Originally posted on July 14, 2014
One thing America prides itself on is being a land of infinite variety. We have ice cream parlors famous for the number of choices they provide, popular restaurants with secret menus for regulars and big box stores featuring rows and rows, or webpage after webpage, of options.
The same is true with class schedules for today’s students. Seeking to meet the diverse needs and interests of modern teens, high schools provide an abundance of activities, clubs, electives and sports. While we think being involved in more groups in high school means your student is likely to get into a better college, it seems that doing fewer things better would be more impressive to a school looking at thousands of applicants playing the same game as everyone else.
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying something out for a season or a semester, but adding activities on top of each other wears you out and doesn’t do as much for your teens as you might think. They become exhausted when they have daily club meetings and sports practices in addition to their usual stack of homework. And, with travel ball programs training students in the off season, being at practice all the time eats up time that could be spent on other activities, perhaps involving the whole family. In addition, the costs associated with partaking in all these activities, after you factor in uniforms, equipment, travel expenses, training and so forth, adds up pretty quickly.
While it is fun to see the star football player belt out tunes alongside the rest of the drama cast in the spring musical, perhaps this should be the exception rather than the rule. It is perfectly reasonable for your student to have 1-2 sports or activities at school that occupies his or her time in addition to regular schoolwork. And now with the push to have students complete mandatory community service hours, there is little time for old-fashioned, nonscheduled teenage fun. Besides, maybe it’s time we get back to the notion that it’s good for adolescents to find ways to entertain themselves without an electronic device or a coach telling them what to do.
When I teach Henry David Thoreau to my juniors, I pause for a moment to focus on what he said in Walden about making our lives less complicated. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen...”
When it comes to our lives, and those of our children, this is an idea worth considering.
I have been a public high school teacher in Southern California since 2005 and writing since junior high. I have an affinity for chocolate, photography, sarcasm and well-written TV shows that refuse to talk down to their audiences.