know your kids. That works for some and not for others.

    And what we did doesn’t mean everyone should do the same. It’s what worked for our family. Other families would have been bored to tears with our lives but we were happy.

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  14. Elizabeth

    02/13/2013

    I was involved in a lot of things as a child and in high school but they were always offered through the school or town so were free or had minimal fees. Different times lol. My daughter just graduated from high school and started college. I swear she tried everything. Swim captain (two swim teams, city and school), cross country, volleyball, served on the school board, captain of the academic history team, yearbook, marching band, concert band, show choir, church choir, voice lessons, piano lessons, youth group at church, youth rep to the church vestry, church rep to the Diocese, volunteered in the community, attended two different high schools to get the best of courses from both, dual-enrolled at the community college so she would head off for her BA with two years of credit under her belt, and more! I let her do as much as she wanted as long as she kept her grades up and stayed healthy. There are just the two of us so coordinating schedules to find dinner together (almost every night) and do all the carpooling around my full-time+ job was easier than if I had more kids. Don’t get me wrong, it was a challenge keeping up with her. The payoff is that she has a scholarship to a small private school that is a perfect fit for her and was her first choice for colleges and she made friends and network contacts of all ages as she worked in different organizations. She learned to prioritize, schedule her time, and deal with the stress of over committing so you know when to just say “no.” She still struggles wanting to try everything and do everything but I think that’s a much better problem to deal with than not wanting to do anything and just sitting in her dorm room or partying all the time.

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  15. Stacy

    02/13/2013

    Are your parents and sisters as organized as you? I’m organized and my mom was organized, so I don’t know if it’s all learned or hereditary, but I think it’s interesting.

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  16. sarah

    02/13/2013

    I had to giggle at the timing of this post – just today I was looking at the spring Park and Rec brochure and wondering what we should sign the kids up for.
    I’m generally of the less is more camp and am getting sense that the kids are able to handle a busier schedule. I’m torn while my hubby is of the more is more and suggesting we “sign them up.” We share more of the driving and homework responsibilities these days so it doesn’t feel as overwhelming – I’m thinking we might go for it… at least as much as our budget will allow.
    thank you for posting this one!

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  17. Jeanine

    02/13/2013

    When my children were small, I heard the advice to try to find an extracurricular activity that would serve them throughout life. While all four of my kids tried different activities, the two that stood out and have had long-lasting value have been piano lessons and dance lessons. My oldest son now plays in the worship band at church, and my daughter is on her way to being a dance teacher. I know that there is value to be found in all kinds of sports, including good exercise, but I think it’s good advice is to try to steer your child toward something that they will be able to use all their life.

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  18. Becky

    02/13/2013

    Just wondering why the last couple of posts have not come up on your home page? I’ve just had to search for them.

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    Andrea Reply:

    You are the 4th person to ask me this in the last couple of hours! I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m waiting to hear back from my web guys. In the mean time, I THINK it will fix itself if you clear your internet history, cookies, and cache (if you know how to do that!) Sorry for the trouble :)

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  19. Deb

    02/13/2013

    I would have to agree that balance is the key. Mine are pretty close together and we only have three, so we could coordinate 4-H, basketball, etc. But I was never a “my kids are going to do everything mom,” We used to have horses and live in the country, do 4-H etc. Now, we live in town and their favorite sport is snowboarding. (30 minutes away, but they can drive)…….life ebbs and flows, what they love at 8, they dislike at 16 and what you think they might be good at can all change with a bad coach/team, etc. If you make character the focus, you can learn from all the experiences whether good or bad and whether they are successful at what they attempt or not. There are so many “good” things but we have to seek out the “best” things and sometimes that means staying home and serving the church or other family members and sometimes it means being the star player who is a great example when he loses AND wins. Parenting is tricky, and every family is so different. Thanks for the pictures and childhood stories, your parents are awesome!

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  20. Angela R

    02/13/2013

    I am chuckling reading the comments. A year ago I was feeling so frustrated with the differences of opinion in parenting between people that were ALL good parents. God pointed me toward Romans 14. Now in situations like this I try to remember that the most important this is that some listen to the Holy Spirit about what is best for their kid/family. For many things, what is good for us isn’t good for someone else and vice versa. Ultimately, we answer to our Lord.

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  21. Amanda

    02/13/2013

    my parents insisted on 2 things:
    1. We must learn to swim, and be able to complete 25yds (a length of a standard pool). We grew up a few miles from Lake Erie and around the corner from the city pool. This was primarily for our safety and my parent’s sanity. I however fell in love with it and swam competitively year round from the time I was 9 until I was 18, and still swim now and then for fitness.
    2. We must learn a musical instrument (our choice – neither of us could sing, but if we could have, choir would have fulfilled their requirement, although my mom would have liked us to then learn piano) – my mom felt that reading music and the persistence necessary to learn an instrument were important life skills. Also, it is proven to help with math skills. Our school started band/choir in 5th grade. My parents required us to stick w/ it through 9th grade.

    My parents were also careful that they didn’t want us to be over scheduled. So, we were only allowed to play one sport per season during the school year (and 2 in the summer), plus band. Also, we had to stick something out. You didn’t have to do it next year, but once you made a commitment to a team, you weren’t allowed to quit. By the time we reached HS, we could also participate in other extracurricular as long as they didn’t interfere with our school work. I was captain of my swim team, played softball and soccer, and played trombone. I was also involved in drama club, photography, AV, and some things involving my HS graduating class. My younger brother was less involved because when he did too much his school work would suffer. I also worked a full time summer job and a part time job during the school year in HS. Although I didn’t compete in college, I worked 30hrs a week, as well as working about 5-7hrs/wk with my college church, went to class, and still managed to save time for fun.

    I think all of that truly prepared me for “real life”. You’re absolutely right – when you’ve got your hands in so many pots, you learn to keep a tight schedule, prioritize your time, and learn great time management skills. Also, you learn team work, perseverance, good work ethic, social skills, life skills, etc.

    SO, for our kids, we will have limits, but will still encourage them to participate. First and foremost, I will want them participating in things that will help them to grow spiritually (I didn’t grow up in church, but this is very important to my husband and I) – so this means Sunday School/AWANA/Youth Group, etc. We also will require them to learn to swim (for the same reasons my parents did as we live in the same general area, but they don’t need to be a swim team swimmer like I was). We will encourage them to participate in at least one sport, and we will have them learn an instrument (again their choice – my husband plays guitar and drums, my MIL teaches piano, my mom was a vocal music major through most of college and I grew up playing the trombone). At the same time, we need to know our children and understand that it may mean that not every kid can handle all of that, and we may need to vary our expectations as far as that goes.

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  22. nicky

    02/13/2013

    Eventually found this post under family life. Why no longer posting under ,main? Enjoy this blog very much although some ideas are difficult to adopt here in uk.

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  23. Kristia

    02/14/2013

    I grew up in the 70′s, before kids were overscheduled and everyone usually played one sport per season through the parks and rec. I don’t remember life being so hectic back then as it is now with my kids. But I took gymnastics lessons in the winter, played softball in the spring and tennis or swimming lessons in the summer. I did a lot of different things, but nothing really stuck.

    When I got into 9th grade, I distintly remember sitting on the recliner watching General Hospital after school eating Tasty Kakes and my mom came home from work and really ripped into me. She told me that I wasn’t going to spend my entire high school years sitting on the couch watching tv and that if I wanted to go to college I needed to get involved in activities. So I joined the swim team, the marching band (in the color guard), and the student government. I’m so glad she kicked me in the pants, because I ended up having alot of fun in high school, meeting new friends, traveling for competitions and it all did help when I applied to colleges.

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  24. K

    02/14/2013

    I definitely think there needs to be a balance when it comes to activities, which includes a set of priorities (ie: school and church come first).
    As a former teacher (now stay-at-home mom), I’ve seen the downside to these busy schedules. I remember one student openly resenting homework because the after-school schedule was so full. When I approached the parent, they listed off the child’s after-school schedule (at lessons or practices every night) and then asked me if I could blame the child for their attitude. I’ve also seen pre-teens with injuries (concussions, knees completely immobilized for months at time) due to aggressive sports schedules.
    I agree with other posters that a balance must be struck and that often the extra-curriculars offered are too intense for young kids.
    I am one of 3 kids and the rule was one extra-curricular activity (other than church) per kid per season. I think that’s what I’m going to do with my children when they are school-age.

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  25. Rebecca

    02/21/2013

    We have never been much for rules about things like this. We are a musical family so that was sort of expected, although all of the kids enjoyed that. Basically if a kid showed or expressed an interest in a activity we thought through the pros and cons and we thought it was really beneficial we found a way to do that – on a case by case basis. One thing we have always tried to do (at considerable expense at times) was send our 5 kids on as many mission trips as they wanted to go on. Our youth group offers a couple of trips every summer for any given age group, and the benefits that have come from that have been incalculable. They worked very hard in service and not for their own glory which made them humble, appreciative, and compassionate.

    [Reply]

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