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Life Coaching: The Year of No Extra-Curriculars

We have taken the year off from extra-curricular activities. Ainsley did tutor a second-grader before school every morning but that was it.

No soccer. No dance class. No after-school play. No summer camp. No after-school program. No vacation Bible school. No school choir.

Nothing.

It’s been Awesome!

Our family is in a period of significant transition with “the divorce,” there’s enough stress in all of our lives as it is. We don’t need a packed schedule this year. We don’t need to be busily running back and forth. We need to create as much routine, structure and stability as possible to help each of us adjust to our new parenting schedule.

Also, I loath being a soccer mom. There, I said it. I hate finishing my workday only to cart children back and forth after school several days a week and have my Saturdays sucked up by games. It’s boring. It’s stressful. It’s exhausting.

I’m not at all convinced that it’s enriching my children’s lives one iota. What I am almost convinced of is that it’s inflicting on them the pervasive American disease: Busyness. It trains them to embrace the Busy Bitch, and I have had enough of her temptations. The idea that you must cram as much activity into one day as humanly possible, that every person must be so entirely well-rounded that they lack any ability to say “no” to activities that create more stress in their lives, and the insane notion that to rest and experience creative free time is to be lazy. Maybe this is the time to look into a life coach for yourself to see just why backing away from the busyness is a good thing.

During our year of no extra-curricular activities Ainsley has learned to make presentations on PowerPoint; written, produced and starred in several plays, puppet shows and rock star performances; read lots of books; written poems, stories and music; crafted a killer ticket and snack booth for her productions; done a heck-of-a-lot of chores; reorganized her room; entered writing contests (and won); created a web show and a blog; and a million other creative projects she’s thought up on her own.

Zack has played like a six-year-old boy with his friends; creatively made some serious messes; found every stake marking every power line for miles and dragged it home; learned to clean bathrooms, sweep, mop, vacuum, organize the pantry and his room; and learned to read, sort and do simple math.

We’ve taken walks to the park and to the wild places around our neighborhood, or gone to the pool, daily.

They’ve also watched a lot of television. Which I will not be ashamed of. Go ahead – try to shame me about it. I don’t care. Television is as much art as the theater. You get to choose which station you tune into, making it either enriching or demoralizing. Television is awesome. If you don’t know this then you read way too many parenting books criminalizing television. Television is like a meditation. It allows your brain to go into “relax” mode. You can learn cool things from it and you can simply allow yourself to be entertained.

Things may change in the future. We may decide that soccer is back on the program, or swim team must be Ainsley’s new passion.

For now, I’m loving the year of no extra-curricular activities. So are the kids.

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8 replies
  1. Jessica Gottlieb says:

    I want more details. Who did the kids play with? I mean was anyone else even home? Did they want to play sports? Was there a moment of regret for you or for them?

    I can’t imagine being able to to this. It’s like the impossible dream.

  2. Jonna says:

    Good for you. I like this, and aspire to it. Maybe I am the lazy mom, but I have always felt my kids don’t need a schload of stuff to do. I never took either of my kids to baby gym (I thought it was stupid), I just played with them. Now, the extent of activities are limited to accomplishing two goals: keeping them from early death by drowning and whatever it takes to exhaust a 4 year old boy enough that bedtime is not a battle.
    My hubby is on board, he keeps wondering why all these kids have all this stuff lined up for them every day of the week. He has wondered aloud “when do they have time to just play? Explore?”
    I think your kids are awesome kids, and I think letting them explore and be creative lets them find themselves, instead of fitting into a mold of what some grownup thinks they should be (whether that’s a coach, a teacher, a scout leader, etc.)

  3. Wendy says:

    We have resisted all the activities for now (other than swim lessons that are during the day). I love that we get to play, make up stories, make up songs, and just get into general toddler trouble. While i love my sister, she has here kids so involved that when they visited her son didn’t know how to just play (he is 4.5). Although, I do feel pressure from other parents to get more involved with things. Great post!

  4. Tracee says:

    Jessica,

    My kids play with the neighbor kids. The neighbor kids are sometimes busy with extra-curriculars, then my kids have to figure out something else to do. Their BFFs have been in summer school during the day, which kind of sucks.

    It’s not my job to entertain them. Occasionally I’ll throw out an idea – my daughter is a born writer, so I suggested she enter some writing contests online. She loves this idea. My son is going into first-grade so I suggest he do some “homework” if he’s bored.

    I drag them to the park or pool. I let them watch some mindless television. On occasion we go to a dollar movie. For two entire days early this month we simply laid in front of the television with a Modern Family marathon and ate popcorn and popsicles while it rained. It was freaking awesome.

    I also make them do chores every day. Big stuff – clean the bathrooms, weed, mow the lawn. If they complain and whine they get more chores.

    One mother complained to me recently that all her daughter would do is whine that she is bored with a day off. But, this woman has her child in every. single. activity. Her child is busy, seriously busy, every single day from sun up to sun down. Yes, she can play the piano, she can do gymnastics, she can play a game of soccer. But she can not entertain herself for a lazy summer day.

    Jonna, I don’t think it’s lazy. I think it creates space for invention, creativity, joy, rest and imagination. If you look at most brilliant people who had flashes of innovative creativity these revolutionary ideas came to them during rest or play.

    Also, I don’t have to run my ass off getting them to all these activities which is a huge motivator for me.

  5. Margaret says:

    I like this–we have financial constraints this summer that mean things like camp and vacations and such are not really on the agenda. We’re doing what we can do affordably. Which is not “a lot” until you think creatively.

    My daughter, who is Ainsley’s age, is also starting a blog–an advice blog, which I’ll share with you when she’s got it up and running! The boy has been teaching himself about the elements and the periodic table. We’ve made the resources for this sort of stuff available to them, and they’re making the most of it.

    Now, I need to follow your lead, Tracee–and get them more involved with the chores!

  6. Tracee says:

    Oh the chores Margaret! It’s brilliant. Do you know I never vacuum any more and clean a bathroom maybe once a month? I never sweep the floor or mop either. I make them do dishes too. It completely ROCKS! I highly recommend it for all mothers.

  7. betsymaxwell says:

    Loved this. Just reading it made me feel freer. Hope you don’t mind if I share it on FB.

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