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.
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.
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 webshow 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 theatre. 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.