Is This Summer Parenting Choice Reckless or Brilliant?

We've had enough: Why one family Is ditching summer extracurriculars

By Susannah Ferguson | Macaroni KID April 30, 2024

Our family calendar is bursting, a sure sign of impending summer break. As the school year winds down and we slog through graduations, recitals, and sports banquets, I can almost taste the carefree days of summer. OK. Not really carefree. The adults still have to work, and there are always childcare issues to juggle along with part-time teen jobs. But when summer comes, we pull the plug on extracurriculars. 

Call us crazy, but my kids are not on the Olympic fast track. They’re not the next “Remarkable Teen of the Midwest” out saving the world before they can even vote. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great. Smart, funny, kind, capable people. But maybe that’s in part because they get the summers off. No sports practice, no extra tutoring, no special classes to boost their college applications. Just time to be themselves. To watch The Price is Right, throw rocks, read a book, or ride bikes around the neighborhood with friends. Time to be bored.

Roman Koval | Canva

Is it the right choice?

Is our policy sabotaging their future success? Doubtful. In fact, experts have long touted the benefits of downtime for kids’ brains. Dr. Laura Hlavaty, a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Lois and John Orr Family Behavioral Health Center, says kids that experience downtime are more creative, focused, independent, and innovative problem solvers.

Of course, there are those who maintain that kids need extracurriculars year-round to be competitive in college applications. The Princeton Review insists that summer extracurriculars can push a student’s application straight into the “yes pile.” 

No apologies here

Despite all the research one way or another, for our family, the lazy summer evenings spent on a walk, playing an outdoor game, or just lounging in the living room together feel like the kind of investment we’d rather be making. We’ll support their clubs and classes during the school year, but for three glorious months, give us this time to make some mundane memories. If that one perfect college says no because they spent a summer reading in a hammock, well that probably wasn’t the right school after all.