Saturday, February 25, 2006

How much is enough?

I always wonder how much activity is enough. My sister's children, who are not home schooled, are at parties, sports practices or games, play dates, or lessons almost everyday. In the summer, the children are at one camp or another all summer. The girls who are in ballet with my six year old have soccer, gymnastics, piano and birthday parties galore. Some of the girls have multiple activities a day. The boys who are in cub scouts with my son participate in every organized sport available.

As with all choices regarding my children, I question whether I have made the right decisions. I chose early to limit my children's activities. I felt that it was important not to do so much that the children did not have time to think, pretend, and create. I didn't want to train them to need or expect constant activity or stimulation (We don't do TV either, but that is another blog).

I have seen the downside of overbooking: the "I am bored" syndrome; the little girls who have accidents at ballet because they are rushing so much that they don't have time to use the bathroom; the early burnout; and the mediocre performance at everything. I obviously don't wish this on my children.

Yet, every once in a while I wonder if I am denying my children important socialization opportunities and learning experiences. I hear the ballet moms talking about the parties and soccer league and it seems almost glittery with excitement. I know that my budding social butterfly would love these experiences. My son is not so social but I wonder if he had all these opportunities would he be more self assured?

Recently, I picked up The Parent's Tao Te Ching by William Martin. I was just flipping through the pages and found this:

A Quiet Place

Constant stimulation
of your children's senses
creates insensitivity.
They see so much they become blind.
They hear so much they become deaf.
They taste so much they become nauseated.
They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.

They do not come to know
that which truly satisfies.

This quieted my conscience. I bought the book!

Seriously though, I renewed my dedication to moderation of activity. I do believe children need experiences outside the home, but I also believe they need time to learn to entertain themselves, time to imagine, time to find themselves and nature. I will continue to question and hopefully find a balance that is right for each of my individual children. Homeschooling gives us time to find that balance.


Melissa O. Markham said...

Great post! And a worry I have myself from time to time! Thanks for the reminder that it is okay for children not to be entertained all the time and that it is okay not to do every extracurricular activity that comes along!

Anonymous said...

I think that if we lower a child's threshold for "entertainment", we make it so easy for them to be bored unless someone/something ELSE is entertaining them. This is really a handicap when they want to try and achieve something moderately difficult: they will feel lousy and miss the small gains, small beauty in it.

The overstimulation of our kids deprives them of their inner voice, inner curiosity, inner imagination. Don't worry that they are too isolated--they will invent what they need, and you will see their desire to have more hobbies or friends in those inventions.