girls were younger, we were always careful not to overschedule them. We didn't
care that our kids were the only ones in the neighborhood who didn't play
soccer, or who weren't on a rigorous schedule of dance/art/music lessons. Our
girls were limited to one extracurricular activity each, making sure to keep
our schedules free for other impromptu outings and, more importantly, time to
just chill at home. We liked to think of it as "unstructured creative time," but
deep down inside we knew it was just slacking.
doesn't mean we weren't providing them with enriching activities. They had
guitars, drums, keyboards and all the art supplies they needed. We took
them to museums, concerts, libraries, movies and art galleries. Aside from that
sculpture they saw of a man having sex with a goat that might have scarred them
for life, we felt we provided them with good cultural experiences.
enjoyed this life free of extracurricular activities, but I did often worry
they might not be getting enough structure. I worried about middle school—what
if napping and snacking weren't considered stimulating extracurricular
mind went to the really dark place, I wondered if the lack of water ballet
training or private French lessons would hurt their chances of getting into a
good college. I pictured my oldest daughter sitting in an admissions office,
looking humiliated when the dean pointed to her application, laughed and
informed her that no, 35 minutes of a beginning pottery class back in
2007 did not make her Ivy League material.
My girls were home at 3:15 everyday, Skyping with their friends who probably weren't going to get into Harvard, either.
And for a
while our fears were realized. When they did hit middle school, they'd become
so accustomed to a life without outside commitments that I couldn't get them to
sign up for a single after-school class or activity. "This Ironic Poetry class
sounds awesome," I'd yell out when the email schedule arrived, only to be met
with a disagreeable silence. While other moms bragged about their free
afternoons while their kids were busy after school building robots and honing
their hip-hop skills, my girls were home at 3:15 everyday, Skyping with their
friends who probably weren't going to get into Harvard, either.
didn't have to worry. Believe or not, their lack of specialized classes or
outside training didn't have an adverse effect on them. They diligently pursued
interests on their own and became passionate about their pursuits—my oldest
fell in love with music, and my younger daughter discovered she had a gift for
filmmaking. The best part? Now they're in high school and sign up for
after-school classes and extra tutoring on their own without any begging from
going to go ahead and conclude that opting out of all those extracurricular
activities in their childhood has had no adverse effects, so far. Between the
two of them they writes songs, make videos, draw pictures, perform in musicals,
volunteer and form clubs. They're straight-A students, and neither of them has been in jail or run off with her gym teacher. As for college, we'll see. My
17-year-old starts applying this summer, and I'm going to see if by fudging a
few dates on her application, we can stretch that beginning pottery class out
to at least two months.