I got asked this question a few weeks ago and I thought I'd write something about where we're up to with the slowing down gig.
A few months ago I wrote about feeling like a failure, because I had taken things out of the kid's lives and was anxious that they would feel left behind. But almost two years since I made the decision to radically cut back on our extracurricular schedule, I'm a total convert. And I say 'I' because Rowan had been quietly suggesting for years that it was crazy (but he's a patient man).
A few months ago there was a TV documentary on the ABC about Carl Honore (author of 'In praise of slow' and 'Under Pressure: putting the child back in childhood'). He came to Australia and spent time with three busy Australian families. Some may have looked at the schedules of these families and thought 'wow, full-on'. I watched the show thinking 'that was totally me'. I've since read his book and it's a compelling argument for reducing the structured activities in children's lives so they have room for play, exploration, creativity and time for relationships.
I'm not saying that every family is like mine. Interestingly the TV show highlighted that. There was one family with a crazy sport schedule and the kids just loved it. Their Dad loved it and it was how they connected and related as a family. Unsurprisingly what Dad loved, the kids loved too. Kids (amazingly!) are often like their parents!
What I didn't recognise very successfully about our kids was that they're a little a bit introverted (to varying degrees) like me and there are a lot of them, so their people/energy quota gets filled up pretty quickly by just going to school and living in our house. We slowed things down and only the youngest has complained, so we've added a few things back in for her. I've been better at listening to what the kids really want to do and it's fun to see them have time to invest in the projects and interests they're excited about.
My kids aren't going to be musical superstars or sporting greats but I like that we're not fighting all the time and I'm not constantly feeling my heart racing at the thought of getting them where they need to go. Homework isn't such a stress because there's time to just get it done without it needing to get squeezed into little pockets of time. We have time to eat and laugh and chat at dinner together. The other night the kids just took themselves off to the park after dinner to throw the frisbee around.
I like it. No regrets (just a little pang every now and then).