Still trying to limit my kids’ extra curricular activities

When my kids first started school, my goal was to not have them over scheduled with activities. In fact in January 2013, I wrote a post about keeping their activities to one extra-curricular activity per child.

Well, now that they are older (Lexie is 9 and Jase is 12), it has proven to be too hard to keep that one activity goal.

Jase receiving his second degree red belt in May 2017.

It all started last year when Jase was in fifth grade. He wanted to return to soccer, but he was still taking karate (which he began in kindergarten). Ok, I thought. Two activities were fine. Then during the first month of school, the middle school orchestra came to perform as a method of recruiting members. He wanted to do strings which was free (except for the violin rental.) So he ended up with three activities.

At that time, Lexie just had one – gymnastics.

A new school year has begun, and it is time to select activities for this school year. I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity.

Lexie’s rendition of the Pokemon – Fennekin.

Lexie decided in August that gymnastics was not her passion and wanted to stop. She had been doing it for a year and a half. She loves art so I signed her up for an after-school art class that meets once a week for 12 weeks.

She also likes to sing so she will also be joining choir. This school group meets twice a week before school. She will have one performance during the holidays and a field trip to sing at another location – usually a nursing home.

Jase right now has two activities. He is still doing karate. He is currently a second degree red belt. He is also in the orchestra. Now orchestra is a class at his middle school, but I am also counting it as an extra-curricular activity as they will sometimes have after school practice, and they do have performances and competitions throughout the year.

While he currently has two activities and I would be happy with him limiting his extracurricular activities to these, I am still encouraging him to find a club at the middle school he might want to join. I think joining a club will be a great way to make friends at his new school. But if he doesn’t find one that interests him that is fine too.

As it is, I think two activists a piece are just fine for them. I like keeping them busy, but I don’t think kids need every minute of their day scheduled. They need time for homework, and of course they need down time where they can just have fun and enjoy their childhood.

Youth Karate – My son earns his red belt


Jase sparing as a white belt.

Jase was six-years old when he first expressed an interest in karate. Around the same time, a flyer came home about karate classes done in the evenings at a neighboring elementary school. At $60 for a 10-week class and with the first class free, it sounded like a great opportunity for Jase to try karate.

He liked the class, so we signed him up for the winter session. And then the spring session. He enjoyed learning the moves. We attended karate weapons camp and he went to the required tournaments. By May, he was an orange belt.


Retiring Jase’s green belt as he became a blue belt.

And up through the belt colors he went – from white, to yellow, orange, green, blue and then to purple.  There are three degrees of purple. Beginning at green belt, the tests are further apart meaning you need more class hours and tournaments to rank up to the next level. It was finally as a purple belt that he won his first tournament. He then won the next one two as he got better at sparring.

Jase kept up karate for three years, taking the fall, winter and spring sessions and then skipping the summer. All of his hard work and practice finally paid off last week when he took his red belt test. (A red belt is the highest level he can reach as a youth, though there are three degrees of red, so he will be continuing on.)

The test for a red belt was much different than the others. For most tests, you did the required number of sit-ups and pushups, you answered history questions and then were tested on a few techniques or combinations. But there is more to a red belt test.

Red belt test requirements

  • 200 sit-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 1 mile run
  • 250-word essay on attitude
  • Know all history from white belt on up
  • Perform a 30-step kata (that he had to create and name)
  • Pass his techniques test

Jase has not written a lot of essays in school so getting him to expand on the word attitude was a little bit of a challenge. But we got the essay done before his test. He was more excited to work on his kata called Too Many Fighters. Originally, he made it complex until one of the instructors told him the secret of repeating his actions but just changing directions. That made it so much easier.


Jase the red belt (he also received a red uniform at the ceremony too).

The night of the test we had to arrive early so he could get through all those sit-ups, push-ups and run the mile. Needless to say, he was exhausted after that but no break as the test then began. They don’t let the parents watch the test, so I had to wait outside.

In the end, all the hard work must have paid off as he got his red belt. So proud of him. And glad that he will be sticking with karate in the fall.

Fall sports for the kids

School has started once again. I am not one to insist my kids have extracurricular activities but if there is something that they want to do, I will let them tackle one new thing – be it a sport, club or whatever.

This year, Lexie has chosen to try soccer. She remembers going to games and practices when Jase tried soccer when he was five. I signed her up for the same program through the YMCA. She is on an all-girl team of five and six-year-olds. Her coaches are the parents of one of the other little girls. They coached their daughter’s team in the spring and have coached their son’s team before so they know what we are doing.

Before the first practice, we had to go get the necessary equipment – shin guards, cleats and black shorts. We already had a size 3 soccer ball. The YMCA provides the jersey and matching socks. In the case of Lexie’s team they have yellow as their color. They choose bumblebees as their team name.

The first practice was supposed to be on my birthday but we got to the field only to find out that they were cancelling practice due to a rainstorm that was approaching. Instead the coach met the girls, gave them their jerseys and went over a little bit of what their first game would be like. That first game was the next morning at 10 am!

CIMG3379Yes, they had their first game without ever having a practice. They did get to run through a few drills before the game. But they ended up losing 1-4 against the other team. Lexie had fun though she wasn’t use to being bumped or hit with a ball. She held up well until someone elbowed her in the nose. Luckily that happened in the fourth quarter.

As for Jase, he stuck with karate for the fall. He is currently a first degree purple belt and will be testing this November to become a second degree purple belt. He began karate almost three years ago. I think he does better at an individualized sport like karate than a team sport such as basketball or soccer.

IMG_2032Every season, he is required to participate in a karate tournament. He has yet to win a round during tournament and I know this doesn’t make him happy. He is good at techniques but really doesn’t have the killer instinct for tournament. He is not aggressive and typically falls back into the same few kicks which are his favorite.

But even without his success at tournament, Jase loves karate. He even performed some karate moves for last year’s school talent show. He included some karate weapons for his demonstration. In class, they do not learn about the weapons. They offer camps twice a year where the students learn to use long or short swords, tonfa (police batons), nun chucks, throwing stars and other weapons. At the end of the camp they sell some of the practice weapons.

I am glad the kids are liking their sports this Fall. I don’t know if Lexie will want to continue with soccer. She has tried gymnastics and dance before this and neither of those activities were ones she wanted to stick with. But I am sure Jase will stick with karate for at least a little while longer. He often says he wants to become a red belt which is the highest rank he can attain in the junior level.Until then we will just enjoy going to practices, games and tournaments with the kids.

Allowing kids to just be kids: Limiting their extracurricular activities

School, homework and just normal play time takes up a great amount of time but I still like for the kids to have an organized activity such as a sport or music class to join.

I try to keep their extra activities to just one each for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to spend my time chauffeuring them around every day. Second, I don’t believe in over scheduling their time. No one needs an extra activity every day of the week. I want them to be able to just play with their friends too or read a book or just do nothing. They don’t need every minute of their day scheduled.

I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity. And of course, they don’t have to do an activity, but I want to encourage them to try new things.

Lexie has had way fewer opportunities to do organized activities. I think that is because we found out many of them didn’t work for Jase at such a young age. But now that she is about to turn 5 (in just two months) we signed her up for dance class last week. Lexie has always liked to jump and twirl around the room. She also likes to tumble so we debated between dance or gymnastics. Then I found the perfect class – it is a combination ballet, tap and gymnastics class. They spend 30 minutes on dance and 30 minutes on gymnastics. I also like that the class is centered around having fun rather than preparing for a recital at the end of the session.  (No expensive outfit that she will only wear once.)

IMG_0481Lexie has also expressed an interest in karate and soccer – two sports that Jase has already done. In fact, tomorrow Jase will resume karate where he currently is a green belt.

Jase at age 4 did basketball, which consisted of him mainly standing around looking lost. That summer he started swimming lessons but after a year of lessons I didn’t feel he had advanced as much as he should and discontinued them. Lexie would like swimming lessons but after all the money spent on Jase, it has soured me to using that swim studio, and I have yet to find another one that I like.

Jase also took a sports trial class at age 5 where they spent each class on a different sport. That Fall he began a two-year music program which Lexie has expressed a desire to take too. (You have to be 5 to start so she would start in August if she is still interested.) Jase also did soccer that Spring along with the music class. It is the only time he has had two activities.

I have noticed that Jase does best with individual sports like karate, which he began last January. With both soccer and basketball, he seemed lost and a little timid. I get the feeling that he really isn’t into sports but last year he asked for karate and seems to enjoy it.

So for this semester we have our activities. I will strive to keep their activities to just one each but definitely no more than two and that is something I know I will be able to enforce because after all kids need time to just be kids.