DD is 5, has just started kindergarten at our local public school, and I think we're all settled into the new routine. She likes school and her teacher and is having fun there (hooray!), even if she isn't particularly challenged by it (ex. she reads several grade levels ahead and just reads independently during reading group time). I want her to live a balanced life, but I end up second guessing myself a lot when I talk with other parents here. We're not doing a lot for her in "enrichment education", and most of the time, I'm ok with that. She takes a dance class every week because she loves it, goes to a swimming class once a week because I want her to get some basic swim skills to be safe in the water (she likes the class too). She rides her bike to the park with me most days and we have playdates with neighborhood friends a couple times a week. We try to do a fun thing as a family (see a show or concert, go bowling, or go to the pumpkin patch) on the weekends, as well as go to church together. We read to her every night (even though she's perfectly capable of doing it herself, we enjoy the family story time). So, she moves her body, is social, spends time with family, does random craft things of her own making at home, and is doing fine in school. Why do I come away from most interactions with other parents feeling like I'm raising a slacker kid? She's not learning another language or a musical instrument; we're not "teaching" her anything academic at home; she's not on any kind of sports team; I don't ask her to practice her handwriting--she'll do some writing when she feels like making something, which is usually at least every other day. I feel like a sponge, sucking up parental anxiety about kids being competitive enough to succeed and find myself getting worked up about this ("my kid's not being challenged/not doing enough/could really be doing more!"), even though most of me doesn't believe any of it. Anyone else struggle with this?
a balanced life
I feel that way in relation to objects. My dd has shoes, clothes, lunch boxes... but she does not have 10 pair shoes, 50 dresses or 25 lunch boxes. Her best friend gets whatever she wants, and is often giving my DD her leftovers or hand-me downs. She even says she feels sorry for DD because she only has 2 lunch boxes or whatever. Some of it makes sense, like the clothes, as her bf is taller than she is, but it is really ironic as financially we are in a totally different bracket than her friend. We just chose to spend money on different things. She would rather have the newest outfits. We would rather save up for the lovely long vacation... I think it is totally fine, as long as the basics are covered, everyone should spend the rest as they see fit.
As far as all the activities, I think it is a matter of perception. We do not do much - DD has gymnastics on mondays, DS has scouts on tuesdays. One of the other days is usually a friend coming over or them going over to a friend. I think this is very little. I have had people comment that my kids do everything and we are always totally booked. 1 thing a week per kid isn't everything in my book, but that is the perception, because by the time you add in play groups, birthday parties, misc things that come up - we look busy. Plus I always try to have at least one day where nothing is planned, where we are all together. So I say no to other things, which makes it looked like we are more booked up than we are. Personally I don't think every day should be an activity. Kids need time to roam around, find out how to entertain themselves, play with their siblings....
It is about the same in our family, but I do not struggle with it :-). I like it that way. I have two DDs (almost 7yo and 4,5yo).There is no pressure on them to do activities, I would say, we stop them in this matter.They have 1 or 2 activities (skating, gymnastics or other) in the winter time. From spring to fall they ought to be outside every day weather permitting. I even cancelled homeworks from school (my DD1 is in Montessori school), so she has more time for herself, for her sister or the whole family (and so she doesn't lose her interest in learning which is veeeery big so far). In grade1 I was supposed to read with every day. I didn't. Sometimes we did not practice for five days in a row, because I saw it would be to much pressure on her and really no joy. She reads excellent and she loves reading. We do crafts at home, talk a lot, sing, dance, play piano/guitar (no classes so far), read, DDs play a lot together, we do trips on weekends, occasionally playdates. Sometimes I think it is not enough, but not in terms of education. In terms of being with them. I feel the time passing by very quickly, I see them grow up very fast and feel sorry for that.
I do have similar thoughts sometimes. I find that I come back to the question of what do I want for my kids as adults? The answer is that I want them to be content. Contentment is different for different people. For my ds it is very similar life to what you describe. My dd is more social and outgoing and prefers a busier schedule. I do struggle back and forth with things like language because I see such strong advantages to being bilingual + and it is something I really desire for myself.
It's so easy to get caught up in "it" isn't it? So many kids do so much, but at age 5 (and for any kid really) I think the best thing is loads of free time for imaginary play and being creative....which so many kids lack these days because they are overscheduled.
We are homeschool but I felt like we were ALWAYS running around, so now we are down to two activities: a drop off learning co-op and horseback riding. In between that we do lessons at home, go to playdates, explore nature, spend tons of time outside, and just let things come organically to us. Sometimes we still run around if there's something super neat going on, some weeks we are home almost every day. As long as you + your daughter are happy DONT sweat it
Thank you for your thoughtful replies. They really helped me today when I was talking to another parent and was better able to hold my ground, not get too worked up myself, present an alternate view and say "no" to some opportunities. It feels better than my usual tendency to get swept along with the tide and then feel confused and frustrated.
I think you should also factor in whether or not the other 5 year olds have older siblings. As kids get older - they tend to develop more interests and pick-up more activity; thus, younger siblings might be more interested in doing activities. For instance, I didn't have either of my older boys do any extra activities the fall that they started kindergarten so they could adjust, but after years of watching big brothers play on teams --- he asked what team he would be on this fall. That being said - I still just have him in a one day a week soccer program.
Anyway, it is just something that might impact the level of activity for kids this age.
I think you should pat yourself on the back for being SANE - your child is FIVE - not 16 - She has a rich, FULL life that sounds wonderful and very balanced - kindergarten is about learning social skills and routines - and some basic academics - ALL of elementary school is essentially just learning how to learn - and LIKING school is so important IMO
ALSO - the levels of anxiety and depression among teens these days is sky high - in part from all the pressure placed on kids, and I believe it starts very young - and if you raise a child to 'always be challenged and striving for excellence they never learn the value of the balanced life - and you are giving your child the most important foundation imaginable - and later on when she finds her passion she will have the emotional resources to pursure them!
My daughter is in third grade and does ONE thing outside of school (soccer) and has had the option to do more artistic endeavors but nothing scheduled or structured (her choice) - we do lots of community/social activities as we feel interested - My goal at the moment is to help her find her passion - soccer is okay and we love it for the exercise, and if she sticks with it through high school I will be thrilled (having taken part in several team sports myself I see this as a really valuable thing for health and self-esteem) But we 'try' various things and she knows we support her and sometimes gently push her to try new things -
Let others do what they feel is right - you are doing what is best for you, your daughter and your family
I've been thinking about some of the things that many of you have written and it's really helped clarify things for me. It does feel like a more sane approach to not always be pushing for more. And when I think about what I want for her as an adult it's to find and develop whatever her gift is and use it to help make the world a better place. It simplifies things and definitely makes it easier to not absorb the anxieties of others.
My ds is in K and we have an almost identical life. School everyday until 1:30, gymnastics on monday, family swim on thursday, 4H is starting up which we are keeping to two activities a month for now, and fun family outings on the weekend. I also have a 2.5 year old that comes along for the ride, and her activities a few mornings a week. Sometimes I feel like I do too much! I don't know how other people pull it off with more commitments.
But, I do see how satisfied he is with his life. We have a good balance with three afternoons a week to play at home or sometimes with friends, and I don't fill it with academic enrichment activities. We all need that down time. I know that if I pushed him to do more, he would be stressed and tired, and that's no way to go through childhood (plus, I would be a basket case!)