I agree that it's partly a matter of parental philosophy and mindset around the idea of having your kids try everything... perhaps an anxiety about them missing out on something, or as you alluded to, a lack of trust that they'll find interests on their own. But I also think that the child's personality and learning style and lifestyle play a role. So long as it doesn't start too early and spring from parental anxieties, I think that for some kids this sort of broad and copious partaking of out-of-home activities is the right path.
I'm thinking of a few unschoolers I know. A convenient example is the kid I gave a viola lesson to tonight. He is an extraverted only child living in a rural home a ferry ride plus a half hour drive away from most other kids, with a single mom who works half-time and has more than her fair share of stresses and worries. The boy is 14 now and involved in theatre, voice and speech arts lessons, viola lessons, community orchestra, youth choir, tae kwon do, downhill skiing, fall soccer, spring softball, church youth group, computer coding club and sea cadets. And he works part-time at a canoe and kayak shop! But for him this stuff is his only contact with other kids and adults besides his mom, and he is very much a social learner. He also didn't read at all until age 10 and didn't a become fluent reader until 12, so mentoring and experiential classes were very effective ways of filling him up with wisdom and knowledge and skills garnered from the wider world that he couldn't access easily through books.
Now, I wouldn't say he's dabbling superficially in most of these. Most of them are pretty important to him. He doesn't have one deep passion, but he takes most of it pretty seriously. Coding club, theatre, youth club, skiing and soccer are more for fun and entertainment. But viola/orchestra, youth choir/voice/speech, baseball, sea cadets and tae kwon do, he works really hard in all of these and exhibits a lot of dedication and leadership.
Interestingly enough another of the kids I know who epitomizes this sort of copious scheduling of out-of-home scheduled activities was also a very-rural-living late-reading extravert. Her parents are pretty introverted and didn't set out to raise her that way, but by age 8 she was wandering away from her family's off-grid homestead to hang out with nearby neighbours, asking them to take her along when they went to ceramics class or to the co-op store or to weekend bee-keeping workshops, picking their brains about their skills in repairing woodwind instruments or using 8-harness looms, and just generally ingratiating herself to any nearby human beings who had hobbies, interests and jobs she could hang around and learn about. She was never a kid to learn and practice passions in a solitary way: for her they only found meaning if they had a social application. Once she found out that there was a world out there offering social learning opportunities to kids her age she was all over that and wanted to be a part of it all.
I know of another family of boys who we used to see each summer. I used to admire them because of their clear commitment to string music: they worked really hard and were really dedicated. As a family they had clearly found something that was important to them -- all three kids really loved their music -- and decided to make it the main priority. And then, much to my surprise, I found out they were all elite-level U16 soccer players who were extremely dedicated to that sport. And then a couple of years later I found out one of them had been accepted to Canada's most prestigious ballet school, chosen out of hundreds and hundreds of applicants: he'd also been devoting a dozen hours a week to dance through his teen years and excelling at that. So I guess dedication and passion and excellence don't need to be limited to just one or two areas. Some people really do like doing lots of things and it seems to suit them. Spreading wide doesn't necessarily mean spreading thin.
So ... I try not to judge the families that I see running in twenty-four directions at once. It's not for me and mine (though I see that Fiona has more tendencies in this direction than the rest of us) but I'm not going to say it's wrong for everyone.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
SweetSilver and Moominmama-- thank you for the sympathetic and gentle responses. I was venting, but I sometimes feel torn between an idea that I should be infinitely patient and happy to do whatever my kids ask of me, and a drive to raise independent responsible kids, which requires letting them have the full experience of being responsible, including suffering the consequences of failing to follow through.
We had a talk about how often she should be checking her garden, and she figured out that what I thought was a result of under-watering is actually early blight, so she's treating that, and hopefully the garden will start looking a little healthier soon. We live pretty far North, so it's still quite early in the growing season.