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Balancing Family with Sports and Activities

Balancing family life with sports and activities.

Balancing family time with sports and activities. How. Do. You. Do. It?

You might remember my post last year where I talked about Chuck and I working to prioritize our teens. We became youth group leaders (and dropped Boy Scouts) in an effort to spend more of our free time together. Unfortunately, things have changed again. Our church has now split up middle school and high school youth group to separate nights. This breaks down the whole system for our family. Now, only Enoch and Kalina are old enough for high school youth group, and Mordecai, Jubilee and Hezekiah for junior high. Therefore it no longer makes sense to take the whole family.

This also means if we were to have our children involved in our church’s youth programs, Enoch and Kalina would attend on Sunday nights, Mordecai, Jubilee and Hezekiah on Wednesday nights and Avi, Tucker and Apollo on Thursday nights. Throw in a small group for me and Chuck and we are up to four nights a week, with our family going in different directions. 

With the kids back in school, I’ve been thinking a lot about school sports. Hezekiah and Tucker are rarely able to have friends over because their friends  are busy with sports after school and on the weekends. It can take months to arrange a get together. As the kids bring home information from school Chuck and I have discussed the possibility of sports and the ramifications for our family.

I have only a few friends who don’t have kids in sports or other after school activities. My kids have only a few friends who don’t do sports.

My question is, how do you balance family life and after school activities? 


  1. How do you balance family dinners? 
  2. How do your kids manage homework, if they have practice?
  3. Does this mean there is no time for chores? Dishes? Family time at home?
  4. Is every single weekend taken up with sports?
  5. What if you have more than one child in sports?

We have always tried for a slower, unplugged pace in our home. No electronics (until Apollo came along), free time to explore, be outdoors, be creative, to learn, to read. Family dinners are important to us. It is the one time during they day we are all able to connect. The research on this isn’t new. I mean, sure, it’s not about the dinner as much as the time to reconnect and really talk, but if our evenings were taken up with sports, when would that happen? Chuck leaves the house my 6 am and our junior high kids are on the bus at 7:10 am. Evening is our only time together. 

Jubilee and Kalina have both been in school plays. They rode the late bus, which required me to pick them up at 5:15 every evening (always during dinner prep). I felt like with just that we barely had time to eat, clean up dishes, do minimal homework before bedtime. 

Also…sports. I totally agree it is great for the fitness aspect (a reason we love hiking and swimming as a family) as long as that isn’t offset by a bag full of sugar and dye laden snacks, but that is a post for another day*. But as an adult, a sport is a leisure activity. This Harvard study shows that while 3 out of 4 kids play sports only 1 in 4 adults still plays. [Please know, I am not dissing sports…I am struggling with how to best care for my family.]

* We ran into this issue with Cub Scouts. We left directly after lunch, they had two-hour meeting, and somehow “needed” a snack halfway through the meeting. Why???

I am truly interested, I’d love for this to be a discussion, just please be respectful in your comments and replies to others.



  1. Jennifer Lovett

    I had 4 kids, and our church had mostly Sunday and Wednesday activity’s–plus special things tossed in every so often. My rule was only 1 extra activity at a time. Some kids did sports, JROTC, some got into FFA. We made due on the evenings affected, and it usually wasn’t to bad. I was the only driver-so with 2 outside jobs I spent a lot of time in the van. LOL You just decide what is best and important-we didn’t have TV for many years. THAT HELPED. Blessings

    • Renee

      No TV here, just DVDs. We did Scouts for years (Enoch is still in Scouts) and done a few short term things here and there (Japanese class). Thanks for your input.

  2. SueAnn

    It is a tough balance. I only have 2 kids, so not going too many different directions, dinner time just shifts some nights. Other nights we don’t all eat together. I homeschool so don’t have the homework issue. We make a point of finding family time. Some seasons are busier than others. I do see my kids thrive in their sports and activities though.

    • Renee

      Thanks for sharing. I know for many people their sports team becomes their “family” (if I am to believe the inspirational movies I watch, anyway). My kids really seem to enjoy their downtime (we have lots of property) but miss their friends.

  3. Cheryl A Hitchings

    We have 12 kids at home right now. I do my best to limit the kids to activities which more than one kid is involved in simply for sanity and logistics sake. This does not always work out because sometimes when you listen to your kids, it becomes obvious that for one reason or another, a certain child needs something just for them at that point in time. We have one kid who truly loves fencing and truly needs the time away from everyone else just once a week or so. And now that we have older kids who can drive, it does make evenings easier on Mom with regard to driving. We do our best to have dinner together with as many people as possible but some nights are pure chaos. It is something that is reevaluated frequently. You want your kids to explore their interests but the budget and parental mental health can only handle so many outside activities.

    • Renee

      I agree, listening to the kids is so important! And helping driven children find their passion and supporting them can be really important. We live a minimum of 20 minutes from anywhere we would be going, so that adds in to the difficulty. And Chuck’s work hours are erratic, so if he is working late, it is all on my for transportation, meals and bedtime.

  4. Lindsay

    Oh…I have so many thoughts on this subject and we have had different levels of involvement in sports over different seasons.

    I will say that in our experience there has been a HUGE difference between club sports and school sports. The school sports practices are after school and, depending upon the sport, many of the games are, too. Cross country and track sometimes has meets on Saturdays but for the most part, the sports are contained to after school hours. This keeps evenings free for dinner and homework routines.

    In addition, the cost for school sports is relatively affordable while club sports cost an outrageous amount (in my opinion – and truth be told, we’ve paid for more than one child to be in club sports).

    Club sports also take up inordinate amounts of time on evenings and weekends, and require fundraising, multiple out of town trips, etc.

    Oh, and the pressure for parent involvement with school sports is much less than club sports, too, in my experience. Many times we send our girls to school games on the bus with teammates and don’t attend.

    It’s taken us some time to find the balance and even though we have spent plenty of time and money on club sports and have had some great experiences, I have been rethinking the whole situation and ultimately, school sports are a much better choice for our family. (The problem is once you are neck deep in a club sport, it is difficult to extricate your child.)

    • Lindsay

      I realize the question isn’t about the difference between club and school sports, and you are probably not inclined to go the club sports route anyway, but after experiencing the time and money associated with club sports, I have found the commitment with school sports a refreshing change.

      I should add, though, that one of the girls was permitted to be involved in an expensive, time consuming club sport because it is what she needed at the time to cope with specific trauma in her life and I’m very, very grateful for what the experience added to her confidence, self-worth, and outlook.

    • Renee

      And you know where I live, driving into Bellingham is a time commitment in and of itself. Thanks for you input. As you know, I always value your opinion.

      As far as your one daughter, I also agree if one of the kids really needed it, we would commit and make it happen. Apollo did swimming lessons twice this summer and that about killed me…and dinner. Though I really want to keep him going to improve his skills.

      • Mary Goodale

        I am a single parent with two boys. One did club soccer and the other rec baseball. Both did/do Scouts, and are Eagle Scouts. When practice/games were on the same night, friends on one sport transported one while I did the other. Both did swim team at the Y when they were in elementary school because they needed to learn to swim. It was cheaper in the long run to do swim team than lessons. They loved it (very competitive) and are now great swimmers. A lot of times supper was fast food on the way home, sometimes eaten in the car, sometimes at home. On non-practice/game nights, supper was cooked and eaten at home. (I think I am superwoman. 🙂 )

        • Renee

          We have loved our experience with Scouts! Once a week meetings and the occasional outing. Swim lessons are definitely important! It is the intensity that I see in friends family’s that “scares” me so much.

  5. Paige

    It *is* tough to balance everything, especially since I work. My kids are young (preschool and first grade), still, though, so sports practices (and music lessons for the first grader) are after school, before I get home, and my husband manages to take them and still fix dinner. I’m not clear on *how* this happens, to be honest.

    I’m the leader for my daughter’s girl scout troop. It’s something fun the two of us do together, and while it doesn’t give me one-on-one time with her during the meetings, we do get to talk on the way there and back. It’s also a great way for me to get to know her friends. We do miss family dinner those nights, as I go from public transportation to pickup to meeting. But it’s two nights a month, and we have family dinner *all* the other nights. I don’t want to be so rigid about family dinner that we miss other experiences.

    About the snacks: it’s not about the kids needing food, although some of them might. Some kids are too excited to eat before a scout meeting; I know a few of the girls in my troop eat dinner afterward (at 7:45!). For most kids, though, the snack is a social experience. My current troop does not do a snack, but when I had troops that met after school, we emphasized: fixing the snack together, taking turns, service to others (passing out napkins/utensils), being polite (saying please and thank you), equity (not taking the biggest item, everyone getting an equal share, not having seconds until everyone’s had firsts) and just having a chance to sit and talk with each other. The point was not eating for the sake of eating, but food to bond over and an experience that teaches values.

    • Renee

      We never even considered sticking our kids in extra activities when they were that young. But we have lived out on acreage since 2000, so the kids have grown up on property with plenty of room to roam and explore. And as a result we don’t live close to anything…and I agree, being that rigid about dinner (or anything else).

  6. Julie

    Regarding sports, I have three boys and they all liked soccer, so that was our “thing” for years. Here’s how/why it worked for us… the season is intense but mercifully SHORT (8 weeks of games). The practices were a pain because the coaches are volunteers (Yay for them!) and mostly held practices after they got off work… at dinner time. Lots of crock-pot dinners during soccer season. But since we were homeschooling, we made it a point to all have lunch together since dinner might be in stages.

    The other thing that made it seem do-able is that all the games were same-day-same-place (Saturday). So while Saturdays were All About Soccer, at least we were all doing it together. Then the season ended – yippee! II loved that it was intermittent (fall and spring) rather than year round, and I think it was a relief to the boys too.

    But adding in three separate nights for church youth events seems kind of NUTS! (Who is in charge of planning at your church???) I’d probably pull out of that entirely, and (politely/respectfully) let the leadership know why – you’re prioritizing FAMILY time. (Couldn’t they do those things the same night???)

    Anyway, now that mine are older, they’re all involved in Civil Air Patrol – one night a week plus activities. Having them all involved in the same thing is a life saver. 😀 I know that may not be practical for a larger family, but “clumping” the kids/activities can help.

    To be honest, scheduling play dates has just never been a priority in our house. We are fortunate to have some great kids in the neighborhood, but – as you’ve mentioned – most kids are just too busy to make it work.

    Good luck!

    • Renee

      8 weeks would probably be doable, if it were only one night a week for practice. We are busy on the weekends with shopping errands and work around our place, I can’t imagine adding in sports games…As fas as church, our building isn’t big enough to accommodate all the activities on the same night (though last year middle school and high school youth group were together).

  7. Marsha

    I have 11 children- 4 under 18 currently. We have changed through the years as interests have changed. Did 4-H for years, then plays, then sports. Granted 4-H and plays were easier when many participated at the same place. I have chosen to not allow sports until 6th grade. I am a sports junkie myself having been raised by a mom who coached and played. But the extreme competition can be rough on kids. I have 2 playing football, basketball, track this year. My other 15 year old does the arts. I eliminated Show Choir after too many 4 am wake up calls last year. School sponsored sports are easiest. Right after school and fewer weekend commitments. But if they don’t play in middle school, high school will not happen. Their skills are not developed enough. We do lots of activities as a family and just roll with the seasons. The family remains strong despite missed dinners.

  8. Suzanne

    I only have two kids, but this is a hard one for us too. I don’t know the answer. My son loves to play soccer, and wanted to play more competitively this year. Previously, he has only played for the YMCA. We agreed, reluctantly, and he is playing in a “still recreational, but slightly more competitive” type league. I am already kicking myself for doing this. Hour long practices twice a week, 20 minutes from home. Games at 8am on a Saturday? I don’t think we will do this league again. He is happy and thrilled to be doing this league, and our whole family is happier when he has a chance for big motor movement. (read: lots of flopping around the house and driving everyone crazy if he doesn’t have a chance to really move). But this type of commitment is a commitment for the whole family. I have a chronic illness and I don’t know if I will be able to sustain this sort of commitment, whether it’s short term or not. My daughter is younger and uninterested in sports. So that means she gets dragged to all of big brother’s stuff. I feel like it’s unfair to her to always just be watching what he does and not have a thing of her own, but I also can’t imagine adding more “stuff.” She wants to do ballet, but I’m feeling uncertain about whether or not I want to enter into the dance world. A whole weekend taken up by a dance show? No thanks.

    For younger kids, I recommend the YMCA sports. They are super low key, diverse, and fun. And they are mostly indoors. No standing in the rain for hours! It was a very manageable commitment. I don’t know how high the ages go though for Y sports. For older kids…….maybe just do sports/activities that the school offers? I think you already do that. At least that way you only have to pick them up and not have to get them to another place. They would just stay after school.

    My sister has 6 kids, ranging in ages from 2-18. For her older kids, she makes them ride the city bus sometimes. She also uses the line, “I’m so glad you want to do that! Sounds awesome and fun. I’m not able to provide transportation, but if you can figure out a way to get yourself to and from, you can do it.” I don’t have older kids, so I can’t weigh in on whether this approach is a good one or not!

    Not sure what the answer is, but I love the discussion. Our family situation is different than some: chronically ill mom who has to watch her energy output very carefully, limited funds, tremendous medical bills, and two working parents. I only work part time running my own business, but it still means there’s 15 hours a week when I’m not available to run kids to and fro. I’ll be interested to read more of the comments.


  9. Nana Jo

    I agree with Lindsay that school sports are a far more reasonable choice in terms of time and affordability, as compared to club sports which take up enormous resources both financially and emotionally. I have two sons and a daughter, and when they were growing up they were generally each allowed one extra activity. Our rule was also that family dinner was mandatory with very few exceptions. Sunday was family day and we didn’t allow our kids to take part in any extra activities that day except for those that were part of our church which we attended as a family. Sometimes the kids protested …wanting to go to friends’ parties and other individual invitations on that day. My second son wanted to be involved far more in club sports than suited our family lifestyle. My husband and I explained that this was the choice we had made for our family and when they were grown up they could choose differently and we would respect that.

    I believe that as a society loss of family intimacy and bonding is having a huge impact on our children’s sense of belonging and well-being. Sports and coaches, team mates and friends have in many cases taken over from parents and family in terms of influence and the structure of the family dynamic. I overheard a woman recently tell her friend that they ate dinner in their car three nights a week and no longer had any day that was activity free! I think there is a lot of pressure out there for parents to put their kids in multiple activities. This has become the norm and failure to do so can cause anxiety and the feeling that their kids are missing out. The fact is no parent can provide every opportunity to every child. Choices need to be made and in the end, I believe the family well-being as a whole is what is most important.

    Yes, it’s important, too, that kids keep active and healthy but taking part in sports is not the only way to do that, as I know you understand. Over the years my kids took part in school track and field, cross country, various band, music and choir programs, and my sons were involved in Beavers, Cubs and Scouts where my husband was a leader for many years. We also had a twice monthly family board game evening where they were allowed to each invite one friend, and these were enjoyed by all and still remembered by many. One of my sons is in fact following this tradition with his own children. We had family hikes, picnics and bike rides. Like you, I too found that often my kids’ friends were often far more involved in sports and other activities than my own were. This didn’t bother me. It was a choice we made and one we don’t regret.

  10. Anna

    I have eight kids: one in public high school, the rest are homeschooled. Yes, the activity thing is crazy. All my kids do different things. One of us (parent) tries to fit our large family life in to a two-child, double-income lifestyle and it. does. not. work.

    Right now, we don’t do dinner together every night. Sometimes dinner is early, sometimes it is at 8:00 pm. Sometimes we don’t even have dinner. I’ve given up on family dinner honestly.

    We spend a LOT on gas since we live 45 minutes from everything and often need to take several trips into town in one day. I hate it.

    We don’t have many friends outside the sibling group, but from I hear from other moms, this is common in our activity-driven culture. Even the homeschooled kids at co-ops don’t bond with each other because everything is organized. At least my large family has plenty of playmates to choose from at home. It seems the kids meet “friends” on the bus because that is when they can just talk.

    We pick the high schooler up after football practice five nights a week at 6:00 pm. He is gone over 12 hours a day, and sometimes is gone 15 on Scout night. We are still trying to define appropriate chores for him, but it looks like instead of a daily chore, he will have weekend chores (wood chopping, bathroom cleaning, garbages out, manual labor).

    In addition to after football pick up, we have: Monday night is Cub Scouts (husband is cubmaster) vaulting and youth group, Tuesday night is Boy Scouts, Wednesday night is Taekwondo (husband is teacher), Thursday night is vaulting, Friday night is…. video game night. Saturday all day long is vaulting, Taekwondo, and grocery shopping with family movie night when we drop exhausted and burned out into our chairs. Sunday is catch up around the neglected hobby farm. There is never a day off for those who bite off more than they can chew 😉 Which would be us.

    Once I tried to run the dish schedule around the activity schedule. That left me doing the dishes (fail).

    I pulled my girls out of dance classes because even though they liked it, it wasn’t enough to justify extra trips and tuition. If one had a burning passion for dance (like my daughter has for vaulting), I would make it happen (like we do for vaulting-this sport is expensive and very time intensive). But if they just want to prance around and giggle, we can stay home. I’ve also decided that by putting my little ones in every fun activity just so they can experience it is a bad idea. All I’ve done is teach them (my older ones especially) their self worth is determined not by what is done at home with their family, but what happens out there with not family.

    My 13yo son missed out on team sports as a young guy, so now there is no way he can try out for soccer, basketball or Little League and make the team. He can participate in after school wrestling and track at the public school and ride the activity bus home. Football is a no cut sport here, so the lack of team sports as a young guy didn’t effect my oldest son’s ability to stay on the team. His overall physical fitness (thank you Scouts) and willingness to work hard is moving him up the ranks.

    My kids are often up until 10 PM finishing chores and homework. We are always behind and always broke. And starting to forget things and lose things and double book… but football is only for a few more months and then we will be in a new season…

  11. Emily

    no expert here but we are only doing one sport at a time. Year before last both kids could be on the same T-ball team which was great, we all went together as a family, and it’s T-ball so only 1 practice a week and like 6 games total…
    This summer Simon did swim team though the parks department and it was an awesome experience because it’s ages 6-18 and they all practice at the same time and have their meets at the same time. Meets were usually friday evenings and we would take a picnic dinner and enjoy it together (outdoor pool with grassy lawn, really quite lovely). Also compared to other sports it was really inexpensive. Now I’m keeping Talia in swim lessons over the winter so she can hopefully make the team next summer and that is sort of an inconvenience to have her in a saturday afternoon lesson but I think it will pay off when they are both on the team together next summer. I would recommend looking into your parks department or YMCA to see if they have a summer swim team, overall great experience.

    Kids are also doing (downhill) ski club this year, this is not a cheap sport but we love to ski together as a family as both of us grew up doing it. And ski club is the same as swimming, kids 3-18 all practice together (though kids under 5 have a much shorter lesson). While the kids ski on Saturday’s with their respective groups Myles and I will have a ski date. After the kids are done we eat our homemade chili together and then will ski with them a bit. Very fun and bonding family time. We are already signed up for every Saturday in Jan and Feb with a local ski club, and going the club rout is much cheaper than paying for lessons directly though the ski slope. In Alaska my family did this similarly but cross country skiing (since it was free, besides the equipment). Maybe there is a ski club near you at Baker that offers scholarships? might be worth looking into both downhill and XX. And XX skiing is significantly cheaper than downhill once you own the equipment and something everyone can do together. There are many ski swaps this time of year where you can get gently used equipment. Or snowshoeing is another fun family sport.

    The other thing the kids have done that was really fun was a triathlon though the parks department. This was just a 1 saturday commitment but also ages 5-18 all competed together and they offered scholarships.

    lastly do your kids schools offer XX running in the fall? many elementary schools do here as well but also the junior high and high school for sure. Usually they don’t have many meets it’s just stay after school and practice for an hour. I know in Bellevue they also have a private XX running club for all ages and parents are encouraged to practice with their kids so something like that might be another option. In short individual sports seem to be more accommodating to multi ages and the meets/events are optional v. team sports where your team is counting on you to show up.

  12. Sarah

    I do dinner at 5 pm reguardless. on days I have to be gone during prep I do crock pot meals, or assign older kids to make dinner (when it pertains). Dinner gets packed up and put away at 6, but first we prep plates for the missing people and keep them on the counter. I have discovered, as everyone filters in at different hours, they sit at the table, and frequently people who have already eaten stop and join the late comer. I have also noticed late comers try harder to be home closer to dinner when they know a set time. plus, on the weekends we do all 3 meals as sit downs, eventually sometime ends up being everyone. It seems to be working well. My friends family did this during my teens years and I remember having many family dinners even though everyone ran different directions. keeping dinner anchored at a time has helped. if I have to leave during dinner time, I assign dinner to a kid to over see that the table stays calm and chatting, with chores getting done. I also over lapped older kids on chores. so daily chores are still completed. if everyone is home I can quickly divert an older kid to a new chore, vs a younger kid. (sensory, RAD issues).

    RE SNACKS: when you have a poor diet you are more hungry. I keep our own snacks in the trunk and tell the kids they may have a snack from our van. they are normally fine because the snacks are still a treat, even if they are healthier than the others offered…. 🙂

  13. Jess Guest

    Right now, we have a set budget for each kid (if they want a more expensive activity, they need to earn the money). We do not do activities with regular practise/meets etc on weekend mornings or Monday, Wednesday or Friday nights and we try and get involved in family activities. We liked scouts but it got too expensive and it is over half an hour away with poor organisation and communication. When we move I am hoping to sign up for a Kung Fu Dojo that allows little kids right through to adults so we can do it together. There’s also a non-competitive dance troupe that has classes for each of my kid’s age group at a reasonable price and the sessions go one after the other so they get to hang out with the siblings of other families while they are waiting and they get to have an age appropriate class. I would love to do ALL the things – but I can’t.

  14. Sandra Wallace

    My boys both played cricket ( New Zealander here) – one a bit more seriously than the other. Practise was one or two afternoons a week – just a 5 minute drive away – and family dinners were still mostly possible even if a half hour later. As they got older games took up most of Saturday and my hubby always watched so he was gone all day too. However we homeschool so had flexibility with chores and no homework. Plus hubby had some flexibility with working hours which helped get in family time and ensure he had time to spend with the other kids. In other words the benefits to the cricket players outweighed the costs to the family.

    My youngest is 15 and heavily involved in her sport. She coaches, judges at competitions and of course trains and competes. She’s gone from 3:30 to 9 three days a week, plus 2 hours one other day. It could be more but I feel this is more than enough. A few times a year there are weekend long competitions (which require parent involvement) plus a week long national competition. If she was not my youngest this wouldn’t work (in fact when she was younger I was the parent who put limits on her involvement to protect her from too much training but also to protect some family time) but two of her siblings have now left home and the one who remains has his own work and study schedule. Since we’re still homeschooling her and I get plenty of time together during the day and she often relaxes with her Dad at night – they love to watch movies together. We’re at that stage where there isn’t so much all the family together but we all find time to connect in different ways and in different combinations.

  15. RaD

    Not having read previous comments, I hope I am not being repetitive..

    I need to start by saying I only have two kiddos. The dynamic is different for every family and you and your husband have to truly pray and decide what is best for your kids as individuals and what is best for the family as a whole. This will never be a one size fits all issue.

    That being said, my kids have always been involved in some form of activity since they were three. These were merely seasons and do not last all year. For my son, who attended a small (very small, classroom sizes no bigger than 16 ever and mostly smaller than that) Christian school that I work at and which I can monitor his friends and so many aspects of his life, sports was an opportunity for him to connect with children outside of this controlled group while still giving me some control (I hope that makes sense) and was outside of his comfort zone. It pushed him to strive for something, like becoming better at catching the ball, or becoming a better batter. For a little boy who would never talk to the people he did not know it became the ability to find his voice and speak for himself (outside of a very comfortable school environment).

    For my daughter, who is opposite her brother in so many ways (and who also attends the same school) it was friendships and learning that not always do people think that your hyper-happy self is great (that was a hard one on mamma). It was learning to manage herself and also to speak up for herself. To excercise and to learn to push through something even if she became bored with it (which is quite often the case with my busy girl) or things became tougher than anticipated. Again, all in an environment that I could monitor.

    Our purpose for our kids to participate in sports was to bring them outside of a church related environment to see “the real world” so to speak. My son was appalled the first time he saw one of the coaches drinking at a team party. Mind you the man was not getting drunk and he was not rude or overindulgent. But since my son had been taught that drinking has some dangers he was upset. Lessons, lessons, so many lessons we’ve been able to walk them through because of sports. Dealing with losing, dealing with being a good winner, dealing with adults who really suck at being a good example for the kids, dealing with jerk parents from the other team, dealing with the things jerk parents from your kid’s own team say, dealing with the awful kids on the team, finding good friends and why we stick with them, learning that you have to do your best always, without exception or you can let others down, dealing with even your best not being quite good enough that day… I think I could go on and on.

    Being is sports has been asset to my children. Has it always been good. Nope. But the good outweighs the bad (see above paragraph) and so many conversations have been had regarding real life issues that are sure to come up again and again because that’s just how life goes. But I believe in many ways my kids are not better equipped to handle some of them, since they are now in their teen years and the bubble they grew up in has expanded to a very large lake.

    My motivation behind putting them in sports was sparked from never being pushed to do anything as a kid. Don’t want to? Fine I won’t force you. Do what you like. Yeah, that’s a huge disservice to your kid. I know because I struggled a lot because of it.

    BUT, my kids always chose the sport or physical activity and have always played some form of musical instrument as well.

    As far as balancing it goes, Meal planning always had to be a priority. The other child had to attend whoever’s game was going on to support each other. Then you get time with the child not playing while rooting on the one playing. We often ate late, but still always together. Practices/games did not take up every day of the week and there were still days with “down time”. Resting on Sunday afternoon was always mandatory, and a big reason no one got exhausted later in the week. We scheduled regular family days at least twice per month (the schedule is a necessity to keeping one’s sanity during sports season). My kids still had time for friends and their parties or activities, but sometimes we’d come late or they’d still be dressed in their uniform. No biggie.

    Again, I only have two kids and can’t say how this would all work out for you. We get up early and are out of the house at 7 am as well. I guess if wanted to venture in that direction it’s all about the planning and keeping family time sacred. Friends come second and can always be invited to come watch a game and hang out afterwards. Homework has to be on a schedule as well. 5:00 practice, homework has to be done when you get home. 4:00 practice? Homework gets done after practice.

    Oh and I need to add that since my kids picked the activities for the most part going was not a chore but something they looked forward to. And as they strived to get better, they always asked mom or dad to help them improve leaving you with some time with just them, which I think is why they decided to practice at it at home because they wanted to spend time with just us.

    It’s an adjustment for sure, but it’s only for a season, and as you get used to the rhythm of the season, things get easier.

    • Renee

      I agree about having kids not always surrounded by like-mined Christians. Those are important lessons! I also feel that with my kids in school, they are already gone the bulk of the day. I want to enjoy them. We watched the football game at my parents’ house today and as soon as we got home they kids got some old T-shirts, cut up flags, organized football teams and spent the rest of the evening playing football outside. I LOVE that kid of creativity.

      Also, I was not raised in a sports playing OR watching family, so this is all unfamiliar to me.

  16. MArgery Erckert

    Only have two at home right now but at one time had 6. We ( well mom) limit sports to one season a year, I am willing to have a crazy life from mid August to end of October. So the boys did soccer and the girl did field hockey, dinners were crock pot, picnics, once a month cooking frozen meals. If you wanted to do a winter or spring sport find your own way. We also did one other activity per child for the girls that was girl scouts and the boys started with cub scouts but then went on to CAP. In the winter I didn’t like to drive and in the spring I was to busy with yard and garden work.

    We also did community theater but that was more dad’s thing with them. We live elsewhere now and only have 2 kids, the 16 year old does Japanese Drumming 1x a week and she can bike there, and there is no field hockey here so she doesn’t do a sport. Aidan is the youngest by a lot he is 10, so we have bent the one season rule he does soccer in the fall and spring, and swimming in the winter but we live in town ( before we didn’t ), and he doesn’t have any one at home who wants to play with him.

    For Aidan practice is 2 hours 2 x a week and 8 games over the season, I get to read lots of books during his sport seasons, way different from when his brothers played and I spent the time chasing and playing with Aidan.

  17. Dorothy

    None of my kids is currently in any type of sports. They are not interested. If they were, it would have to be something that happened after school on a Monday through Thursday, as I work at home those days. Fridays I drive into work, leaving after I get the kids to school, working noon to 8:30 and getting back home around 10 pm. We live 75 miles west of DC, I work in Alexandria VA.

    My 2 youngest girls are in Girl Scouts. They are in the same troop. This year, the Brownies meet on 2 Thursdays a month, the Juniors on the other 2 Thursdays and the Cadettes one evening, overnight and early the next day meeting monthly. It was overwhelming trying to get 3 groups of girls organized at the same time in the same place. My Cadette is the only girl in her group that is not involved in after school sports. Youngest son is a Webelo this year, His troop meets every Thursday after the Girl Scouts 4 blocks from where the Girl Scouts meet.

    Hubby works second shift, gets home from work at 2:30 am, and works Saturdays, as he has Sunday and Monday off. He spends all Sunday trying to rest and then Monday trying to get done stuff done around the house. Our 100+ yr old farm house always has something that could be fixed on it. 🙂

    We are lucky to get one or 2 family dinners a week. Oldest son still lives at home, works full time and usually has Saturday off. I try to have a family brunch before hubby leaves for work.

  18. musherpeg

    Let me share from an athlete’s perspective and then as someone who worked in a high school for 7 years. I was always into sports – baseball, soccer, hockey, volleyball – from the time I was 5 and mostly participated in rec programs and summer leagues. Then in middle school I discovered I was pretty good at basketball and focused on developing my talents in this sport. I played varsity in high school and then played in college (in Canada). My little sister was a very talented volleyball player.
    We had practices either after school or one year in the mornings before school. Being part of the school teams required a minimum of C’s in every subject. Our basketball team also had a required study for an hour every day before practice.
    Being a part of the basketball program meant I stayed in school. Home was sometimes very turbulent because my mom had a life-threatening illness. Sports was an outlet for stress, helped me to make life-long friends and gave me focus. It was the same for my sister.
    When we got home mom or dad had dinner ready for us. We ate, did whatever chores we had (dishes, vacuuming etc) and then completed any homework leftover. Because of the study hall, there usually wasn’t much homework at all. Often we sat with my parents in the living room and watched our favorite show or played a favorite card game. My mom had very little energy when she had to endure chemo and so just sitting on the couch together, laughing at a silly sitcom was fun.
    As an employee in a high school, I saw the benefits of sports for many kids. They grew in confidence and their grades generally improved. Our teams all had study hall and so kids got their homework done. Sports was a lifeline for a lot of kids in this area as drug use, particularly meth, was a social ill.
    There is no denying that sports is a commitment for the family but it can have a huge payoff for the participant.

  19. withasmile

    We are a homeschooling family with nine kids ranging from 2 to 14. Our kids are allowed to do whatever extracurricular activities they want, as long as we can afford the time and money. We currently have various kids participating in gymnastics, wrestling, cross country, choir, theater, computer programming, piano, guitar, and church activities.

    I really believe that sports and activities are good for kids. They’re beneficial physically, and they also provide opportunities to practice mental strength, to set goals and achieve them, to work with others, to meet people, to confront their fears, and so on. My kids really enjoy their activities and I think they enrich their lives. Plus it’s really fun to go as a family and support a child at a wrestling tournament or a a choir concert or a play.

    Each of my kids is very unique. One daughter loves to be busy so she does gymnastics, choir, theater, piano, guitar, and youth group at church, plus she gives weekly service to one of our neighbors (cleaning the neighbors house each week for free because she’s unable to), keeps up with her school work, and still finds time to play with friends. On the other hand, I have a son who loves to be home. He has tried lots of sports and just doesn’t like them. He goes to cub scouts weekly and I teach him beginning piano at home. I’d never put my kid into an activity or sport that he/she didn’t want to do.

    Because we homeschool and spend all day together as a family, I feel like I can let the kids have busy afternoon/evening schedules. We spend all our together during the day. We eat most meals together, though we sometimes have to be flexible with dinner during busy seasons (eating late, packing sandwiches, etc) We have fun family activities planned every week, family scripture study every night, etc. So even with sports, we still have a lot of family time.

    Every family is unique. We all just need to do what works for our own families. 🙂

    • Renee

      I totally get it with the homeschooling. A little separation and individual activities and can be a great thing. Right now, I feel like I don’t see my kids enough. We have one homeschooling, on at community college, 3 in junior high and 3 in elementary school…we are already running in a million different directions.

      • withasmile

        Yeah, it’s so important to have time together. If we weren’t homeschooling, my kids wouldn’t participate in after-school activities because between school, activities, and homework, I really would never see them. Having them home all day is what allows me to let them participate in other things in the evening.

  20. Jill

    I realize this discussion focus on sports, but it also tangents into activities as a whole, including the balance needed between family time and outside commitments. We have six kids, plus had extras living with our family for several years and the youngest is now 19, but I really remember the balancing act. Dance, soccer, football, track, cross country, piano, band and church activities all happened, (along with special needs kids, four years of home schooling and chronic medical issues) and we were better or worse at the balance at given times. I have only three comments. One, music lessons (which are also available on-line and can be very expensive or very reasonable) give much of the same value as sports, with band, choir, and orchestra being school options that provide skill, group work and friendship, along with the value of practice hours and time management. Also, music ability lasts forever, whereas sports are more limited as lifetime pursuits. Second, pray individually and as a family for guidance, and confirmation of decisions. Different kids need different approaches, as you well know! Third, if it is available, a study hall makes the homework after school and practice almost go away, leaving more family time. Good luck!

  21. Rebecca

    I grew up in the sub-suburbs, with a 30 minute drive to just about anything. My parents’ policy was, one day a week in town for activities. My sister and I both play string instruments and were heavily involved in the youth orchestra. Our lessons were scheduled in the afternoon before our evening orchestra practice. When my sister danced, her class was early evening, just before orchestra. Since we were homeschooled, my mom planned our audio lectures and reading for that day, while keeping written work to where we could finish it before we left. She would run short errands (gas, bank, etc) during our lessons, and do her department store trips while we were at orchestra. That one day a week could be chaotic, but the chaos stayed contained.
    My mom, sister, and I would pack supper to eat between activities. My dad scheduled his church meetings that same night. By choosing to write off family dinner one night a week, my parents ensured it could happen the other 6 days.

    • Renee

      Yes, we live in a rural area so riding the city bus doesn’t work…its fine, my kids are happy and active. This discussion has definitely convinced me that I don’t want to throw our family into sports or more activities. Your mom’s plan sounds like a very good one!

  22. MotherOf4Girls

    We stick to spring break camps and summer camp sports. They are not in school, so its a daytime schedule, and doesn’t interfere with evenings, chores (not too much), and weekends. No, they are not superstar athletes, but my oldest is 9. I want them to be healthy and fit, but there is many other options to exercise than a team sport ie. family swimming, skating, bike rides, hikes, jogging, fishing (being outdoors), snowshoeing, skiing/boarding, gardening, and more! We usually go for long walks (followed by a play at a playground) or family swims/skates.

    • Renee

      This is such a good idea. I hate when every evening is overtaken by sports…especially when they have already been gone at school all day.

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