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.
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
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.
- 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
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 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?
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.
- 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.
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?