Extracurriculars- how much is too much?


With 3 kids ages 11, 12, and 14 – we are knee deep in after school and evening activities. I was going to limit each kid to one activity a season but it’s just not possible in today’s world and quite frankly if you are not in a bunch of activities you do not have as many friends or chances to meet people because the days of playing in the yard, in the neighborhood and on the street are gone.

Our oldest is a Freshman in high school and as long as he can manage his grades I didn’t give him any advice except to say “Join a few clubs, it’ll be fun!” and So he did. On his own he knew that Monday nights was Scouts, so he joined Tuesday afternoon Gaming Club and Wednesday afternoon Scholastic Bowl and early Thursday’s Political Action Club. Fridays – he kept free to go to Football games or just hanging out at home. This schedule works for him and our family. It’s all inclusive to the school. He has competitions for Scholastic Bowl and weekend activities for Scouts but none of that interferes with each other and it’s not every weekend. Wednesday nights he does participate in Fencing and that is a great physical activity and a great night with friends as well. With RE on Sundays at church he’s got a full schedule.
My middle child- daughter- is in 7th grade. She joined Art Club and she does Fencing too. She has Violin lessons after school and she also has Occupational Therapy every Monday afternoon. She seems happy with her schedule and it was self imposed as well. She purposefully didn’t do a ton of activities because for her the transition from homeschooling to public school was a huge change and the workload is a lot for her. She likes to finish everything and has a hard time with math so homework time carved out daily is a must. It’s interesting to me that she has more homework than my oldest who is in all honors classes. Although he does have a 1 hour study hall each day so maybe take that and add another 90 min of homework a night and they perhaps do have the same amount.

Our youngest is in Scouts and that’s it. I know he wants to do more but he hasn’t found his niche yet. He is making new friends and having them over. He’s handling things well at school but there weren’t any clubs he was interested in and not that many offered. I am thinking that once Scouts picks up and he begins camping he’ll be very busy.

So how much is too much? I think that unintentionally we raised our kids to be busy but also to self-regulate their time. My oldest likes down time so he made sure he’s got some time to himself each and every day. My middle loves friends but she loves drawing more so she carves out time to have a friend over about once a week and drawing- 2 – 3 hrs a day is a must for her. It’s great because that’s her passion and I admire her for sticking to it and becoming a great artist. (Shhh…I just may have printed her art work onto pillow cases and canvas’s and 8×10 prints that I plan to frame- that will be her Birthday or Christmas presents- this is the December birthday girl so it’s hard- she’s gotta get some groovy stuff for her Birthday!)

I would say my advice to you is let your children be your guide. When our kids were younger and we homeschooled (Did that for 5 years- last year being our last) we offered them the local park district classes. They opted to do dance, and acting, and a drawing class here and there. We discovered a neat pottery place and my daughter enjoyed taking a year’s worth of classes there too. We had a homeschool meet-up every Friday and we met up with friends on occasion. We were not super busy. We spent probably 3 hrs a day on school, and then visited the library. We enjoyed fun library programs when they were offered and we went to museums etc. but we were not superbly busy. I think this gave the kids a grounded sense of control over their social/activity life.

If your kid is new to after school activities I’d say start out small. Kindergarten (when my kids were in school) we opted for 1 fall sport and 1 winter activity and 1 spring sport or activity. It was enough for me especially because by the time my 3rd kid was in Kindergarten it was like every Saturday was either spent on the baseball/softball field or the soccer field. I did not enjoy those days (not a sporty mom and I hate the sun- being in the sun- I do love sunny days though). Now that they are more self sufficient and can walk home from school I feel like they need to have the reigns and lead their own way. If it becomes to much and we see grades suffer or their mood change we’ll talk to them but for now we are letting them find their way and I think they are doing a mighty fine job of it. So get involved it’s fun!

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