Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Community Makes Time for Family

I'm reading 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (100 Simple Secrets Series). I love this book series - each item is only one page long and the books short, so it's easy to pick the book up and put it down.

Number 46 is "Encourage, but Don't Require Activities," and it includes a great idea I thought I'd share.

We've all read how children - especially suburban, middle-class children - these days are over-scheduled. Heck, the whole family is over-scheduled. Obviously, this is not The Biggest Problem in the World. There are much bigger problems - world hunger, war, child abuse. But I think this is a really bad trend for the following reasons:
1. Over-scheduled kids become accustomed to someone entertaining them. They therefore do not take responsibility for entertaining themselves. They are easily bored. All of which makes them easy prey for the entertainment industry.
2. Over-scheduled children and parents don't have time for self-reflection, or even processing what's happening in their lives. This leads to a less thoughtful society, a society busy being busy. This is a Bad Idea because it creates a society that is endlessly self-indulgent and too concerned with its own affairs to worry about real world problems.
3. Over-scheduling doesn't leave time for imaginative play and family bonding.

One school came up with a simple solution: Community leaders and school officials declared the suburb would have a Family Night - one evening a week when nothing was scheduled. No school activities, no homework, no city council meeting, nothing, nadda.

They actually received calls from people asking what they should plan to do on Family Night.

The book quotes one of the originators as saying the idea was to push the pause button on busy suburban lives. The woman, who is named only as Marcia, says:

"Some people say this is just the way it is to be a parent these days. Our community wants to throw out the suggestion that maybe there is a choice. Maybe all these activities and running around aren't in the best interest of your children."

I'll second that.

Action Steps:
  1. Start circulating the idea among other parents at your child's school. Ask your child's teacher to consider one night a week without homework.
  2. Move up: Ask your school or even your school district to support a Family Night. Start with the principal, write a letter to the superintendent and speak to the school board if necessary. Ask for one night a week, but accept no less than one night a month. No homework. No activities. Not even athletic practice.
  3. Email your city council and suggest it support the idea.
  4. Pick one: Either write a letter to the editor or email or phone a local newspaper columnist. Columnist and editors always looking for ideas to write about, and you may recruit a powerful ally with this one contact.

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Anonymous Hopeful Spirit said...

Thanks for submitting your post to the Carnival of Family Life which I am hosting this week!

Have you considered hosting? Check out the hosting schedule at!

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving weekend.

12:31 AM  
Blogger LivingByLearning said...

Great ideas! Here are a couple more:

Contact all the art, dance, theatre, and music programs to cancel classes and rehearsals on family night.

Contact all sports program to cancel games and practices on family night.

11:24 PM  

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