Monday, April 5, 2010


It's that time of year - time to put the books away for a little holiday and enjoy the sunshine and milder weather of spring. Time for Spring Break!

Actually, at our house, we don't exactly have Spring Break - skipping Spring Break is one of the benefits (or drawbacks) of homeschooling. We press on through the textbooks, finishing our schoolwork almost an entire month before our neighbors. Then, school is OUT for a nice l-o-n-g summer break! But with longer days and increased sunlight, every afternoon seems like a mini-holiday anyway.

So why am I writing about Spring Break? Because of a friend of mine. I have a young friend who attends a local highschool. Last week, he put in some very full, hard days of studying as he slogged through mid-term exams in each of his classes. Even when class let out in the afternoons, he still had work to do - he is on one of the school's sports teams, plays in the band, and sings in choir. This kid works more hours a day than many adults I know, often "burning the midnight oil" even into the wee hours of the morning. I don't think I could physically endure the demands which are a normal part of this teenager's routine.

But, thankfully, this week is Spring Break. Which means he can finally catch up on some sleep, get reacquainted with his parents and siblings, and decompress from the insane schedule and pressures of school. Right? Wrong.

This week, the choir is "on tour" - an out-of-state road trip (gotta be fun, right?) with several performances scheduled at stops going and coming. When he told me about the choir trip, I thought, Do school and extracurricular activities not command enough of your time already? Do organizations and activities have to dictate every moment of your teenage years? Even holidays aren't holidays anymore! I wonder what kind of toll the long days and frantic schedule are taking on him physically. He's going to be an old man before he enters college!

But another question concerns me even more. This student devotes nine to twelve hours a day to school and school-related activities. And then there's the nightly homework. And the weekend sports events. Music rehearsals and concerts. School dances. Fundraisers. And occasionally, outtings to see a movie with classmates. When - WHEN - is this teenager with his family?

I'm not just talking a quick five minutes over PopTarts in the morning, or a shared burger between afternoon classes and band practice. When does he have meaningful conversations with his parents? When does he cultivate his relationships with his siblings? What is he learning about "normal" family life from the insane lifestyle he is currently leading? Is it possible that he is so busy "living" that he doesn't have time to practice being human?

I guess I'm writing this as a challenge to any parents who may be reading. There are so many good things our children can be a part of - soccer, piano lessons, youth group, cheer team, community softball, scouting, drama,... The list truly seems endless. I understand the pressure young people and their parents feel to take advantage of a multitude of opportunities, to build impressive resumes for college applications. But I assert that the best thing our children can participate in is family.

If all these other activites hinder or prevent the development of meaningful family relationships, they are a curse, not a blessing. As parents, we influence how our children invest their time. Let's see to it they invest their time in things of eternal significance, including the people God has given them at home.

If you are a parent, what strategies do you have for safeguarding your child's time? What suggestions can you offer other parents facing a similar struggle?


Christian gal issues said...

I think homeschoolers can get caught up in this too, especially if you are worried about the old "socialization" word! That or the fact that you are not secure in your job as a teacher.

With possibly no schedule in your day, you can do science co-op, sports, art, field trips, book clubs and so on. It can get pretty hectic.

I try and make sure there is at least one day in the week where no one is going out of the house; as a scheduled thing. It makes for a nice relaxing day for everyone and we get more accomplished. Not to mention more creative things going on in the backyard. The kids seem to get along better that day as well. No stress from keeping a schedule!!!

Camille said...

Homeschoolers can definitely get caught up in this. Because we have a "soft" schedule, it's easy to let life to spiral into chaos. When my kids were very small, I used to think I was missing out on so much by not being able to get out and be involved in more activites. I learned later that my "confinement" had actually been a blessing.

I really like the idea of having at least one day of the week designated especially for staying home. Home has value worth defending!