Friday, March 23, 2012

Really Radical Parenting: Giving Kids the Space to Just Be

One of my favorite blogs is The Frugal Girl, where blogger Kristen cheerfully shares ideas about low-budget living.

Kristen homeschools her children. Homeschooling is not the primary subject of her blog--frugal living is (hence the name!). But it's a topic of fascination to her sizeable readership, and recently she devoted a detailed post to homeschooling, and why it works so well for her family.

People homeschool for a wide variety of reasons--for religious purposes, because public school was too stifling, or private school got too expensive. Some homeschool from start to finish (as Kristen plans to), while others try it out for a short time. I see it as simply another option for parents who are trying to do the best for their children.

I think it's safe to say that in 2012, homeschooling is hardly a radical choice. 

In my opinion, what is very different about Kristen's family is that none of her children participate in any "after-school" enrichment programs. No sports. No karate or jujitsu or taekwondo. No ballet, no gymnastics, no tap or jazz or modern dance. No scouting. You get the idea. 

I find this to be a radical and courageous move. 

Just to be clear, Kristen has written that she and her husband will gladly consider a team sport or music class if one of her children expresses a burning desire to sign up. It's not that they're ideologically opposed to group enrichment activities. They have simply chosen a lifestyle that emphasizes downtime over scheduled time.

If you're reading this and thinking "hey, what the heck is wrong with soccer?" The answer is, of course, nothing. Soccer is great. Kids learn great skills, sportsmanship and teamwork, and get plenty of fresh air and exercise. There is nothing wrong, per se, with soccer or any other enrichment activity.

It's just very easy for the after-school activities to take over a family's life. They can be expensive and often require a large time commitment. And parents often get caught up in a perceived need to "enrich" their children's lives at every turn, instead of simply giving their kids space to just be.

Yesterday made me happy. No driving, no "activities."
Just a few hours with friends at the park.
When my kids were smaller, I had great confidence in my choices. I didn't worry about how long I should breastfeed, or where they slept, when to potty train or any of the hot-button issues of new motherhood. It's only recently that some doubt has crept in. Have we messed up by not starting our older son in a sport? Does our younger boy need martial arts to channel his abundant energy? Should they be taking art classes, because the art that is offered at their school is so limited? I wonder all the time if we are doing enough. And yet, I find myself happiest when we are "doing" very little.

I admire Kristen's family's quieter lifestyle, but I haven't been able to embrace it just yet. Stay tuned...

This post will get too long if I try to get started on the fundraising that often goes along with after-school enrichment activities. Sigh... does it ever end?


  1. Arrived here via The Frugal Girl. Love the sentiment of this post & how it's thoughtfully written. Your bit at the end about fundraising struck me. I have one kid in school & scouts; one kid in preschool; & one more, just for good measure. Even with their limited involvement we've had too many fundraisers. Our biggest culprit is the public school. Recently it was a request for names & addresses of family & friends so magazine subscription materials could be sent to them. I just couldn't do it. I know the school can't provide all the great activities they do without extra fundraising, but it's getting a little ridiculous. And some of it is fundraising for great causes - American Heart Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - and I want the kids to learn to be generous in this way, too; but we can't keep asking our friends & family to support us.

  2. oh, i am so curious to rad more about the frugal girl and the no sports...makes me say a good way.