Are Organized Activities for Kids Worth Staying Home For?

Piano lessons. Choir. Hockey. Scouts. Karate. Little League. Dance. Part of the suburban scene in America is organized activities for our kids. If parents decide to ditch the suburbs - do the kids suffer for the lack of these?

Busy! Busy! Busy!

On the one hand, the over-scheduled suburban life is almost always a motivator for families to ditch the suburbs.

By the time you subtract the demands of school, work, church, and organized activities for your kids - what’s left of your week for pure family time?

And all that busy-ness. Is it worth it?

Some say no:

On a recent National Public Radio program, Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said he and another economist could find no evidence that that sort of parental choices could be correlated at all with academic success.NYTimes.com

But that’s one side of the argument. They only looked for academic success. There are other goals for our lives besides straight A’s.

Benefits!

Are all organized activities bad? Surely there are benefits?

“It’s good for kids to be scheduled,” she said. “It’s good for them to have musical activities, sports or other things organized and supervised by an adult. The only place where I say stop is where the child starts to say his or her performance determines his or her self-worth: I am as I can perform.”Suniya Luthar - a psychology professor at Columbia via NYTimes.com

So as long as you can strike the right balance, your child could still reap the benefits of organized activities:

  • Working with other children
  • Taking direction from other adults
  • Being part of a team experience
  • Honing skills

Ditchers vs. Organized Activities

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Expert opinions and research aside, how do ditched families deal with kids and organized activities?

What We Don’t See

We really haven’t seen ditched families engage with local communities as they travel, somehow finding and taking part in a local Little League, for example.

Why?

  • Too much work - by the time you find, contact, and arrange a connection with a local group it’s time to move down the road
  • Lack of trust - people are generally good and mean well, but as a parent it’s tough to deliver your precious child into the hands of strangers
  • Location - RV parks and marinas are rarely close to places where organized community activities happen
  • A desire to let kids roam free and unscheduled

What We Do See

What we do see are ditched families doing things like:

  • Canoeing or kayaking
  • Swimming with manatees
  • Going on horseback rides
  • Taking long family bike rides
  • Taking family hikes
  • Getting impromptu music lessons from marina neighbors
  • Snorkeling in spots around the world
  • Learning crafts from natives in foreign country
  • Making up games & playing them with other traveling kids

But mainly?

We see kids thriving in ways that the suburban life just can’t provide.

How? Just take a gander at our Instagram feed.

Our Theory

Our theory is that much of suburban culture is in response to its own demands and constraints.

That so many high school kids have to have scheduled volunteer experiences to put on a resume is due to a lifestyle that doesn’t present those opportunities naturally.

That we have so many organized sports is because we don’t trust our kids to play unsupervised at a neighborhood park.

That we need an organized activity to teach teamwork is because we rarely do projects or work as a family.

Now - pull yourself out of that suburban culture. Do you still need those organized activities to round out your kid’s world?

Ultimately?

Every decision you make as a parent is a gamble. You try to do the best you can for your kids now to prevent their failure and guarantee their success in the future.

We had a choice.

We could stay on the same track as everyone else we knew. We could provide our kids with a good but average suburban (and let’s face it - unremarkable) upbringing.

Or.

We could:

  • Not be average
  • Have stories to tell
  • Learn history where it happened
  • See places most people don’t
  • Meet cultures outside of our own
  • Have uninterrupted family time
  • Show our kids a lifestyle not based on consumerism
  • Have an adventure

We could ditch suburbia.

Which Pill?

In the words of Morpheus from The Matrix:

You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Red or blue for you?

 

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3 Comments Are Organized Activities for Kids Worth Staying Home For?

  1. Picture of Garrett TershelGarrett TershelMarch 07, 2016

    Thanks

    So this has been a bit of a sticking point for my wife and I.  We are not strongly connected to any community, sports, music, church etc,  but we do have a couple of interests and I would like to see them continue, choir, dance, piano, skating etc.  After posting on a couple of RV Facebook groups inquiring about kids classes and sports on the road, I felt the general response was “life is going to change and be ready to embrace that change if you decide to hit the road” in other words, give them up there will be something else.  I will keep the advice in mind. 
    On the other hand I think this may be the piece I spend some time trying to continue on the road.  I may run into a bunch of roadblocks like you mention above.  It will definitely take more work and to keep some consistency I think there will have to be an online resource for things like music.  It may influence some of our stops along the road but I have found in my life that sports of some kind even at 40 have been a constant.  I am not great at any sport but I enjoy playing.  I also find many professional contacts through these sports connections.  Even in our S/B playing in the same gym I meet someone new every week.  It tends to keep me active both socially and physically.  Will this work for my kids?  I don’t know.  I do know that they have more friends through sports connections than through homeschool groups.  One of my kids is naturally competitive and we cannot find any healthy competition through homeschool groups so I have found sports to be a great outlet.

    This does bring up another question.  Was there an interest, activity, way of life you tried to continue on the road and found after a period of time you were unable to enjoy it like you did when you were in a S/B?

    Thanks for the post, it was definitely the best response, even if it wasn’t what I “wanted” to hear. 

    G

  2. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkMarch 07, 2016

    Ultimately getting on the road requires some sacrifices. Seems like less all the time (washers, dryers and even dishwashers in RVs now, etc) but still, there are some.

    What I sacrificed to get on the road was garage projects.

    I had a ‘64 CJ6 Jeep and matching ‘50’s era Bantam Jeep Trailer that I had worked on for years. I was in the middle of telling the kids they’d have to give up some of their toys when I realized I had to do the same.

    It took awhile for the “need” to set in - but over last winter I was itching to get off screens and make stuff with my hands again.

    Obviously you can’t fulltime RV travel and work on an old project car, so I had to find a new way to scratch that itch.

    I’d dabbled a bit in junkyard sculpture the winter we came back home to sell the house. I loved it - but it required a welder, grinder, drill press etc.

    I found a way to scale that back to stuff I could carry and fit together without welding. I sourced some ‘50’s era electronics gear, gutted it, and used the parts for small sculptures. One of the radios (an ‘52 art deco-ish table radio) I reworked with new guts to be a Bluetooth speaker.

    You can see some of the other pieces here.

    I have more to do, but it’s been a while.  We’ve been both distracted in getting our business refocused and have been in places without picnic tables to work at.

    I’m starting to think that the one thing that would get me off the road again would be a shop/studio to be able to build bigger-scale pieces in again.

    The thing with RVing is that it’s totally flexible. Travel when during the off-season for sports, then stay put for a season.

  3. Picture of LouLouMarch 08, 2016

    Great post as usual! While we’re still in our s/b, Nevaeh (our daughter) will continue to be involved in her dance lessons. What is great though is the fact that she also loves to be outdoors, especially hiking and biking. These are things we currently do as a family, and look forward to the changes in sights and terrains when we embark on our travels.

    I agree that the activities may look a little different, but so does full-time RVing as compared to suburbia dwelling. The pressure to perform a scheduled task can be replaced with the freedom to try new things as a family.

    Thanks again,
    Lou

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