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It’s hard to believe that we’re into October, and I have yet to plan my children’s enrichment programs for the academic year. That’s how it goes with teens. When they reach adolescence, school-based clubs and after school sports take up what little time they have left after homework, and parents are left to squeeze in together time when they can. For us, that means we live for enriching family travel while making the best of things during the academic year.
Freed from afternoon chauffeur duties to music, dance, or the like, my husband and I have more time for ourselves. While the whole family remains committed to supporting our kids’ ski team ambitions, Dave is fulfilling a lifelong dream to become one of those dashing men in red coats – a ski patroller. For that, he’s attending classes twice a week through the fall, including all day on Saturdays. And I hope to sign up for a second year of the midweek Women’s Escape program as this is one of the best ways I know to improve ski abilities (plus I need all the motivation I can get not to turn into a couch potato when the days grow short.)
Despite our teens’ independence, we’re still on a short leash as neither kid drives – yet. We still have to be available to drive them to sports not offered by their schools – fencing, rugby, and skiing. And since they are older, the sports commitment can be pretty significant.
Alex, our thirteen-year-old son, trains with a team or private fencing coach three times a week, and he competes at tournaments at least one weekend day each month. Kayla’s sports are seasonal, but even more demanding. She is ardent about alpine ski racing, so in addition to training with her team every weekend from December to March, Kayla also attends ski camps in the offseason. And because she is obsessed with rugby, Kayla not only plays in a high school spring league, she also trains with an Albany team in the fall which has her spending a few weekends traveling to away games.
Both kids still have academic enrichment on their schedules: Alex is planning on working with a tutor to advance in Math (now that he’s determined to apply to the best engineering colleges for computer programming;) and Kayla is meeting regularly with an SAT tutor since college applications are imminent.
Of course, enrichment isn’t just about sports or career development. My family takes a holistic approach to enrichment, casting an ever-widening net to explore interests culled from science, culture, service, and the outdoors.
Alex is supplementing an after-school computer club focus on video game development with ongoing computer programming and development on ROBLOX. Kayla is developing a travel photography blog, and commencing work on an engineering challenge as well as her Girl Scout Gold Award service project.
Looking ahead to the rest of the school year, we have few free evenings and practically no free weekends. But with a little willpower and creativity, we can carve time out for our shared interests. For example, one or both kids is usually booked on Friday nights for either social or study obligations. So, we’re instituting a new tradition – Friday Night Family Dinner – where all four of us get together for an interesting meal at a nearby restaurant. With no chores – cooking or cleaning – we have time to sit and chat, and the kids can still get to whatever they have planned afterward. And we get to momentarily sate my family’s passion for culinary adventures!
Weekends aren’t what they used to be now that they’ve been hijacked by sports and homework. But we can still take advantage of whatever is left to visit a museum, take a hike, or do whatever takes our fancy. Even when we cart the kids to away games, that can be an opportunity to explore what else is available in the area.
Enriching Family Travel with Teens
Then there are the school breaks. Since both children attend private schools, they get nice, long breaks – just not at the same time. Kayla gets a full week for Thanksgiving, Alex a little less; Alex gets two weeks for holiday travel in December, Kayla gets two and a half; and both get two weeks off in the spring semester, although Kayla gets a solid block in March, while Alex’s is split between February and April. Add in that my husband doesn’t get too many weeks off for vacation (some of which is reserved for professional development,) and that both kids will spend most of the winter break at ski team training, and this leaves little wiggle room for family vacations.
We’re making the most of it by joining Kayla at Copper Mountain in Colorado for Thanksgiving when she attends ski camp. Kayla will be training all day, every day, but we will be together in the evenings and this will give all of us a chance to jumpstart our skiing for what we hope will be an amazing season.
Beyond that, I’ll look into planning mother/daughter or mother/son trips. Kayla and I still have a few more colleges to visit, and Alex wants to follow up on opportunities to advance his computer programming skills. I have a few ideas that I’m mulling around for next summer, but that’s a story for another day.
As I muddle along parenting busy teens, I’ve realized that I have to cede control over enrichment, as much as any other facet of my children’s lives. Learning and growing together takes even more effort on our parts; fortunately, family travel gives us that space. Away from the responsibilities of our demanding daily lives, we can share and develop interests that foster the bonds that help us get through the craziness of the rest of year.
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