Of course, we know that with a large family it's important to keep things simple if you want to stay sane. It's all about prioritizing. Not too long ago I experience my first burnout. We were doing school, co-op, swimming, dance, piano, soccer and who knows what else. I wanted my kids to be exposed to different activities and to have fun. What I got was a not so happy family. I was chauffeuring kids around 4-5 days out of the week. We were rarely eating dinner together as a family and we were always in a rush. I was cranky so that meant that everyone was cranky. So what happened? I got burnt out. I grew so tired that I dropped every activity besides school and co-op.
It took me almost a year to recover, but I vowed to never do that to myself or my family again. Now I'm learning to keep a healthy balance. My kids are allowed to do 2 activities each. One that benefits them physically and one that benefits them mentally. I combine wherever I can, take shortcuts and NEVER sacrifice family time. The results are working out well so far.
Our extra curricular activities this year? Here's how I have it set up so that I'm able to get all the kids' activities squeezed into our week without sacrificing our family priorities.
- Karate fulfills our physical requirement. This is done together so that I don't have to go back and forth with different sports. They get to help each other and they love it!
- Piano is also done at home. Our piano teacher comes over once a week and takes turns doing the lessons with the kids. That means I don't have to take time off from teaching; so while one child is doing their lesson, the rest are working on their school.
- Art is our new activity this year. It's once a week and the kids also do it together. While they are in class, I walk down the street to the library and load up on books for the week. It works out great!
But what about the littles? I can't take credit for toting around 6 kids with me all the time. I have a nanny who comes in 3 times a week. She mainly takes care of little Jimmy and Christian, unless I have to go somewhere and I leave the whole crew with her. I am hesitant to admit to having this help, but I don't want to seem like super woman. One thing I will add is that to have her over means that we sacrifice in lots of other areas. Again...priorities.
So how do you keep things simple for your own life? Here are some tips.
- Make a list. Grab a piece of paper and make a column for each child. Under each name, list all the extra curricular activities you would like for each of them to have. Don't be afraid to include yourself and your spouse! It's important to keep in mind all the things you want to accomplish as well when making a schedule.
- Prioritize and Rank. Rank your activities. Take into consideration all the things that are important to your family when ranking. Are weekends together as family important? Then perhaps soccer might not rank high because of all the Saturday games. Is having dinner together a top priority? That might weed out all evening activities.
- Minimize. Look over your list and trim wherever you see an activity that is not in line with your family priorities.
- Pencil it In. Look at your calendar with your new activities penciled in. If your calendar still looks too full, perhaps it's time to go back and minimize some more.
- Pray. Prayer is a powerful tool when deciding what activities will benefit your family.
In the end, don't be afraid to say "No!" There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping our kids at home and enjoying our families. It's important not to fall prey to the materialistic culture that plagues our society. More is not necessarily good and our children will not benefit from having a full schedule that keeps them away from family. We have to remember that in teaching our children, we want to prepare them for heaven above all else!
Family Time, Happy Kids or Over-scheduled, Cranky Kids