End of Summer, Back to School (and a rant about extracurricular commitments)
Well, this year we had a long summer. Longer than normal.
And it was fabulous.
Here are some highlights:
- Our family of 9 spent 12 days on a backpacking trip around Mt. Rainier. We were completely phone/internet disconnected during those days, and lived off of (1) what we could carry, and (2) what we stashed in 2 food/fuel caches dropped off at ranger stations. It was ridiculously beautiful, an excellent way to be together as a family, and very, very challenging. You can expect that a LOT of my posts this fall will deal with observations, lessons learned, and experiences gained on the trail. It was a wonderful trip.
- The kids and I built a raised garden bed and a garden pathway. We used (free) cedar mulch from a tree that was cut down one street over, a $5 bunk-bed-drawer-style trundle bed we no longer needed (for the raised garden bed), (free) bricks we had collected from a torn-down chimney in Portland, (free) pavers left in the yard when we bought this house, and a $30 roll of garden cloth from Costco. I’m so pleased with how it turned out, and being a total cheapskate, I really really love the minimal cost of it.
- We did a ton of hiking, and spent time learning about ultralight backpacking. We got serious about it, y’all– even running bleachers with packs on. We didn’t want to get out on the trail and be unprepared. It was so good to be active, and engage with the beautiful wilderness available to us here in the SW Washington/NW Oregon area.
- Baby #8 and I made it completely through the 2nd trimester, and then some. Today, I’m roughly 10/11 weeks out from the time when we’ll meet our new-little-person. We didn’t found out the gender this time (haven’t done that since baby #1, 14+ years ago), and so that should make delivery-date even more exciting.
- MORE, too, of course: We celebrated a heap of birthdays and went on 2 trips with our church family. I decided to stop kvetching about politics and the lousy options we have, jump in, get involved, and do something: I ran for, and won the primary for, the basic party office in our community: PCO. I took on some extra writing/editing jobs so we could gear-up with quality supplies for our backpacking trip. I flew to Texas for my mom’s 60th.
And now, we’ve moved into fall.
- My podcast, Mom On Purpose, will be launching this month!
- I’m back to blogging. So, y’all be sure to come back around!
And we’re back into our school year.
- I’m still using a one-Bible-chapter-a-week focus for our Bible time (in addition to one day a week in some topic-focused books I love by Sally Michael). This year, we’ll work our way through the Gospel of John.
- We’re still reading aloud for the bulk of our school time. OH HOW MUCH I LOVE the effects of reading excellent books aloud, together, as a family!! Our time-period focus for this year will be the Reformation & Renaissance.
- We spent the week before school decluttering our main rooms, and I’m so thankful we did. Everything feels very airy, tidy, rightly-appointed, and well-sorted, so now I can devote my mind and body to this task of purposefully educating 5 people. Phew.
- Our outside-of-home commitments are limited to two things: (1) NCFCA speech & debate for our 8th-grade-and-up kids, and (2) my daughter’s weekly violin lesson. We are super super careful about the commitments we make, and these are two that we see both short-term and long-term fruit in.
On that last point:
EXTRACURRICULAR SKILLS & COMMITMENTS
We are very wary about adding events and commitments to our family calendar. Too often, extracurricular commitments:
- suck up time and money
- leave the child with very little long-term benefits
- make everyone tired
- leave the child with a very niche-skill that can only be pursued in intense, individual ways
Individual pursuits can all too easily contribute to a long-term dissatisfaction with one’s family involvement. Oftentimes, these “skills” end up being something that competes with the future young adult’s marriage, family, and eat up evenings and weekends. Many skills obtained in extracurricular commitments can only be pursued in formalized, expensive, time-intensive ways, and are not (in any real way) accessible in a family-friendly way that all age levels can participate in.
These types of commitments would not only pull our family members away from one another now, but they would also (within 1-2 decades) threaten to pull our adult children away from their future spouses and children, as they continue to pursue the talents/skills/commitments WE’VE encouraged.
Instead, we opt for things that can be learned within the family environment, that (mostly) can include all ages, and that will/can contribute to long-term ongoing fruitfulness within their God-appointed roles, long-term.
So that includes activities like:
- graphic design, coding, computer skills
- musical interests
- group sports & outdoors activities that include a wide variety of ages (we prefer these over individual-focused sporting activities)
- building projects
- landscaping work
- anything that beautifies, maintains, fixes, or improves the home
- creative pursuits that can be done within the home environment without requiring excessive amounts of alone time or excessive amount of floor space/protection (i.e., building large models that need to be built, painted, stored, and displayed is something that would continually be a drag on not only our home and family, but put undue pressure on the adult child’s future family)
- pursuing small business ideas together as siblings
- overarching skills (like speech/communication) that will contribute in any/all professional, church, and personal settings
- spiritual growth/development (which is part of the purpose/focus of NCFCA speech & debate– apologetics and theological growth)
Simply put: we believe we are responsible for the appetites we invest in, develop, and encourage in our children and we want to consider not just the current culture’s perspective on a particular sport or skill, but actually put the skill itself under the microscope and consider the long-term pull it will have over the course of a child’s life, even in the context of his/her future family, church, and professional life.
WHY WHAT WE PERMIT (AND PURSUE) MATTERS
It is disconcerting to me the level of pressure many parents labor under, feeling the need to offer each child multiple activities, at every age/stage/season, carting kids back and forth to activities they often grow weary of and want to quit. We have seen that these pressures often act as a major detraction from family togetherness, even though the appearance is that the family is technically *together* while running to and from the events on the calendar.
These pressures not only threaten the stability and simple joy of family life, but they also contribute to the feeling many parents have that (even if they would otherwise welcome another little adorable person to the family) having more kids would just be too too hard and expensive.
Without purposeful discernment, extracurricular events:
- fill up the family calendar
- take up the family’s money
- require the whole family to spend far too much time in the car, eating sub-par expensive foods
- make everyone more tired and crabby
- give the child (sometimes in subtle ways) a different set of values than the parents truly wish to impart
- offer the kids very little by way of long-term benefits that can not be gotten some other way
- make the parents less delighted and more bone-weary in their role as parents
So we choose to be VERY selective in the activities we invest in, and we say “no” to a lot of things that might appear “good.”
We realize these may not be everyone’s priorities, but these ideas have deeply influenced the commitments we make and the expenditures we take on, and we continue to be pleased with the fruit of choosing to prioritize family togetherness and long-term tangible GOOD in the lives of our children over the pursuit of highly-individualized sports or activities.
That’s what our summer was like, and what we are expecting for fall.
And, there’s a little bonus rant about extracurriculars.
What say you?
Subscribe to my newsletter, and I'll send monthly encouragement -- full of truth and grace for moms. SIGN UP, SO WE CAN KEEP IN TOUCH: