As kids grow older – and especially for larger families – the trick of balancing it all becomes even more complicated when you add in extracurricular activities. So how do balance extracurricular activities with the rest of life?
Balancing Extracurricular Activities vs. the Rest of Life
I grew up with only an older brother. As far as extracurricular activities were concerned, we kept things pretty mild. He played baseball and I played softball for a few months in the Spring. Still – my parents often had to divide and conquer to get us to our respective practices and games on time.
There are a lot of great benefits to being involved in extracurricular activities:
- Social skills like teamwork
- Learning to accept failure
- Improving physical skills like hand-eye coordination, balance, speed, or stamina
- Self-esteem boosts from doing something well
- Learning hardwork
There can also be a lot of negatives:
- No free-time
- Limited time for homework
- Too much pressure
- Lowered self-esteem from failing and/or bullying
So how do you balance the positives and negatives? We’ll talk about it in sections.
General Balancing Tips
Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Priorities are Well Supported
As a pastor’s child, my parents felt that the whole family needed to be present when the church met. Church took priority over an extracurricular activity, always. For your family, academics might be a priority, or time that your children can use to take care of the hobby farm.
Whatever it is, make sure you have your priorities outlined. Do not put an extracurricular activity in place that takes away from your priorities.
Tip #2 – Limit the Extracurricular Activities
This should be pretty self-explanatory. Make sure you leave plenty of free time for the weeks when your child needs the extra space. It’s also been said that it’s good for a child to be bored. If you have a child that wants to do it all, simply remind him or her that they can still play those other games informally with friends.
For example, I knew I enjoyed volleyball, hated soccer, and could go from decent to horrible from one day to the next with basketball. I never officially played any of those sports. I learned from playing with my friends.
Tip #3 – If Your Child Wants to Quit, Find Out Why
We all saw those sitcom episodes growing up where a parent belittled their child for being a quitter. The moral of the story is supposed to be, “Don’t quit just because you’re struggling with it,” or, “Honor your commitments.”
Those are great morals, but what if you child wants to quit because she feels stressed out? Or what if he’s being bullied? Always find the heart of the matter. Then, you can choose a path that seems appropriate as a parent.
Balancing Extracurricular Activities When Your Family Has a Lot to Do
Tip #1 – Consider a Compromise
Each subsequent child makes it more unrealistic for them to each have their own extracurricular activity at the same time. So why not look for a compromise that puts more of your children in the same place at the same time?
Tip #2 – Carpool
Set up a carpool with teammates. This frees up a little bit of everybody’s time.
Tip #3 – Limit the Seasons
Some activities don’t have start and end dates. So if one or more of your children are involved in an activity like this, you might pull them out of their activity for a few months of the year. Of course, this could mess with tournaments and competitions. At the same time, there’s not always a completely fair way to balance life as a family.
Tip #4 – Trail Lunches
Okay, you’re probably going to think I’m crazy for this, but most Americans could learn a thing or two about eating from overnight hikers. They know how to travel light without sacrificing nutrition. In addition, meals are quick and simple to put together.
If your family is on the go, then it might be time to cut out some of the formal meals. Some ideas for trail lunches:
- Wraps – stuff when you’re ready with sealed chicken or tuna. You can also make PB&J in wrap form.
- Dried fruit – think of it as a side.
- Cheese wheels – when you’re on the trail, you can’t refrigerate things. Plenty of hikers swear that hard cheeses (like cheddar) keep for days without refrigeration. And if you think back for how long cheese has been around vs. refrigerators, they’ve got a point. Fortunately, you can keep cheese refrigerated until you’re heading out the door if this thought grosses you out.
- Trail mix – nutritious and yummy.
- Sandwiches – it’s not technically a trail lunch because the bread would squish, but you can also pack all kinds of sandwiches for quick and easy meals on the go.
If you are struggling to manage your to-do list, then I have a post about that. Please go read it to see if I can help you better manage your life!
Balancing Extracurricular Activities with Homework
Tip #1 – Homeschool
Okay, I’m kidding. It is true that homeschoolers generally finish their daily schoolwork quicker than their peers. However, this isn’t very helpful for the Busy Moms with children in a traditional school environment. (And for lovers of homeschool humor, please read my post on how to spot a homeschool family!)
Tip #2 – Block Schedule
When you go to plan out your usual week, make sure you block out certain periods of time for your child to do homework in. Try to be considerate of the fact that your child might need a break after getting home from school. Remember, rest is important.
Tip #3 – Do the Hardest First
I think we’re all natural procrastinators. We all tend to procrastinate until we’re ‘feeling’ something or we reach that do-or-die point. However, when it comes to schoolwork, dreading a task can really drag the whole thing out.
So encourage your child to start with the hardest thing on their list. Then, if he’s truly having trouble with something, there’s more time for him to seek out help. More time = less stress.
Tip #4 – Teach Goal-setting
Teach your child how to break up large goals into more manageable units. A big book can be conquered by diligently reading fifteen pages a day. An essay can be managed by outlining what paragraphs will be written on each day.
Tip #5 – Know Your Child’s Learning Style
I don’t have a post on this yet, but I’m going to work on it when I get a chance. (Note: that chance won’t be until July.) Knowing your child’s learning style can make all the difference between tears at not understanding and happily working independently.
A brief overview of the styles:
- Reading – memorization happens while reading
- Writing – you memorize by copying
- Listening – you learn better by listening to somebody else explain. Additionally, sometimes memories can be tied to music. Try creating a soundtrack for your child to listen to while studying. Then, encourage her to think about the music to see if it triggers a response.
- Doing – if pen and paper aren’t cutting it, then move your child away from the desk. Find a play activity that covers the activity. Even have your child invent hand motions. It sounds silly, but this works for some kids.
- Smells – just like the music, memories can be tied to smells in some people’s minds.
- Visual – a little bit different than plain reading, visual learners are great with graphs, charts, and images.
I’ve also met individuals who claim to learn better when they try to teach somebody else. As I’m sure you can see, there are many ways for a person to learn. Even the best of teachers will struggle to teach to every style. However, knowing how your child learns lets you equip the tools she needs at home.
Don’t Forget the Point
I think, at the end of the day, parents want to see their children have fun and make friends while participating in extracurricular activities. Don’t lose sight of that in all the other chaos of extracurricular activities.