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Why I Don’t Schedule After-School Activities for My Kids When They're Young

Mom.me logo Mom.me 16/5/2019 Wendy Wisner
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These days, you hear a lot of criticism about how overscheduled kids are, especially during the crunch of the school year – how parents spend oodles of time schlepping their kids from one extracurricular activity to another. And how stretched thin families (and their budgets) are as a result.

It’s not without some truth. School ends at 2 or 3 p.m., but many kids don’t get home till a few hours later. They’re in afterschool care, sports, swim lessons, piano, dance, tutoring — you name it. Then they have to come home, eat dinner and complete homework. That’s a lot.

However, whenever I hear of critique this kind of lifestyle, I keep my mouth shut. First, I think the judgment that’s rampant about the way we parent has just got to stop. You do you and I’ll do me, OK?

But secretly, I share a bit of the critique … because I have made a deliberate choice not to schedule anything for my kids afterschool, at least when they are young. Seriously: as in zip, zero, nada. My kids come home at the end of the school day, have a snack, zone out for a bit, play, do homework, eat dinner and go to sleep.

There are a few reasons for this choice. First, I work from home, so I don’t have to put my kids in after-school care. I totally get that parents have to do that – my own mom did – and there is no judgment from me.

However, extracurricular activities … well, that’s a different thing. Obviously if my kids were aching to do gymnastics or learn how to play the ukulele, I would consider signing them up. But they haven’t expressed those kinds of interests, and I don’t have extra money lying around for those kinds of activities, anyway.

I just don’t buy it. Isn’t school enough?

The few times my kids have shown an interest in lessons like that, I strategically schedule them for weekends. Here’s why: School is 6 hours a day, which is a lot of hours for a kid to be learning, trying their best to behave, and socializing. My kids are totally fried when they get home. The idea of getting back into the car to do something would totally backfire and result in epic meltdowns. (Trust me, I’ve tried).

Not only that, but how on earth would homework, dinner, and basic chores get done? It’s a scramble to fit that stuff in as it is. Adding more stuff into their schedule results in a total shit-show around here.

Maybe other kids are different. Maybe other kids come home energetic and ready to take on the world. Maybe other parents have the energy at the end of their days to drive their kids to this and that activity AND deal with all the other stuff that has to get done afterwards. But not me and not my family.

And the truth is, I think many families are feeling the strain of maintaining that sort of lifestyle. I think they feel pressure to sign kids up for as much stuff as possible because they think that their children will be more successful or talented as a result.

I just don’t buy it. Isn’t school enough? Aren’t there other times (summer, weekends) when kids can explore their non-school interests?

As my kids have gotten older, they have been able to handle more commitments in those precious afterschool hours. In fourth and fifth grade, my older son did a computer class every Thursday afternoon. Still, that was only once per week, and he knew he’d be able to balance it all.

But my first grader? He NEEDS his downtime after school each and every day. He almost always declines playdates then too. He just knows he needs to take the time to relax and recharge in the comfort of his own home. And I’m grateful that I can give that to him — and will do so as long as I can.

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