Reclaiming Family Time

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

If you’re reading here, you probably homeschool or are considering homeschooling. So of course, you’re someone who always puts family first. Right? I mean, don’t we, as homeschoolers, just naturally put our family life before everything else?

Gulp. Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered what happened to those quiet family evenings spent together, if your car is full of wrappers from fast-food restaurants, or if you look at your calendar and try not to hyperventilate.

The truth is, homeschoolers can be just as overextended as everyone else, and like everyone else, we can fall into the trap of replacing family time with other activities.

I am not here to chastise you for the time your family spends at outside activities. Some families function best on an activity-packed schedule. Some couples enjoy connecting while they watch their kids practice soccer in the evenings. But some of us feel overwhelmed when we look at our calendar and think, “I just have to get through two weeks, and then we’ll have a free day.”

How did we get from eating supper together six nights a week to me kissing my husband hello/goodbye and saying “Fix yourself a frozen pizza” as I head out to take a kid to Bible study? (I mean, it’s Bible study, after all. It has to be the right thing to do. Right?)

How do we get back to that place of simplicity?

1. First of all, step back and assess.

What are your goals? Are you happy with the activity level in your family? Does it feel balanced? If so, stick with whatever you are doing!

On the other hand, are you and your kids grumpy and stressed out? Do you sometimes have a nagging feeling that maybe you’re doing too much?

2. Reassess if you’re stressed.

What can you eliminate? Do your kids really have to be doing two sports, Scouts, Bible Bowl, and book club? Which activities line up with your family’s goals? Keep in mind that “to everything there is a season.” Sometimes this is quite literal: soccer season, basketball season.

Consider, before you commit to an activity, whether this is something that will take 10 weeks or 52 weeks of your family time. Ten weeks is a season; 52 weeks becomes your life.

My friend tells how her family became disrupted with her daughter’s demanding gymnastic schedule. What began as a fun hour of lessons at age four led to three hours of practice, three evenings each week, and eventually to weekend competitions. When her daughter was 13, she came home and said,  “Can I please stop? I just want to be a kid for awhile.”

At first my friend was reluctant to let go of the time and money they had invested, but ultimately they listened to their daughter’s request. “I thought we were doing it all for her,” my friend explains. “But really, we were doing it because we thought we should. Everyone kept telling us that she was so good—she needed to keep adding more practice and more competitions.”

3. Convince yourself that it really is okay to say no.

I had a friend in college who summed up an aspect of my personality quite well. He said: “You don’t like to miss out on anything, do you?” I really don’t. I want to go to every field trip, Bible study, book club, and exercise class, and I want my kids to have the opportunity to participate in whatever they want to do.

But you know what I want more than an activity-filled life? I want to have supper together as a family. I want to sit around the table and talk without having to rush off. It’s simple, I know, but these are the things we lose in our compulsion to do it all. There are so many good things to do, but doing them all isn’t necessarily what’s best. Your child’s future won’t likely be ruined if you opt out of karate lessons.

It is easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activities and let the good stuff slip by.

We homeschoolers tend to justify our busyness by saying, “But I’m home with them all day!” For my husband and me, it’s a matter of reevaluating where we are in life (i.e., having teenagers is completely different that having preschoolers) and where we want to be as a family. Sometimes we need to do a little tweaking, such as deciding to go bike riding instead of vegging out on the computer. Sometimes the decision is major, like pondering a new leadership position.

Just like everyone homeschools in a different way, every family works in a different way. My husband and I have a goal of giving our children a spacious childhood with room to breathe.

When we find ourselves struggling to stand under the weight of an urgent need to be somewhere else, we know it’s time to reassess and reclaim our family time.

How do you balance outside activities and your family life? How do you decide when your family is doing too much?

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.


  1. thanks for the post. no teenagers in my house, but my daughter is preparing to attend a kindergarten next year. i already felt myself falling into the trap of “ok, so what extra curriculars does she NEED?” wait a minute, she’s only 5! if she does nothing outside of school, she’s not going to lose a scholarship to harvard, at this point. and i keep reminding myself that since she won’t be homeschooled next year, that’s a huge chunk of the day that i won’t get to spend with her. i’ll definitely want some at-home time with my little girl :).
    andie’s latest post: rachels favorites

  2. When I learned number three, life became much less stressful. Great article!


  3. This is awesome- I have 3 little ones that I am homeschooling preschool right now and they just started swimming lessons and I thought about soccer, but I am not going to put the twins in it. The twins were in gymnastics but I gave them a break, I to thought they would need the socialization, but I have started doing field trips while my husband sleeps during the day to get them interacting with other kids, they have another year of preschool because their birthdays are past the cutoff for kindergarten. I am just trying to enjoy every moment I have with them being little. I have a 19 year old that I didn’t homeschool and didn’t get to spend as much time with so it is very important to enjoy all those moments while you can because they grow up way too fast.

  4. Thanks for the post – love it. It’s so true… we are all so busy shuffling here and there and more of us need to take time to just ‘be’. We don’t enroll our kids in formal “lessons” for that very reason. We feel they benefit more from just spending time outside with us and each other. We are considering a Summer of Soccer for our 6 year old though… ?

    • We’ve done summers of swim team before and have thoroughly enjoyed them! But when we stopped doing them, we thought, “Wow! This is what summer is really about!” So, we’ve done both and enjoyed both. Doing it for one summer doesn’t mean you have to do it forever!
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Reclaiming Family Time Simple Homeschool

      • Thanks – that’s what I was thinking. It just becomes daunting – as now, our daughter declared, “I wanna do Soccer too!~” SO, if we enrolled both – it’d be 4 nights EVERY week on a hot soccer field watching our kids play rather than strolling the beach of picnicking in the park WITH them. WWYD? 😉
        Cassandra’s latest post: Making a House our Home – Hallway make-over on a Dime

        • We’ve done the 4nights a week at the soccer field. Honestly for us it’s only 8 weeks and our girls love it so it’s worth it. The ones that aren’t playing on the field enjoy playing with all the other children and running around outside.

  5. This post was just what I needed today, as I’m torn between telling me daughter that we’re not going to her girl scouts overnight camping trip this weekend after all! I’d signed up thinking it’d be a nice bonding thing, but now I just feel like it’s the last thing I want to spend time on and can think of a thousand better ways to have quality time. I also realized that the girls in this particular troop aren’t really who we want to invest our time in. Thanks for the encouragement to cancel!
    MrsH’s latest post: Being Engaged- Saying “Yes”

  6. Shelley R. says:

    Last spring, we knew our family was overextended. My energies were going into all ‘good’ things… even eternal things… at the expense of my family. Others were getting my best and my husband and kids were getting me frazzled. So, we made changes: kept some outside commitments, dropped others, added one-on-one dates with our kids, etc. By October I felt, and observed, the grace of priorities managed (mostly!) and that I was less frazzled.

    The kicker: recently a friend shared with me that some in our community may view my choices of pouring my gifts and time into the family (and only some to others) as selfish and would like to see me “doing more in the community” once again. However, she (who has yet to be blessed with kids) shared she admires our stance and sees in us the fruit of security, joy, and “an ease” toward life that she doesn’t see in many modern families. It was bittersweet to hear, but I remain steadfast in that we will continue to strive for that “ease” in each decision we make regarding our time.

  7. Much needed post, looking forward to finding balance simplicity.
    Ellie’s latest post: music

  8. I know others have said this too, but this post was EXACTLY what i needed… as we are getting ready to take our spring break, I’m thinking A LOT on this…

    And great advice about the 10 vs 52… GREAT advice!
    misty’s latest post: Whats in a mom

  9. Sometimes I wish we were more overextended! We live in a rural area and there’s just not a lot of opportunities. We travel quite a bit to take part in opportunities during nicer weather seasons. It has kept us close as a family, but this time of year (after a very long, very isolating winter) I’m looking forward to getting a little overbooked! 🙂
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: Apologies…

  10. I so agree! Love the sentence about giving your children “room to breathe”. There is so much research (and just my gut) which says our kids need time to play and imagine and create and even be bored! Sometimes there can be serious pressure in homeschool communities to have your kids doing all sorts of things- foreign language lessons, music lessons, theater, etc. And yet, they really don’t *need* any of that! I guard our family time (and my children’s playtime) carefully. Thanks for the encouragement!
    Paula@Motherhood Outloud’s latest post: On Raising Girls

  11. This is something that you have to guard like crazy! It is easy to let our lives get filled with *important* things, but the good can become the enemy of the best. Decide what your family priorities are and make choices based upon those.
    Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: Choosing the Important Stuff

  12. Alissa O (homeschooling momma) says:

    I can totally relate to not wanting to miss out on anything! My friend made the same comment to me, and while at first I was shocked to hear it from her, she was exactly right! I not only love to have fun learning and exploring, but I worry my kids won’t be well-rounded without lots of external opportunities. However, in my quiet, peaceful place deep in my heart I know that they will be most well-adjusted being raised in a calm home full of love and nurturing! In due time they can explore their world as their interests and gifting takes them.

  13. My husband and I have a goal of giving our children a spacious childhood with room to breathe.

    I love this sentence. This idea is at the root of our homeschooling philospphy. We have navigated through each of our ten plus homeschooling years, always asking the question, how much is too much? Some years have been more hectic than others. Now that we have two teens, we can involve them more in decision making and they can participate in choosing how they spend their time. I’t a wonderful phase…Thank you for this post today! So important to keep family first!
    Debbie’s latest post: Creativity of a Different Kind

  14. What a lovely post and very timely for our family. I have never been the type who wants to be involved in everything, preferring to have a smaller group of very close friends and a limited number of hobbies I really love. My goal has historically been 2 – 3 social commitments per month. Imagine my surprise as a mom to realize that the neverending options for extracurriculars are taking me by storm! Dance classes, soccer, music class, art camps, blah, blah, blah. I’m having a bit of the opposite struggle as I want to make sure I’m not projecting my preference for more alone and home time onto my kids – what if they’re the opposite to me? I want to make sure that I’m giving them opportunities to pursue things they love without over-committing and driving myself crazy.

    Things really do always come back to balance, don’t they?

  15. Six years ago I heard a wonderful quote on why I shouldn’t overshedule my family. I immediately framed it and set it next to my calendar. All those years that quote has helped me put my family first.

    “Be wise and do not involve children or yourselves in so many activities out of the home that you are so busy that the Spirit of the Lord cannot be recognized or felt in giving you the promised guidance for yourself and your family.” Ballard

  16. As a single parent of a two year old boy I have been very busy lately looking for ways to earn more and at the same time finish my studies. I am considering homeschooling and I’m happy to have read your wonderful post. It’s really helpful and I especially like the 3 points discussed. I have not even started homeschooling yet and here I am very busy and focused most of my time on my jobs! I didn’t even notice that I have left my son to his nanny’s care most of the time when what he needs most is my time, love and care— especially that he only have me. With these new realizations, I have decided to spend more quality time with my son and enough time for work and homeschooling.

    Thank you!
    Suzan@Free Theme Park’s latest post: Take Adventure Up A Notch with Soarin’ Over California

  17. I love this, Sarah. We’ve had a lot going on this year (new to homeschooling, home renovation), and I’ve simplified and cut back on *everything* in order to remain sane and connected to family. It’s hard to do in this day and age with all the pressures, but it feels so good. Thanks for this!
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: DIY Calm Down Spray

  18. Annie Murray says:

    I have homeschooling friends and I really like them. But I have to say that it seems elitist, cliquey, and not what Jesus would do. It deprives the public schools from benefitting from the support of these parents and prevents many non- Christian children from being exposed to and mentored by the Christian ones — depriving Christian children of the opportunity to witness and to know life as it is in the real world. It seems to be for those who are wealthy enough to live on one income. Certainly not for single parent families. Tragic.

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