Can I See The Playbook?

by Gigi Ross on June 12, 2013

Some of us (myself included) look forward to summer and its respite from the onslaught of school-year extracurricular activities. But how do we help our kids find their passions while still keeping our sanity? That’s what Kerry from Breadwinning Mama talks about today.

extracurricular activities

Read Kerry’s Perspective

With three kids, two of which are in the throes of after-school activities, our evenings and weekends have become crazy. Homework is a given, but my boys are also playing baseball, one is involved in Scouts, and the other is doing karate. Throw in religious classes and the occasional birthday party and we are done. DONE! God help us when our two-year-old starts participating in her own pursuits.

This break-neck schedule is not new to me. My mom and dad – but primarily my mom – managed to shuttle me and my two siblings all over town for our various sports and musical endeavors. I’m only in the early stages, but I’m seriously wondering how she stayed sane through those years. She too was working, and even had a second job for a few years to help save up for all of extracurricular expenses. I should probably nominate her for sainthood now.

Still today, there seems to be even more activities for kids. Art, lacrosse, swimming, flag football, golf, Lego engineering. My husband and I want our boys to be involved in something they enjoy. If the activity just so happens to be something at which they excel, even better.

With so many options, I get overwhelmed. How do we know where to invest our time? We could be wasting time in baseball. Maybe I have the next Michael Phelps, but how do I know unless we sign up for swim? Maybe we should trade our time on the soccer field for guitar lessons.

Can’t kids come with a playbook?

There are only so many hours in the day. I wish someone could give me the sign and tell me which activities my kids would enjoy the most. I suppose the discovery process should be part of the adventure. My boys are young and it is great for them to be exposed to so many different opportunities. But my time-sucked, exhausted side wishes for a crystal ball. Tell me what my kids will love. Tell me so I can stop this activity-shuttling madness.

I honestly don’t have a problem with the fact that we are busy. But it pains me when my kid strikes out or goes through the motions on the soccer field. Maybe this just isn’t his sport. Perhaps he would have more fun – and success – in some activity we’ve yet to discover. Or do we stick it out just one more year. Maybe then the aggression will kick in, or he’ll grow into his body. I don’t know.

Thus, the search continues. My boys are still young – almost nine and six – so we have many years to discover their talents and pleasures. But I wouldn’t turn away from the secret playbook either; it could save us years of guesswork and hours at the ball field.

How are you helping you children find their passions?

Do the after-school activities overwhelm your household?

Kerry juggles a full-time marketing job, husband, three young kids, an overly-energetic puppy, and a LONG commute on Southern California’s finest freeways. Squeezing in exercise is a must, and she loves to curl up with a good book. As she says, “Life is chaotic, but sweet.” You can find her blogging over at Breadwinning Mama ( and tweeting as @breadwinningmom.

Watch the Discussion On Extracurricular Activities

Now that you’ve read Kerry’s post, watch a group of moms discuss the topic:

Kerry Rivera |
Natalie Chiles |
Renee Jacobson |
Katie Sluiter |
Christine Krahling |


Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice June 12, 2013 at 5:22 am

LEGO Engineering? Where do you find such magical activities? My kiddo has no real interest in his current options. He now hates soccer. Wants nothing to do with other sports—or drama, music, etc. Legos? That I could sell. I just want him to find one passion (besides video games), one thing to productively channel his brains and engery into.

I don’t know how you do it.

Kerry June 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm

OK, first I have to comment that both spell our name the same! :) I betcha everyone spells it wrong, right? In regards to the Lego engineering class, I discovered this through our city for the summer. They also had classes on messy science, Jedi training and Harry Potter wizardry. So cool! I try to find some out of the ordinary stuff for the summer because my boys will be bugging us to play video games too. Good luck with finding that “passion.” Seems like many of us are on that quest. :)

jamie@southmainmuse June 12, 2013 at 5:23 am

With my youngest of three now nine — I really try to decide what is the best activity for that child and don’t try and do EVERYTHING just because all the other moms run from art lessons, to french, to the soccer field, to tennis. With my oldest in college, I realize that is goes so quickly. No need to make us crazy (not like we aren’t crazy busy) but I want to direct our time to things that matter. Because they are gone quick enough.

Kerry June 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm

That’s great advice. I can already see time flying by. These activities can become so time-consuming. On some weekends, I want us to just be able to break away and go camping or to the movies or to an amusement park. I also know in a few years the kids will want to spend more time with their friends. I feel like we’re always sprinting!

angela June 12, 2013 at 5:28 am

This is something with which I struggle, even though I’m barely in the thick of it yet. I don’t know if I’ll be around during the live hangout but will definitely tune in later.

Anastasia @ eco-babyz June 12, 2013 at 5:44 am

Right now the choice is pretty easy for me, we don’t have the room in the budget for extra curricular activities. :) Okay, so my kids are only 4.5 and 18 months, but there is a lot of pressure for ballet, gymnastics, piano, etc. Fortunately, fitting it all in will not be an issue with us, we homeschool. Academically, we can get the same amount of work done in about 3 hours as students in school accomplish in about 8. So that buys us a lot of time to spend as we see fit – which would usually be family time and time for the kids to pursue specific interest – whether that is honing their drawing skills or a scavenger hunt at the beach. I believe everything the kids do involves learning in one way or another, but they also need downtime. Kids today don’t have what kids had just a few decades ago – which I think is part of the reason their imaginations are not as developed. Kids have no unstructured play time, all day every day they are told what to do and think. I’m really glad to have had a childhood with tons of free time, playing outdoors with my friends nearly all day, making up games, making our own toys, etc. But I do sometimes wish we could afford something extracurricular for my kids lol :)

Kerry June 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm

That sounds like an amazing set-up! The homeschool option seems to give you more chances to connect as a family and get out of the confines of a classroom. I feel yah on the expenses. So far we’ve been able to manage, but my husband and I both work. I think when you find something your kids really want to try, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Many programs offer scholarships and there is always fundraising.

renee schuls-jacobson June 12, 2013 at 7:26 am

I’m looking forward to hearing from all the panelists today at the Gigi’s Hangout! I have a soon-to-be 14-year-old who didn’t like traditional ball sports, which led us on a quest to find a sport he would enjoy. Well, we found one. And he loves his sport — but boy, is it a shlep. Sometimes I feel like I live in my car, and I only have one child! I can’t wait to hear how everyone else balances this stuff!

The Dose of Reality June 12, 2013 at 8:21 am

Yes, yes, triple yes! It is so hard to know how to balance everything and what to pick and choose…never mind even considering the cost of it all! This is an excellent post!-The Dose Girls

Julie June 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

Great article. I am about to admit something that is true, but may not be well received. My two kids are involved in activities that I get the most enjoyment out of. I work from home and go stir crazy with being at home all day that when I get out to take the kids to practice, that is my social time with the other parents. Maybe it is a bit selfish of me, but I know that we have made the best friends through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, baseball, flag football, and soccer. Although my 9 year old has done art lessons here and there I don’t get the enjoyment out of that and then what do I do with all her creations? I am sorry to sound so selfish. My 11 year old has found his love in baseball and scouts, but I am still searching for the activity that grabs by 9 year old daughter’s attention.

Blackgirlinmaine June 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm

This is pretty much my approach, pick/suggest things that we the parents can tolerate as well. I also head up an non-profit agency that has an after-school program so I make use of the programming at the center for my own kid as well.

While I would love to be one of those parents who allows their kids to do many things, I think there is value in making sure we have routine and time together as a family too.

Kerry June 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm

That’s awesome that you’ve been able to create a solution/after-school life that the whole family enjoys. I love when my kids get into a group or team with fun families. God knows those baseball games can last forever, so we’ve been fortunate to be on some teams and make some wonderful new friendships.

Rusti June 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

My girls are just-turned 4yrs and 13mos (today!) and we haven’t begun any extracurriculars yet… I see my sister and sisters-in-law running here and there and everywhere with all of their kids’ activities and I wonder how the heck they do all of that and still manage to get dinner/dishes/laundry/etc. done? I can barely manage the dinner some nights after a full day at work 😉 Some of our nieces/nephews are definitely INTO certain sports, so I think that must help, that they’re eager and excited, and a few others don’t seem to have much enthusiasm for the sport they’re in – they spend the majority of their time on the soccer/T-ball field picking daisies (or dandelions anyway) 😉 My 4yr old loves singing, dancing, and helping Hubs with hunting preparations… I have no idea what activities she’s going to have an interest in… or when we’ll actually start her in any!!

Anita @ Losing Austin June 12, 2013 at 10:42 am

It’s a tough one! We’ve chosen for our 9 year old to focus on the one thing he loves and excels at- but he stays after school for a variety of activities that give him a more well rounded experience and the chance to see what he loves. But for us, the 3-5 days a week we spend time at the ballfield is family time. We have great friends through baseball, we spend those hours together and we love it.

Michelle June 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Afterschool activities take a huge chunk of everyday for us. This spring my high school son ran track and played town soccer. My youngest son played soccer and just started the BMX season a few weeks ago. My daughter plays soccer and I drove her to practice an hour away 3 times a week and because the team played regionally, many of our games were out of state. We had a lot of long drives and a tournament we had to fly to. Then of course there was religious ed and homework. My afterschool shuttling often started at 3 and ended with me getting home at 9 many times. If we didn’t have friends we could call on to help sometimes, esp with the boys, I don’t know what I would have done!! Am I nuts? Yes probably. But the kids truly love their sports and so we deal with it, knowing that it will get easier…one will be driving soon. But it can be overwhelming at times. I am truly looking forward to the summertime.

Kerry June 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Michelle – sounds like you are doing the routine that I grew up on. As soon as I turned 16, my parents bought a third car so I could shuttle myself. I’m at the early years on this journey, but I think this stage goes fast. I want to strike a balance, but I think with my 3 kids and juggling just a few things, life will simply be crazy! July 10, 2013 at 1:47 am

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