At the recent Leadership Summit the book "Too Small to be Ignored" by Wess Stafford was given to each person in attendance. Wess Stafford is the president of Compassion International.
This book is incredible! As a parent, it is transforming the way that I look at my children. There are so many things I have gotten from this book, and I'm sure I could blog about it for several weeks, but first I'll just start with this one thing. Stafford writes in his book, "We pack our lives to the last nanosecond. We have electronic reminders to tell us what to do next. We jam appointments back to back, arriving at day's end exhausted from the intensity. Having packed their own lives full, many parents proceed to do the same with their children. The week becomes a blur of school, sports practices, music lessons, and - soon enough - part-time jobs. Kids have scarce opportunity to lean back and stare at the sky or notice a flower; they have to get to the next activity."
Here in the West, we have made such a huge deal of not giving children any responsibility so as to not steal away their childhood. In fact, we are doing just that by overcommiting them to sports, school activities and other pursuits. We steal their childhood by rushing them from event to event, practice to practice hoping that this will create well-rounded adults someday in the future. Instead what we are doing by this is snatching the time for play and imagination and substituting it with stuff.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for sports and music. But, I can definitely see how this could easily happen in our own family. Our kids play soccer in the fall and our daughter also takes ballet. This fall, we'll have three different soccer leagues because of how their ages are - which means two nights a week of practice, some weeknight games and at least all morning Saturday filled with soccer. Then you add ballet for an hour on Monday evenings and our schedules are going to be hectic! When we had the kids in public school, this was a huge issue. The kids would get home from school, rush to do their homework (which was at least an hour's worth all together) and scarf down dinner before rushing out to whatever event was going on in the evening. By the time we got home, there was barely time for showers or baths before bedtime. Oy.
One thing I certanly hope this homeschooling venture will provide is a less hectic schedule. Yes, we'll still have the activities in the evening, but the kids will be knocking out homework from the schedule. We'll also be able to accomplish our schooling more quickly in the day. Mind you, we don't plan to skimp, but so much more can be accomplished one on one than one on sixteen or twenty!
I guess when I look at our kids, I don't really see them as overscheduled. They each do a sport or two. They each are learning musical instruments - although this is included in the schooling time. But, one thing we are careful to ensure is that our children have plenty of playtime. I certainly hope that people will keep us accountable to this. I think most parents don't intend to fritter away their children's childhoods, but are rather trying to provide every possible opportunity for their kids to try new things and to excel in areas where they have strengths. I think that's great, but it's important to remember that often this just stresses kids out more than it helps them. So, as we enter our first year of homeschooling, I hope to continually ask myself, "Is this working?", "Do the activities our kids are involved in take away from their childhood or add to it?", "Am I providing enough time for my kids to just be kids?". If the answer to any of these is no, I pray that I will have the strength to pull my kids out and let them just be kids!