READER QUESTION: How Do You Handle Extra-Curricular Activities?

posted by Andrea | 08/19/2019

A few weeks ago, I shared a Reader Question asking how you handle fundraisers

This was a topic I didn’t really have much to say about as our kids’ school only does 1 fundraiser each year… but I’m so thankful I posed that question on the blog and social media as many of you with older children and more school experience shared useful tips and helpful ideas for those of us just entering the world of school fundraisers! 

Well… today I’m back with another Reader Question (one I get very regularly) regarding extra-curricular activities! 

Several years ago, I shared more about my own personal positive experiences being involved in MANY extra-curricular activities as a child; and now, looking back, I DO think it was very beneficial for me to have had so many extra-curricular opportunities when I was growing up. 

Piano, band, choir, musicals, soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, GEMS, youth group, sewing class, gymnastics,… you name it, I tried it! 

Dave was also fairly involved with school sports and church groups… and I do think we both want our children to be involved in SOME extra-curricular activities. 

However, it still feels like a very “slippery slope” to us right now — like if we say “yes” to one thing for one child, we will soon find ourselves running a family taxi service every afternoon, every evening, and all weekend long. 

We DO NOT want this for our family!  

So far, our children are young enough that they don’t really have much of a desire to participate in anything extra because they don’t even realize all the extra things they could be participating in! 

Here’s a list of extra-curricular activities our family participated in this past year. 

Nora did Math Pentathlon at school from October – February (Wednesday afternoons for 45 minutes after school). Dave helped with the Math Pentathlon program and it was VERY low-key. Just lots of math games, snacks, and a time to hang out with friends. 

She also took dance class from January – June (one hour on Monday evenings). She had tons of fun, but we will not be doing it again this year, simply because the timing of the class doesn’t work well for our family and her 2 friends are not doing it this year either. 

The 3 older kids sing in the children’s choir at church (I’m the director — so they have no  choice!) 

The 3 older kids also got involved in several different sports camps over summer vacation. They all did soccer and basketball, and they all took swimming lessons. 

So far, our kids haven’t been involved in any other extra-curricular activities.

Since Dave and I obviously don’t have a ton of experience on this topic, I thought I’d open it up for discussion on the blog — because I know many of you have much more experience and can share what worked (and what didn’t work) for you and your family. 

On one hand, I think all the social interaction, time management skills, and personal discipline required to participate in various extra-curricular activities is invaluable for our children

However, at the same time, the toll these extra commitments can put on our families, our kids, our schedules, and our finances is definitely something to consider. 

We have neighbors who come and go at least 6 times every night, carting kids here and there, to and from various activities. And we have friends who looked into a travel soccer team for their 3rd grade daughter and were shocked to realize it was more than $1600 for ONE YEAR! And that doesn’t even include the cost of traveling and staying in hotels for many weekends throughout the year. 

Sometimes Dave and I feel that people who get their kids involved in so much are just crazy… but I know for a fact that several of our friends and family members (and probably some of you) think WE are crazy for NOT getting our kids involved in all that many extra-curricular activities. 

Thankfully, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to this question!

Different families, different personalities, and different stages of life will all factor in to how you view extra-curricular activities… and that’s just fine! 

I’m excited to open this topic up as a Reader Question because I know we’ll get a variety of opinions and ideas — many of which will work for a variety of people! 

Dave and I are eager to read what you have to say (as are the many readers who have emailed in with this question!)

So.. how do YOU handle extra-curricular activities? 

 

photo source

1Shares

Filed under: FamilyChildrenSchedules

Leave a comment

39 comments

  1. Ellen

    08/22/2019

    Our three children are grown, but we had a similar feeling about avoiding too much busyness. They did little other than preschool when very young but by elementary we limited their extracurricular to two activities per child, not including church. Life was still crazy busy during those school years but those activities are the ones that really shaped their lives. One did fall in love with ice skating and enjoyed lessons for several years but as it got competitive she had to choose if she wanted that to be her only activity…and she said no. It would have also meant giving up free time after school to practice most days. Sports are another matter. More and more to be successful they require travel teams, private coaches, expensive camps. Pretty alarming to see the affect this has on families finances and schedules!

    [Reply]

  2. Eileen

    08/21/2019

    My kids are 24 and 27, so I don’t know if this experience is outdated, but my kids did most of their sports (soccer, baseball) via our local YMCA (very nearby) or as part of the church’s basketball league. IIRC, it was 1 practice a week and 1 game a week. They did 2 summers of swim team at our neighborhood pool. They moved in more ” advanced rec leagues” like baseball and soccer and eventually wanted to try out for the travel soccer pipeline.

    They specialized in soccer by 4th grade and basically played soccer from August – May. 2 practices a week with games/tourneys on weekends. (Eventually it was 3 times a week in HS, but only during the school’s “off season”)

    We have a big soccer club (with national success) here so if my kids wanted to play for their High School, you pretty much had to come as part of one of the travel programs. I’m very happy they were able to play for their High Schools, but it came at great cost and time. However, there was really no way around it if they wanted to play in HS.

    I do wish they’d quit the travel once they were successful at their HS (and maybe played on the school golf team), but both wanted to have college opportunities. (One played Div II for a year, the other had a chance but not at the school he wanted, so he didn’t play.)

    I don’t know how people with 4 kids handle this these days.

    [Reply]

  3. JoJoBean

    08/20/2019

    We play sports/outdoor activities with our kids while teaching them the basics, and we have so much fun making memories that way for now. My oldest is 6(almost 7), and many of his friends are in all the different sports. I will not sacrifice sleep for extra curricular activities at this time and season of our lives, especially with multiple kids. We have talked about doing martial arts as a family once my youngest is a bit older. It teaches self-defense, instills confidence and character, and teaches discipline. and would be something we could all do together. My brother had a major lack of confidence issues as a boy. My oldest brother was the stat athlete and really popular in school. So he was but a shadow. He became a different man because of karate. It was really neat to see him grow into who he is today. He is now the captain of a fire department and in line to be chief some day. I attribute a lot of that to karate.

    [Reply]

  4. Lindsey

    08/20/2019

    My daughter fell in love with figure skating when she was 4 years old. It started as one 30 min class a week and only costing $15 a week, now 5 years later she skates almost every day and has 3 private lessons a week and we spend about $10k a year.
    Sometimes I think we should cut back or stop spending so much money but it is so hard. She has such a natural talent for the sport and loves it so much and says she wants to be a show skater or coach when she grows up.
    I see so many great benefits and life lessons come from her skating but the sport can also be cut throat and very competitive. It’s very easy to get sucked in.

    [Reply]

  5. Cindy

    08/20/2019

    We have one son who is 5 years old. We are older parents, so our friends all have much older children, and our son doesn’t have any cousins near his age. There are no other children his age in our neighborhood. Our son is very extroverted – he LOVES to be around other people, other kids – and he is VERY active… always moving, always wanting to DO things. So based on his personality and our situation, we have him involved in many extracurricular activities. He loves it.
    It started when he was just a baby and we realized how much he liked to climb and move so around 9 months, we put him in a baby “gym” class, and took “mom & me swim”. As he got older we added “soccershots” at age 3 and started ice skating lessons. Then when he turned 5 we added t-ball and switched over to a weekly boys “ninja” gymnastics class. And this past summer we put him on a local swim team. When he was younger, we also did some art classes, french language classes and a music program. It works out that when one sport season finishes, another one starts up… so even though he does a ton of activities, its rarely more than 2 sports/activities at one time. And it works out to 3 or 4 times per week that we are taking him somewhere. Some of the activities are “drop off” so that I can go run errands while he is there, others you have to stay, which is good time for me to catch up with other moms or to get some work/reading done.
    So… for us, being involved in a LOT has been really good for our son… it gives him both a physical and a social outlet. I know many people think we are crazy for having him so involved with extracurriculars, but for our family situation, its been a good thing.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Cindy! it’s good to have your perspective too!
    Dave and I always joke about the baby gym classes and wonder who would sign up for something like that — but in your situation, it totally makes sense!

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    We were at a city fair, and we walked by a Gymboree booth. They saw my crew of 3 Littles and encouraged us to come for a free class(I *think* they all offer a first-time free class for a trial–no strings attached). I did it on a blazing hot day, so it was awesome to have a free activity where they could move around. Haha! We didn’t choose to sign up, because it was far and pricey. But they all loved it. They had a bear theme that and did a lot of sensory play stuff. My kids came home and “reenacted” what we did. Would I shell out that kind of money for multiple kids? Nope. One? Probably! The “teacher” was fantastic and well trained.

    [Reply]

  6. Tonya

    08/20/2019

    We have one 3rd daughter. She has done some programs during the winter through our city rec program. Gymnastics, pee wee soccer and swim lessons. Fees were reasonable, around $20.00 per activity.Classes were usually Saturday AM times and worked out ok because the weather gets crappy in WI. She did a cheer camp through the rec during the summer and was asked to do the competitive cheer team. This started last night. 6-8pm every Monday till Feb 2020. 3 competitions in early 2020. None require an overnight stay. We will go watch so this will be 3 full Saturdays of our time but it’s winter in WI so I am fine with that. She will also cheer a few freshman basketball game to get used to crowds. The high school is 3 blocks from our house and wont be an issue. I will say this activity will end up being around $300.00 all said and done for uniform, shoes, fees but this will be her only extra activity until summer. I don’t believe in the constant going, going & going. Moderation and family time are also important.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, moderation — my favorite word! 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. lori

    08/20/2019

    I grew up in a small town, so the extracurricular activities were limited to what was available – sports: football, basketball, base/softball, tennis, golf and a few others I can’t remember. There was theater, singing, piano lessons and other things that I don’t recall (this was in the 70’s) and work. Summer was swimming lessons – we lived by Lake Michigan and had a boat – mandatory. With the acceptation of swimming, everything was free or had a minimal cost – the coaches worked a regular job and coached or taught on the side. Everyone always got a chance to play, regardless of how well a player you were, equal play for all.
    For my kids, in elementary, they did a few things that held an interest, but being a single parent, it had to work out with my schedule and available funds. When my kids were in junior/high school, i let them decide what they wanted to do, but they knew that they’d have to get themselves there and home. Since we lived in a small town (& a mile from my parents) – the high school was about 2 miles from home, so they’d usually walk (or ride their bike) home afterwards (I was a single parent & worked in another town 30 minutes away) or get a ride from someone.
    My daughter did dance (ballet, hip-hop, tap & jazz) and thankfully she was given a scholarship by the owner (not offered anymore by the owner’s daughter), play production, baby sat the local kids and worked. My son tried football (hated two a days) and moved on to track and he also worked. The activities they choose were ones they had a deep desire to participate in and excelled at.
    I think the most important thing to remember … let them do what they truly want to do, if it doesn’t impact the budget (some sports are too expensive with all the equipment required just to be a part of the team! Football, hockey), time and keep it to the activities/sports they really love to do.
    It’s sad – the cost alone is over the top and then you have the parents who want the kids to win (they need to learn to lose with grace) and that everyone on the team gets the opportunity to play. What ever happened to the days when someone worked a regular job and taught or coached on the side and done in someone’s home or a public field? Where it wasn’t a given that you’d play the entire game & win? The point of extracurricular activities is to have fun, learn something and win or lose with grace, learn how to be a member of the team, not sit on the sideline to watch the coaches “gifted” play all the time, because the bottom line is winning – I don’t go to my alma mater’s football games, because that’s the only thing that’s important and some kids never get off the sidelines (the entire season!). ☹
    For now, I’m thankful that stage is over, but I have 6+ grandchildren who will want to do things and ask me to attend a sporting event or recital or production or help with the cost of something they can do and I will gladly go and support the things they love and excel at. Where ever you are in your child’s journey – I hope you find the perfect balance for your family and that your kids learn the true value of extracurricular actives.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Lori — very wise advice, for sure!

    [Reply]

  8. Linda Bolt

    08/20/2019

    We raised 4 children in the 1990s and early 2000s. Because we homeschooled, we did a lot of extra-curricular activities.

    When ice hockey was too expensive, and had parents yelling at their 6 year olds to perform better (ugh), my husband started ice hockey for homeschoolers. The ice rink gave them morning time on Fridays cheap, we helped the kids cobble together the hockey equipment, and shared among each other. It wasn’t competitive or anything, but all the kids became excellent skaters, and had fun with it. Now they are all good enough to play in recreational groups as adults. So sometimes, you might be able to create your own extra-curricular activity that meets your needs better.

    I always tried to find the perfect balance, but came to realize that balance is a long-term proposition. Perhaps one season finds you too busy and involved, but then another semester you might pull back and relax more.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I love that your husband was able and willing to make a hockey team work for you and your family! And yes, there is not “perfect balance” all the time. Thanks for that reminder!

    [Reply]

  9. Calliope

    08/20/2019

    I just have one son. And we’re a family that needs time at home. And we live in a small, quite safe city. These are our facts.
    The reality was that our son needed to spend more time with other children so we made that happened as he was growing up. We just chose one thing per season.
    He did go to a pre-kindergarten class at 3 because we saw he was ready and craving for friendships, although I truly believe kids should stay at home w the family for as long as possible!
    The only after school activity these years was theatrical games twice a week I think.
    When he started primary school he decided he wanted chess and football. Piano and english lessons were added. And some sundays also bridge lessons! I strongly thought all these were too many but he didn’t want to stop anything! And since he did well on school we decided to continue. At the last grades of primary he started to get tired and bored so he stopped some.
    This year he starts high school and the idea is that he decides what to do as long as he can go there himself! So we’ll see…
    I have to add that some of the lessons were with a tutor at home so that cut out a lot of driving!!

    [Reply]

  10. Sharon

    08/20/2019

    My children are grown up now but they used to do a lot of activities. My one rule was that we didn’t have any weekly activities planned for Friday nights and all weekend. I found I could cope with running around the other 4 days and this free time meant we could just do whatever we fancied at the weekend.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    that sounds reasonable — glad you were able to make your “friday nights at home” work for you and your family! kind of nice to all be together on the weekend!

    [Reply]

  11. Jen

    08/20/2019

    I like the photos of little Andrea, and the others!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, those are my 2 sisters 🙂

    [Reply]

  12. Shelly

    08/19/2019

    We have three boys (ages 16, 14, 11) who we have home schooled up until last year (they are now part-time in the public school and part-time at home!) When they were younger, we did swim lessons at our public school because a.) it is 2 minutes from our house, b.) we felt it was an important safety issue, and c.) my brother in law is the head swim coach and oversees the swim lessons (he also has 2 kids, my boys’ cousins, who were already on the swim team, and that was a draw for my boys, too!) Well, their swim lessons morphed into swimming on the swim club, which has 2 seasons that virtually go year-round (only a one month break between each session.) Even though it is a big time commitment (practice several times a week when younger, now almost daily as they are older!) and all weekend long swim meets- we don’t mind because we all do this activity together, as a family! My older two are the most excited about swimming, and the youngest would prefer to play football but we have told him no (for personal reasons, mostly fear of brain injury!) We have told him that we would consider tennis or another sport if he wants to try it, but he has been happy to go along with the swim choice and I am so glad because it is much easier to manage when they are all going to the same location for practice and for meets too!

    [Reply]

  13. Heidi

    08/19/2019

    My husband coaches high school football so we make an effort to support his team on Friday nights during the fall. We also live in the mountain area of SC and our school district actually teaches bluegrass instruments after school. My oldest daughter takes mandolin lessons each week and both girls (7 and 9) usually play rec softball in the spring. We don’t take on too many extracurricular activities because it’s really important for us to allow our kids to get to bed early and spend as much time outside as possible.

    [Reply]

  14. Kellie

    08/19/2019

    This was such an interesting read and I’m loving the comments! I have 2 boys – 4 and 2 – so we don’t worry about extracurricular just yet. BUT I am the oldest of 7 and 4 of my brothers received college scholarships for various sports. Looking back my parents both said that despite how wonderful it was giving my brothers a way into college, there was no need for the family to have been disrupted the way that it was so early on. I vividly remember nearly all of us did traveling sports (we genuinely loved it and we are a “sport-y” family) but it interfered with family time and building strong relationships with each other. My parents look back now and say they regret that. Nearly all the parents that I’ve spoken to since then who had children in heavy extracurriculars said that there was no need for serious “training” until high school. Obviously every family is different but I thought this may be helpful if there’s a family out there whose children show promise athletically.

    [Reply]

  15. Wilma

    08/19/2019

    We have three boys–10, almost 8, and 4. The youngest is in nothing. The oldest two have swimming lessons and usually one other activity. I’m thinking of starting guitar lessons. But honestly, even a little can be a lot, especially with homework and having to cart the youngest along. This is how I try to make it a bit easier:

    1. Try to carpool. I do this with another mother for gymnastics for our middle child.
    2. Activities at the same time–if I cannot get the swimming lessons at the same time (or almost the same), at the closest pool in our city, we skip for a semester.
    3. Activities the oldest child can walk to–we live close to several schools, and community activities such as basketball shooting clinic he can go to on his own; it’s only a few minutes walk away.

    It’s still a lot. It’s still too busy. It’s still expensive.

    I don’t know if there is a great answer to this question.

    [Reply]

  16. Becky

    08/19/2019

    So… I have 3 kids. All under 4 (as of typing this). My oldest are twins and will turn 4 this fall, and our little just turns 1 in spring. Neither of the older two have shown much interest in any of the organized activities. Except for like 2 weeks this summer, when one of them said he wanted to play baseball. Since then, I haven’t heard a peep out of him about it. ‍♀️ We aren’t against extra curricular stuff. Just aren’t super excited about them, either. Hubs was in marching band. I was into theater but only partly since I didn’t really like other kids – I was a bit like ally sheedy in the breakfast club lol. Both of us honestly prefer vacations though so we don’t want to spend money on activities and lessons just yet. Not when they haven’t specifically shown an interest in anything. Whenever they do, we will try to figure out how to make it work, but until then…. we have no plans

    [Reply]

  17. Lori

    08/19/2019

    Interesting thoughts. It is a busy time when you are carting children to different activities for sure! However, perhaps you should begin to consider that as your children’s personalities and demeanor develop and change, they may actually need those extra-curricular activities.

    As a retired teacher and mother of two adult children I had to learn this. My oldest daughter was a shy, introvert like you and Dave. I very much honored this, but also knew she needed these activities to “ practice” socializing , being comfortable in school( she was an excellent student always but was quite uncomfortable outside the security of our home) and getting comfortable in group settings. We participated in music programs through the school( relatively inexpensive), all free community activities, as I read your family does, and sports( not travel sports- I agree they can take over your life and your $$$). And of course all the great library programs we could find, as well as G.Scouts. These activities truly helped her develop self confidence and learn how to be part of a group. She is now a highly effective special needs teacher who has wonderful empathy and love for her students and their diverse needs, can deal with the needs of the parents as well, and cope with being part of a spec Ed team and staff. But I am sure all her practicing along the way really benefitted her! And by the way, her favorite thing to do in the world is still sitting home reading a good book and feeling safe in her own home now.

    So I guess what I am saying is sometimes as parents we have our idea of how our kids and family life may look, but we need to really be flexible and realize we can best serve our children by really tuning into their own unique needs. And by the way, my younger daughter is a total extrovert who needed to have quiet times definitely scheduled into her life…. and we made that happen as well.

    Parenthood isn’t easy, changes often in how it looks, but as you know- it is the rewarding and exhausting job you can have

    [Reply]

  18. Pixie508

    08/19/2019

    So, the way we handle it has evolved, and will continue to evolve as our kids get older. For right now:

    – swimming lessons are once a week for 30min. This is a non-negotiable requirement per me. My oldest has graduated out of them, youngest is still in them. To me this is a life skill that also has so much safety importance to it.
    – we currently have a max of one extra curricular per child, per season during the school year. During the summer, I allow for 2, but I’ll explain why in a minute.
    – my husband is a musician (guitar and drums)- our kids have shown an interest in learning, but we can do that here and there, and in our own home, as there’s time. My MIL is a piano teacher, and they’ve also done some lessons with her, when they show some interest. We’re not consistent, as neither kid has shown interest in making that a priority, but because it would be my husband/MIL, we would allow that in addition, because it could be very very flexible.
    – we also have a rule that once you sign up for a season you complete it, but if you decide you never want to do it again, that’s cool with us.
    – We go to a private Christian school – in order to encourage kids to join Awana/Youth groups, that primarily meet on Wed, the school has a no homework on Wed unwritten rule. We’re actually considering this for our oldest this year. Because this is once a week, and helpful in building into his spiritual life, it is a current discussion my husband and I are having (and need to make a decision soon!)

    So right now, our boys both play soccer in the fall. This requires about 2hrs total on Saturday, and about 1hr ea during the week (coaches set practice schedule and the games are basically on back to back hours at the same fields, so that makes it pretty easy). In the winter, our youngest doesn’t do anything (other than swimming lessons), and our oldest does one hour of swimming stroke clinic. Spring gets a little chaotic – our youngest hasn’t been old enough for baseball (he will be old enough for t-ball next year), so he played soccer again, while our oldest plays baseball – which goes until mid-July. Summer swim team picks up the first week of June and goes to the end of July (oldest only) – this causes a bit of chaos in June/July, but it’s summer, and in some ways provides extra structure into what could be a lot of lazy days, but still leaves us time to have lazy days (swim practice is over by 10:30a). August is a month off from sports completely (minus my youngest’s 30min swim lesson)

    During the school year, we have less than 2hrs of commitments a week per child, and the fields are all within 5min of our house, so the travel piece doesn’t really add much time to the commitment (the pool is about 15min, but we also set it up so that our oldest is in the stroke clinic right after the youngest’s lesson, so it’s one trip per week). If we allow our oldest to do Awana, that would be another 2hrs a week, but it happens to fall so that we can drop him off on our way to our own bible study and pick him up when we’re done. We feel like 2hrs per week is a manageable time commitment per kid – especially when their soccer and their swimming are both on Saturdays in back to back time slots at the same location, which reduces are back and forth travel.

    [Reply]

  19. Sam

    08/19/2019

    My children have 2 activities a year

    1) Their choice activity
    2) My choice (swimming or piano depending on the season)

    *They don’t get to participate in their choice unless they do swimming or piano without complaint. These are both activities that they enjoy and are non-negotiable at our house.

    [Reply]

  20. Jane

    08/19/2019

    When I grew up in the 80’s we didn’t have to “pay to play” and now the cost to participate is boarding ridiculous (IMHO). We homeschool and are a one income family so we are limited to what we can do financially and I understand that is the choice we made, but I feel sad that we can’t afford to let our kids do the things we did as kids (for free) because it costs too much.

    [Reply]

  21. Samantha

    08/19/2019

    It can definitely get pricey, I’m inclined to putting my second son in everything my first did “to be fair” but it seems in 4 yrs the fees have gone up quite a bit, and now it’s x2….like skating lessons here in our town is quite expensive ($240 for 10 classes) but it’s Canada & they need to learn how to skate!
    “Toddler” Gymnastics is also fun but $$$ however it’s good to keep the little ones active once winter sets in! We do swimming lessons all year round once per week, I think it’s an invaluable skill to learn early on. My older has been doing summer soccer the last 3 years but he’s not as aggressive as the boys who obviously will move forward with the game so this will be the last year for that. Older son also does Chinese language school on Saturday mornings through the school board which is practically free. So yes, I guess we are busy! It’s always a rush on those nights with our school finishing at 3:35, walking home, eating dinner, (the hubby gets home at 3:45 & cooks!) I clean up & put on allthe uniform/stuff for sometimes a 5:30 or 6pm class!

    [Reply]

  22. Katie

    08/19/2019

    Growing up, I was also involved in a lot – always church stuff and piano lessons. Girl Scouts was a mainstay for awhile, then various sports as the seasons rotated. I just still feel my kids (7 and 5) are little enough they should be able to dabble but not have us running around like crazy.

    I insist on swimming lessons until they are both confident, able swimmers (able to actually swim some laps and dive), so we do lessons a few times a year for a couple weeks at a time, everyday.

    My 7 year old has done 2 6-week soccer stints, but when I asked him this fall if he wanted to do a 4 month soccer season of 2-3x/ week, he said “NO”. Ha! Right now he’s in a once a week ninja runners class, and I’d like to get him involved in either golf or tennis – I’m a big fan of “lifetime” sports. I’ll keep checking in with him for some interest in music.

    My 5 year old just started gymnastics 1x/week.

    This is enough for us right now. I like most evenings at home with my family, with time for family walks, swims, and games.

    [Reply]

  23. Nancy

    08/19/2019

    It is a balancing act for sure. As others have said, the kids gradually narrow their focus over the years. That and their ability to drive mean that the later years in high school are in some ways less hectic than the middle school years.

    The prevalence of travel/select team sports has led to decreased availability of rec leagues in our area for later elementary and middle school-aged kids, so if they don’t make the select team or don’t want to participate at that level, it’s harder to participate at all. And it seems like if your child wants to have a chance to make the high school sports team, it’s in their best interest to be on a select team from a fairly young age. We’re in a small-medium school district where the coaches know the players from the travel teams. I think it’s also true in larger districts where, unless your child is very gifted, they can’t compete with someone who has been practicing pretty intensely. A friend whose kids attend a very large school in another state says that kids who haven’t taken voice and dance for years have no chance at a part in the school musical. And kids who want to cheer have to have dance or gymnastics background to make the team.

    I’m not saying this is right or beneficial; in fact most people would say that broad exposure is better for kids. But things have changed and in some ways a parent who chooses not to let their kid participate at a young age may be choosing for them not to play in high school. In our family, one child chose a single sport and doesn’t participate in many other activities, and one who has spent their school years trying a little bit of everything. There are pluses and minuses to both and you’re right, we miss it when it ends!

    [Reply]

  24. Jennifer

    08/19/2019

    I only have one 14 year old child, so it’s a little different for us in that there is way less juggling than for larger families. He enjoys several sports and plays the guitar, so he’ll have sports practice (depending on the season) and one guitar lesson each week. This past year he had jazz band twice a week after school, and I had another parent with whom we trading off picking the kids up. For us the biggest thing was to do recreational sports, not comp sports– way less money and time, and guaranteed play time. Now that we are getting close to high school next year, many rec sports opportunities will go away, and it’s harder to get onto sports teams at some high schools, so he may end up doing a club sport in high school outside of school– that can get expensive and more time consuming probably. On another note, I actually wish I would have started putting him in sports a little later– we started at age 5 and it would have worked much better if we’d waited until age 7 or so, as he would have been more mature (just our son’s personality).

    [Reply]

  25. Annette Silveira

    08/19/2019

    Our children (now grown) participated in extracurriculars, but we kept it to one thing at a time. For dance, recital season become more than the one class a week and my son ended up being a talented gymnast so we went to meets some weekends. Of course, with four children even one thing each is going to be a lot.

    One thing I’ll suggest is trying to get a carpool going. If you only have to pick up or take home it really cuts down on the hassle of the in and out you see your neighbors doing. Maybe you could work out a schedule where one family does all transport one week and then you switch.

    I feel like the extracurriculars are of value. I think the way you did classes during the summer was great. Unless one or more of your children develops a real skill or interest in something the occasional class may work for you for a long time.

    [Reply]

  26. Missy

    08/19/2019

    We have three grown children now, but when they were growing up, we definitely limited their extracurriculars, and they were homeschooled. We carefully guarded family time, with the goal being to spend more time together than apart. We also had limited financial resources since my husband is a teacher, and I was obviously a stay-at-home mom (homeschooling). Our goal was to be involved with whatever activities the children were involved with at the time (helping in some capacity), and the entire family would attend performances or games. We also did some guidance when it came to what activity the children would be involved in by steering them toward their strengths so they could cultivate the talents God gifted them with, which seemed to work out well. They each had about two activities they were involved in at one point or another, not including church activities and the required piano lessons, given music helps with learning. Our children are very close to each other and to us, and I would like to think it comes from prioritizing family time; not one of them have ever said they wish they would have been more involved in extracurriculars.

    [Reply]

  27. Stel

    08/19/2019

    At our school, extramural sports are compulsory. My boys, however, don’t like team sport OR competition! So we get around that by having them join swim training during summer and at least compete in one item during interhouse athletics. Out of school they already do karate twice a week and archery once. I expect of them to do at least one sport and one cultural activity. Both take music lessons and the youngest still likes drama club, so it can get quite busy around Eisteddfod season!
    Some extramurals are directly after school, which helps limit driving up and down, and for karate/archery our parents often take turns. I don’t make the relative busy afternoons, as we mainly miss out on busy weekends by not being involved in school sports! Archery league shoots only happens one a months, and karate grading once in six months, with the odd weapons training seminar thrown in.
    Up tp grade 3 (9yrs) I didn’t bother much with extramurals except swimming.

    [Reply]

  28. Karen

    08/19/2019

    I have 3 sons, ages 15, 13 and 9. Our family “rule” has been 1 activity per person per season. That usually means baseball for my older two in Spring and Fall. My oldest usually plays basketball in Winter, and now plays lacrosse for his high school team in the Spring (a departure from our 1 activity, but a limited time issue as he will be driving next year). With the ages of my older two being close, they are sometimes on the same team, which makes life significantly easier. My husband often coaches one of their teams (it is the best when he is coaching and they are both on the same team!) which helps significantly. My youngest has tried soccer and baseballl and done a season of each and just doesn’t care for sports. As of right now there isn’t an extra curricular activity that he is interested in, and admittedly this makes things much easier with only two playing. I have been adamantly opposed to travel sports. Not just for the expense, but for the time commitment which in my opinion is too intense and not fair to the rest of the family. Whenever possible attending games is a family affair (unless we have two that conflict, in which case we split up), and we stilll try to have dinner all together as a family before the evening activity. This is somewhat easier as they are older and practices tend to run later, although the late pickups often interfere with my preferred bedtime! Now that the kids are old enough that we no longer need to stay and watch practice, my husband and I willl take turns with the practice runs, and will plan other activities around them (grocery shopping, taking my laptop and working in the car, etc). This season is so fleeting. As we are now moving from youth sports to high school sports, there are fewer options available. I’m glad my kids had this time to play sports that they enjoy, be on a team with friends, and it has been fun watching them! With my youngest not having interest and my middle moving to high school next year (sports at this level are much less “fun” in my opinion) my time for this is fleeting. I’ll feel a little sad when it is over.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I think my parents would agree with you — that it’s a little sad when it’s all over 😉
    I know our time will come and our schedule will be busier for a few years, but I think we’ll find our groove eventually, and hopefully enjoy it all!
    For now, I’ll enjoy being home A LOT!

    [Reply]

  29. Michelle Bonk

    08/19/2019

    It’s an interesting debate – I’m fascinated that you appreciate having “tried everything” but you don’t want this for your family lol. (Have you ever asked your parents their thoughts looking back?)

    We too have four children. They each have a few extra curricular activities. It does add up, both financially and time wise.

    We limit their activities to two each (generally) and we’ve seen as they get older they tend to pare down to their favourites. For us it is generally theatre and scouts/guiding. We try to “double up” having them in the same things at the same time (my younger girls do theatre together on Thursday, my older two do theatre together on Sunday).
    We try to keep at least one or two nights a week free and one weekend day (generally Saturday). Carpooling with friends/teammates can really lighten the load (and when Nora starts to drive – godsend!)
    My teens are very involved in high school clubs and activities are have “something” after school almost every day of the week.
    Despite all this we can generally eat dinner together at least 5 out of 7 nights and I’m good with that!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I DO appreciate the fact that I was able to do so much as a child…however, I know how busy it made our family. Apparently my parents didn’t mind the busyness, but Dave and I definitely don’t want that type of routine for our family. So that’s why I said I’m not willing to do as much for our children.
    Maybe I’m just selfish — LOL 🙂

    [Reply]

    Michelle Bonk Reply:

    I don’t think selfish … perhaps just a different personality type!

    [Reply]