Over-scheduling is a hot topic in parenting circles. “Are my kids doing too much?” “Are we providing them with the best opportunities?” “What is our priority?” These are questions many parents wrestle with, but in the end, families have to strike their own balance. Still, one thing is for sure: Every family is different.
The Castillo family of Smithfield shared insight into their family’s schedule, but Amy was quick to say that what works for them doesn’t work for everyone. “We are far from perfect,” Amy said. “But we attack every day and do our best to make the most out of life.”
Wes and Amy Castillo are the parents of four children. Their oldest daughter, Izzie, 17, is a junior at Sky View High School and a cheerleader. She works part time as a bagger at Lee’s Marketplace, takes advanced placement courses at school and is actively involved with her church youth group.
Gracie, 14, is a freshmen at North Cache, a member of the Sky View drill team, a studio dancer, runs track, is an honor student and is also involved with her church youth group.
The younger two children in the family are also involved. Max, 10, plays whatever sport is in season. He enjoys competitive basketball, club baseball and football, studies piano, is enrolled in a Portuguese immersion program at his elementary school and is an active Cub Scout.
Ava, 8, is also studying Portuguese at school, is learning to play piano and enjoys playing recreational basketball and coach-pitch baseball, dancing and tumbling. As her mom puts it, “She is still trying to find her ‘thing.’”
No doubt about it, like most families, the Castillos are busy. Wes recently graduated from nursing school and works as a nurse on the Transitional Care Unit at Logan Regional Hospital, and does pediatric home health care for Access Home Health Care. Amy is a full-time tax accountant at Grover & Canfield, PLLC.
“Our hobbies are supporting our kids,” Amy said. “Wes coaches every team he can. When our older daughters began playing, he quit playing and became the coach. It wasn’t about him anymore. There is nothing we’d rather be doing than watching our kids do something they love.”
So how do they manage it all? Amy says prioritizing and balance. “School has to be a priority. When grades start slipping extra curricular activities have to be slimmed down,” she said. “We also don’t take a lot of vacations, rather we spend time together supporting each other’s activities. I expect my kids to attend each other’s games and performances — that is a big deal to me, and it is my favorite thing to see them cheering each other on.”
Another priority for the Castillos is family dinner. “It doesn’t always happen, but we really make an effort to sit around the table together as often as possible, even if it is for a quick grilled cheese sandwich, and talk about what is going on in each of our lives and also plan for the next day,” Amy said. “This is where our best conversations take place.”
Finding time to recreate as a family, outside of organized extra curricular activities, is also important to Wes and Amy. They enjoy skiing, riding bikes, hiking, playing with their dogs in the mountains and camping whenever they can find time. As a family they are avid Aggie, Ute and Sky View Bob Cat fans, but Amy admits that some of her favorite moments involve simply turning music on and having a dance party at home in their kitchen.
Amy says she “thrives on busy” and that she enjoys the chaos of this season of her life. “For me, I realize this time is short and someday [our kids] will be grown and gone. Then, I will miss this busy time.”
Another secret to Amy and Wes’ successful juggling act: letting some things go. “My house is not always clean, and it sure helps to have a daughter who can help drive now,” Amy said.
Amy explained that there are both challenges and benefits to being a working mom, just as there are for stay at home moms. “It is best not to compare, and find what works for our own families,” Amy said.
“We see a lot of benefits from their activities,” Amy said. “Our kids are learning to be team players, to work hard for their goals and even sometimes about losing.” But she said the most important thing to her, as a mother, is to raise children who are kind. “Every day when my kids walk out the door I remind them to be kind and to look for someone they can help. They are good kids.”
JUGGLING IT ALL
Are your kids involved in many extra curricular activities? Here are some simple suggestions from kidshealth.org to help ensure your kids thrive, don’t get burned out and that the whole family has an enjoyable experience:
- Agree on ground rules ahead of time. For example, plan on kids playing one sport per season or limit activities to two afternoons or evenings during the school week.
- Know how much time is required. For example, will there be time to practice between lessons? Does your child realize that soccer practice is twice a week, right after school until dinnertime? Then there’s the weekly game, too. Will homework suffer?
- Keep a calendar to stay organized. Display it on the refrigerator or other prominent spot so that everyone can stay up to date.
- Even if kids sign up for the season, let them miss one or two sessions. Sometimes taking the opportunity to hang out on a beautiful day is more important than going to one more activity, even if you’ve already paid for it.
- Try to carpool with other parents to make life easier.
- Try to balance activities for all of your kids. It hardly seems fair to spend time and energy carting one kid to activities, leaving little time for another.
- Create family time. Plan a few dinners each week when everyone can be home at the same time — even if it means eating a little later. Schedule family fun time, too, whether it’s playing a board game or going on bike ride or hike.
- Set priorities. School should come first. If kids have a hard time keeping up academically, they may need to drop an activity.
- Know when to say “no.” If your child is already doing a lot, but really wants to take on another activity, discuss what other activity or activities need to be dropped to make room for the new one.
- Remember the importance of downtime. Everyone needs a chance to relax, reflect on the day or just do nothing.