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How to Avoid the Overscheduling Trap

A local mom on why her kids are cutting back on extracurricular activities this year


Published on: September 15, 2021


We’re back to school and slowly getting into the swing of things. In our household, each of our kids is back in person at least three days a week this year. It’s been tempting for me to start to think that life as we know it is back to (some semblance of) normal and start signing up for all the things … but not so fast!  When I really think about it, I know avoiding the overscheduling trap is more important than ever this year. It is not a normal year, and I don’t want to forget the lessons I learned from this past year and a half in lockdown.

So, to keep involvements (and an overly busy schedule) in check, here are my suggestions:

Set limits.

My middle daughter Avery loves to be involved and that’s a great thing! But, pre-pandemic, our whole family was running around most evenings and weekends cheering her on or carting her off to band, multiple sports and various social engagements. 

During the lockdown, I realized that while she enjoys a busy schedule, she also needs downtime. And not just her — we all do. Planning our schedules around her whims was not working for any of us. This year, I’ve set more limits on how many involvements she can have each season. She will continue with one sport and stay in the marching band, and we will make sure one parent goes to cheer her on while one stays home during meets and performances. 

Go online.

When my oldest daughter Norah’s music teacher moved to Spokane a few years ago, we were heartbroken. She had been such an important mentor for my daughter and we didn’t want to part ways. So, we didn’t. Now, Norah calls into lessons via FaceTime, an approach that saves us time and even a little money. 

Since the lockdowns, many more activities are available online. We realized that certain extracurricular activities are even preferable to experience online. (I’m looking at you, Driver’s Ed.) We enrolled kids in everything from counseling to coding classes online this year. This approach offers our large family more flexibility and reduces the time spent commuting to various involvements. 

Think outside the box.

During the first week of school at the pickup line at my kids’ elementary school, I noticed something interesting — lots of shuttle buses with logos for various centers emblazoned on the sides. Some extracurricular activities, such as gymnastics and martial arts, actually offer child care and shuttle services when you enroll. I was so used to carpooling and carting my kids to different activities that I'd never explored this option. 

My third- and fifth-grader have been interested in martial arts for some time, and I could use a break from the dreaded pickup line and the time to finish my workday. We discovered the bus doesn't serve our neighborhood, but my kids have already moved and found other activities to do at home. So, I call that a win. 

Just say no.

The pressure to be constantly busy is intense in our culture. As a result, I often feel guilty for any free time I have. But, after a year and a half of living at a slower pace, I’ve realized being rushed and frazzled all the time wasn’t healthy for any of us. 

If you need permission, here it is: It’s okay to say no to anything extra you want to say no to. Whether you’re saying no to a volunteer opportunity, increased responsibilities at work, or even your own kid!

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