Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are Boys Overscheduled?

You've heard it before: Kids today are too busy. Between school and sports, church and community, there's simply no time to just be.

Writer Laura Vanderkam disagrees. The author of the forthcoming book 168 Hours passionately argued her point in a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Myth of the Overscheduled Child.

Vanderkam argues that everyone has the same 168 hours a week. (7 X 24) By her calucations, a boy who sleeps 9 hours a night and attends school 30 hours per week still has 73 hours left. And according to data from the University of Maryland, homework usually only takes up another 5 hours. Sports, 4 hours. Other organizations, less than 1.5 hours.

Obviously, those are averages. Some boys do more; some do less. The point, Vanderkam says, is that our children are not grossly overscheduled.

I'm not entirely convinced of her point -- and I was less convinced when I when read that she thinks moms have plenty of time in a day as well.

But one sentence made me think. Talking about the 40% of American children who are uninvolved in extracurricular activities, Vanderkam writes:

"Unfortunately, these young people tend not to fill their free time with the high-quality unstructured play that pundits praise. Many are at home, by themselves, watching TV..."

What do you think? Do you think boys are overscheduled? Or do you think they need more outside stimulation? Are too many of our boys frittering away their time?


  1. I would have to say that I know some very overscheduled children, not just boys. Of course, the 40% (and even if that is a high estimate, 20% would be a shame)who are possibly home, by themselves is the opposite side to this overscheduled problem. I personally think the "super busy" child is OK only if the child is the one initiating the extra-curricular stuff. If mom and dad are just signing junior up for every impressive activity they come across, well really, I think this may backfire. Our one really overscheduled friend told my son just last week "You can never, never, trust your parents". I hope that is something I never hear my kids say.

  2. Male students, on average, do NOT work 5 hours on homework a week. The reality would be much less.

    And while many students use some non-sleep/non-school time for extra curriculars/friends, most of the time is spent in front of the TV or computer.

    Loneliness might be our biggest epidemic.

  3. This is the first year my 10 yo son has had a busy schedule. He is actually thriving. He has less time for tv and video games, but so far we have spent more time "quality time" together. Now that he is as busy as I am, we are communicating better to get it all done.

  4. Coming from Europe, I believe that school comes first, and that those parents who want their kids to get a scholarship through sports, should rethink. Too many parents want their kids to excel at everything and therefore the kid no longer has downtime. Kids need time alone. I met Madeline Levine, who wrote, "The Price of Privilege," and how many parents overshedule their kids, and she has to see them in her private practice, due to problems later on. They were robbed of their childhood, because of parents high expectations.

  5. I'm curious as to where it is that she gets those percentages. At what age do they only have 5 hours of homework per week? My son had at least that back in kindergarten (his ONLY year of ps!) Some of his ps friends had 2 - 3 hours *a night* by the time they hit second grade. All of the high school age kids we know have 2 - 5 hours a night, depending on the type of classes they're taking.

    And then there's the "attends school 30 hours per week" bit. All of the schools around here are 7 hours long, 5 days a week. That totals 35 hours a week of school (of course, that's not including the time it takes to ride the bus, which can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each way, factoring in all of the stops and depending on how far away the child lives).

    And only 4 hours per week for sports? Were in the heck does this woman live?? The football players practice a MINIMUM of 2 hours per day (that's 10 hours a week), plus time for games and travel to and from games.

    OK, I'm going to stop there because this woman is just too frustrating ;P

  6. This woman's figures are all wrong. When I was in school, it was 7 hours a day or 35 a week. She is not counting commute time. I lived in the sticks, school got out at 3:10 and I got home at 4:30 on a good day. Homework lasted several hours a day. These are all among the reasons I chose to homeschool my boys. They can do their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, chores and still have several hours each day to play.

  7. My son is only 4.5yrs old & in Pre-K so we don't have a lot scheduled yet. I do know that we have 30mins of day homework now which is 2.5hrs a week. 5 hrs a week seems a little low for older kids although some schools build in time during class for homework if they use a block system. I guess it comes down to balance and the family's home life. If kids are latch key instead of afterschool programs, then yes they are most likely watching TV, video games, or computer. Some kids are overscheduled and their parents won't say no which is bad parenting. Some kids can handle the pressure. It is the adult parent's job to help their child learn how to schedule their time wisely and make good choices.

  8. Great comments! I, too, questioned the numbers. Maybe it's just our sports-crazy town, but around here, kids put in a lot more than 5 hrs./wk on sports, and most of them are in sports all year 'round. I think leaving out commuting time is a major mistake too. Even if it only takes child 15 min. to walk to school, that's 30 min/day or 2.5 hrs./wk. Could be a lot longer if the kid takes the bus!

    I'm intrigued, though, so I think I'm going to do a time study here next week. I'll keep you posted.

    @TexasEbeth -- I love your commone sense comment about parents needing to help their kids learn how to handle time wisely and make good choices.

  9. I guess every individual family is different.

    But I have to agree that her numbers are all wrong when it comes to sports practice time. My boys practiced 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for football for all of August. It's 3 days a week with school in session now. As it is, they are out and about the neighborhood with their friends from the time they get home until we bring them in to do homework and get ready for bed.

    We allow our kids to take part in whatever extracurricular activities they feel they can handle within our financial means. We don't by any means sign them up for anything they don't ask for.