Sunday, October 24, 2010

Last Sunday my friend and I went to see Race to Nowhere. I wanted to see this movie since it is created by a SF Bay Area film makers and raises the problem that seem more typical for our area than failing schools - the problem of overwhelmed and stressed kids trying to succeed in competitive environments where stakes seem to be raised every day. It’s about parents pushing their kids because everyone else seem to be pushing too. It’s about childhood without any downtime, about children who don’t have time to chill out or play because they are running around from soccer practice to piano lessons and then come home and spend hours on homework. It’s about teachers who cannot teach the way they want, because their success is measured not in how engaged their students are but in the scores of standardized tests. And the interesting part is that private schools are affected even more with this drive to success than public schools. Even though I was not in full agreement with all the points of the movie, it’s definitely worth checking out if it plays somewhere near you.

It made me think of how we view “success” in our own family. Both me and my husband are educated professionals, and we definitely want quality education for our daughter. But we also want her to learn that she doesn’t have to be the best in everything she does and she doesn’t have to be constantly busy. Right now we deliberately avoid extracurricular activities because we want to have the time to spend together as a family. I am sure that eventually she will start doing something, but I just don’t want her to be on this merry-go-round of endless classes  and to spend hours in the car being shuttled from one activity to another. I am hoping to raise a healthy, kind, respectful and intelligent child who has time to pursue her own interests and to try different things without feeling a pressure to perform.

Question: Do you feel that your kids, especially older kids, are overloaded with all their obligations? How do you define success in your family?

17 comments:

Elle Belles Bows said...

Thanks for sharing the link to Race to Nowhere. We do not have a screening near us, but we will see it when it is available on DVD. I agree....children need "down" time to nurture their imagination. Kerri

Debbie said...

Great Post! Many points you made in here are things that I have said for sometime. I don't see this as a new problem but one that has been coming on for the last 15 or more years. My children use to beg to be in this sport and that sport, while all the while having so much homework, with music lessons. I believed then as I believe now this becomes too much for the child. Here where we live now that is normal life for children. We have no child playing just having fun in the yards, parks or with friends, they are all being shuffled to soccer, baseball, football, music, dance, homework, the list could go on and on, that is why it is hard to find playmates for Selena. I see parents pushing their children, but I also see a push in the schools and society as a whole that the busier we keep our children the less time they will have on their hands to get in trouble, but it comes at a cost it also robs them of that downtime or being a child. I cringe when someone mentions to me to get Selena involved in competitive sports, and/or many other extra activities, not that I don't feel an extra activity can't be good in moderation. Children have to be children first.

Debbie said...

I forgot to answer the second question. We define success by how happy and well adjusted our child is. It is the moments that make them feel happy and carefree that is going to be the memories they will carry forever.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Believe it or not, this is another issue I tie very closely to my faith.

We don't expect complete success in everything the children do, but we do expect they will give whatever they are doing their all - Colossians 3:23 says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men"

If they have the ability to do something well, and they only do it halfway, because they don't want to put the effort into it - that is a failure, even if by "grade" standards, they were above average.

On the other hand, if they put their full effort into it, it's a success, even if they are not the "best".

This is something Doug, and I try to keep in mind in our daily work, too. "since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is Lord Christ you are serving" - not the boss, or our parents, or the neighbors, or even our country - our effort is a form of worship to the Lord.

Debbie said...

I love Leah's comment! Giving our all to whatever we are doing, putting in the effort and knowing we did, should be our success, not the grade or how well we did. Knowing that our children are putting the effort into whatever they maybe doing is in my opinion worth much more then the grade or result.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

I LOVE this post Natalie! This is something Jamie and I try to keep a very close watch on and make sure family and faith come first. I agree wholeheartedly with Leah's response and it is the same way we go about all that we do too--the same way we believe.

So far we only have Joe doing soccer, and that is by choice, however, we will not be a "sports" family as I have mentioned before. The effort involved in it takes too much emphasis off of the family and puts the emphasis on the activity, peers instead. Activities in our family will be based and chosen on interests of the child as long as they do not sacrifice family time.

I hope this makes sense. I agree with your philosophy for Anna too.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

How could I forget to mention this trailer. I watched this a while back and Natalie, this is one of the many reasons we have chosen to homeschool. In my opinion, the school system robs a child of not only their childhood, but of their creativity, their drive, all that they posess that is "theirs", and makes them a robot of sorts.

My children may not grow up to be scholars, but it is my goal in homeschooling that leave home being properly educated, well rounded, respectful, kind, creative children with a strong sense of self, self worth and a passion for learning.

Joyful Learner said...

Way to go Leah! You just reminded me the wisdom of God and the need to spend more time with Him.

We signed up for classes because our neighborhood kids are in preschool during the day. But we will be scaling back in Nov. and going back to more time at home.

For me, success is being able to do what you love and to love learning new things. I figure this can lead to excellence in whatever you do and/or you will have spent time enjoying what you do! We also seek balance.

MaryAnne said...

This is on my mind all the time. My parents tried to protect their children from this, and still my 15yo sister attempted suicide because she couldn't handle the pressure she feels to excel at ridiculous levels. It breaks my heart to see her measuring her self-worth by whether she got an A or an A-, and what chair she gets in honor orchestra.

I feel like our society has moved from a blue-collar child workforce right into a white-collar one. And I worry that I don't know how to counteract it...

Christy said...

I love Leah's comment. She is right on.

I also think you are doing a great job with Anna and there is no need to push her into activities if she is not requesting them. Reagan wanted to dance from the time she was two (maybe earlier) so I enrolled her at teh age of three. She also wanted to play sports because she saw her brothers play.

I have not seen the movie yet, but I want to. I think I will agree with some of it and disagree with some of it.

On another note, we are a "sports family" and I love it and would not change a thing about it. My kids play one sport each season. This is great for their confidence, team building skills, and physical fitness. They learn so much through sports and we are not running from activity to activity spending hours in the car. The games and practices probably add up to two hours a week (if that) for the little ones and ten hours a week for T (he plays football for the middle school and his practices are right after school). R also does dance one hour a week because she LOVES to dance and I would never think of taking that away from her. Also, sports time is family time for us. We go to all games as a family and we enjoy cheering each other on in their efforts. There is certainly no sacrifice in family time because it is something we love to do together. WE also hike together, ski together, ride bikes together, and enjoy sports like tennis together as a family. This makes me sound athletic, but I am not at all. I just do the best I can to set a good example for my children. I think that involving children in sports is important because it teaches them to value their bodies and not abuse them. I also think activities give children a skill or talent that they can enjoy throughout life - like playing a musical instrument.

This comment is all over the place, sorry.

Crunchy and Green said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but it sounds a lot like the book The Hurried Child by David Elkind which was first written 20 years ago about this very topic. He argues that the push for kids grow up faster and achieve more at a younger age is meant to rationalize the needs of adults, not serve the needs of kids. Our oldest, J, goes to a blue-ribbon public school which is considered one of the best schools in the country and I see the push every year to make kids grow up faster. This year the third graders are rotating teachers so that they can start to prepare for middle school! We do allow enrichment activities, but we limit them to one activity per child. J had to give up Karate this year when he wanted to add Destination Imagination and M gave up swimming to start ballet. Both kids chose what activity they wanted to keep or give up.

Joyful Learner said...

I was going to say that I was one of those kids in high school who pushed myself to get good grades. I went back home and found my diary during that time and read how miserable I was with all the homework I had to do on top of being in numerous activities. I saved all my typed up homework which in hindsight was just busy work because I didn't learn much from them. With tennis practice and soccer practice, I didn't have much time to study and didn't sleep well. I began taking Vivarin (spell?) which were caffeine pills to help me stay awake. I remember shaking during my Regents exams because of it. Luckily, my mother found them and threw them out.

I learned a lot from that experience and would do things very differently. There was just so much misdirected energy and to think, I could have spent my time wisely if only I got off the rat race.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

Wow, I'll have to check out this movie. I'm with you on avoiding extra-curricular activities. It's sooooo easy to get suckered into doing ALL sorts of things, and before you know it you're left carting them to and from all over town with very little time in-between.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Wow! I had totally forgotten about Vivarin - or however you spell it - it was all the rage when I was in high school. I don't think I took any though, I was pretty hyper already - and valued my sleep :) But, I can remember everyone passing it around, before tests. I was in a boarding school, so no parents around to throw things like that away.

Ticia said...

The advantage of commenting late :)

Honestly that is one of the things that scares me most. Being over committed. Right now it seems like we're going all the time and the kids aren't in any extra activities.

I have to admit all of the "extra" stuff is part of why I'm homeschooling, our local schools here are much the same way. Not only is there the push for grades, but involvement in EVERYTHING. It's crazy.

I think if I ever stop homeschooling, there's a charter school here that is half day, and I'll probably do that.

Autumn said...

We are like you in that we don't want the boys to have extracurricular activities right now. If they start showing extreme aptitude in some area (say, music, for instance) then we'd consider it. The day that one of them says, "Mom, I want to learn how to do _____." is the day we'll think about doing an activity! I wonder if it's just a product of living in an affluent area that so many kids are in 'classes'? For right now we are very much enjoying spending time as a family. I know this time will be gone so quickly, and I don't want to spend their childhood just shuttling them around.

The girl who painted trees said...

I am currently reading Hothouse Kids which talks about some of this. I wish I had time to actually write all I think about the topic. I think some time soon I'll have to write an entry on it on my blog.