Thursday, September 27, 2012

Simplifying Your Family’s Schedule

So last post was about the Family Calendar... today's post is sort of a companion post to that one, as I'm going to talk about all the stuff that gets written on that calendar! I sort of addressed this topic before (you can read that post here) but I think since we are now in the time of year where kids school-year activities are all being scheduled, it is a subject worth discussing again! This time, I want to focus on more our kids’ schedules. Kids today have SO much going on! With school, sports, scouts, music lessons, dance classes, volunteering and other activities, some kids are scheduled from the time they get up until the time they go to bed! We all want our kids to have lots of enrichment opportunities, but when kids are over-scheduled, they (and their parents!) can end up exhausted and stressed out. So how do you strike a balance? Here are some things to consider:

Think about your child’s temperament. Every kid is different, and so every kid will have different needs. In our family, both Ladybug and Monkey are VERY social, and they really love group activities. They are happiest during our busy times of the year, when they have their homeschool activities, dance classes, clubs and other activities going on. They love having the opportunity to see their friends and enjoy these shared interests with other kids.  Noodle, on the other hand, is more of a loner, and we find he really can’t handle more than one or two organized group activities per week. Your child may fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes. Consider how much of a “need” your child has for outside activities.

Before you commit to an activity, consider its impact on the family, as a whole. When the kids show interest in something, or an opportunity for an activity arises, we sit down all together and discuss if it’s something we can manage comfortably or not. Remember to consider issues like time commitment, transportation to and from, cost, and whether it will conflict with work schedules, Family Time or other prior commitments.

Set Limits. Generally, we try to limit our kids extra-curricular activities to one activity per day per child (less for the youngest) We figure that this, along with their homeschool stuff, is plenty to keep them occupied and happy, but not over-scheduled. We do have one exception to this. Monkey really loves playing baseball, so we do allow him to play Little League, even though it does mean that during baseball season he often has baseball and another activity on the same day. Since Little League in our town is only from April to mid-June, we’re willing to make that exception.

Don’t forget to allow for some “Downtime” everyday. Every child should have some time each day which is not structured in any way. Time when they can lounge around with a comic book, lie in the grass and watch ants, hang upside down from a tree, build a city with blocks, doodle in a sketchbook or just stare out the window and daydream. Having time to just “Be” is one of the most magical things about childhood, and as parents it is our duty to preserve that time for our kids.

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