I Am NOT a Soccer Mom (or How to Avoid Child Burnout)

Since we moved to California in August of 2011, my kids have participated in year-round swim team. It has been a wonderful experience. We’ve connected with other families and developed life-long friendships. We’ve also learned many life lessons along the way – but that is fodder for another post.

Today, I would like to focus on burnout. Most of us are familiar with feeling burned out. What you might not know is that young athletes are capable of getting burned out, too.

How to Avoid Child Burnout @EvaVarga.netMy daughter had always LOVED swimming! She eagerly attended practice and always worked hard. My son had been more of a roller coaster, initially complaining and dragging his feet, then going without protest, and then complaining once again.

We had a break over the winter holiday a few months ago and when we tried to resume our regular schedule in January, my son was vehemently opposed (more so than before). Much to our surprise, my daughter had also voiced her desire to stop swimming as well.

I was shocked. I had never considered myself a “soccer mom”. I had observed parents frantically running their child from one sports practice to another. I had witnessed parents screaming at their child, “Hurry up and get changed! You’ll have to eat dinner in the car. We have to get you across town for soccer!” I had heard them lament about the cost of hotels and fuel required to attend swim meets in Sacramento.

This was not us. We only did one sport. We took frequent breaks for family vacations aboard or weekend getaways to visit grandparents. We had never pushed them to compete.

We have had the opportunity to attend practice up to 6 days a week. However, we go to practice only 3x/week on the average. While competition is a part of our experience, we only occasionally compete in a swim meet (one in winter and two-three in summer) and only if the kids are interested.

How was I now dealing with child burnout?

Give it Up or Plow Forward?

We (their father and I) had always insisted the kids need to take part in a sport for exercise and general health / fitness. Yet they didn’t have an interest in another team sport. They both had expressed willingness to cycle / run with me as well as try parkour, resistance training, and/or aerobics, however.

We had invested so much time and energy into swimming. I felt compelled to continue. It had become a constant fight and major energy drain for me, however. When my daughter gave up Taekwondo years ago, I was really sad. Just as I was when she gave up dance for TKD (her brother was just a toddler then). Perhaps it was my hang up?

notsoccermom1Confer with Others

We had several family meetings discussing the issue trying to determine the root cause of the sudden disinterest. I even posted my frustration on Facebook and elicited help from my readers as well as friends and family. Here is a small snapshot of the responses I received:

  • I think it is important for the kid to want to participate and have fun doing so. If it is just a chore they are likely to only put in the very minimal amount of effort required. Not to mention that but it could just give them a general distaste for physical activity in general. I agree with requiring them to find an alternate form of physical activity. Perhaps if they really want to cycle or run with you try that. Just ensure that they understand that if the don’t maintain the commitment to running or cycling with you that you expect them to find a different activity
  • I’ve seen far too many articles about kids who specialize and their burnout levels and injury levels. I’d much rather have a child who had a high activity level all throughout life in a variety of things unless they clearly gained a deep desire for a particular sport. Honestly, it’s much nicer to have that variety. It gives them a better love for life, a higher fitness level (because of the variety of muscles used).
  • The experience, skill, coordination, fitness level … all will not be lost. As a former competitive coach, I highly recommend letting them switch. I don’t feel kids needs to arrive at a high level in any sport at all. Rather, they merely need to be active.
  • Remember the reason you’ve all chosen this path? Are you willing to trust your children to take control, be responsible for their lives. Have you thought of why so many traditional-raised/educated school kids are viewed as disrespectful, out-of-control, unacceptably acted out in adult’s view? They don’t get to choose most of the time what they do. They lack “control” of their lives–no matter what age they are. Their voices are not heard. Their opinions don’t count. They lack respect from most adults in their lives.

Talk with Your Coach

At this same time, we also had a long talk with coach. He shared that at this age – as qualifying times begin to get harder and as kids have access to other sports through their schools – it is common that kids lose interest in swimming. He also stated that one of the biggest motivators is taking part in swim meets and really looking at your progress as an individual. As we don’t compete as regularly as most, we don’t have those little goals and milestones to celebrate.

Additionally, their skills and endurance have improved a great deal over the years and they’ve been swimming with the advanced group since September. Practice is longer and more intense. Coach thereby suggested allowing the kids to choose what practice time they wanted to attend – perhaps even swimming a couple times a week with the advanced group and a couple times with the intermediate group.

I took to heart the advice and experience that was shared with me and it really helped to open a dialogue with the kids. What we discovered really surprised us.


Really Listen to Your Child

My daughter was not interested in moving back to the intermediate level but she missed her friends. Those she most enjoyed swimming with were not attending the advanced group practice. Some were no longer swimming at all. My son shared that the advanced group was just too much for him. He stated that he would continue swimming if he could return to the intermediate level.

As the intermediate level practice and advanced level practice were at different times, I had been pushing my son to swim with the advanced group so that we wouldn’t have to be at the pool all evening. Though he was quite capable of swimming at the advanced level, he too, preferred swimming with his friends and “having fun” during practice.

Our team had also experienced a number of seasoned swimmers leaving the sport that winter season for a variety of reasons. We were in essence rebuilding and the kids agreed that it just didn’t have the same “feeling”.

Find a Compromise

Talking it over as a family and really listening to what the kids had to say was the key to finding a solution. As parents, we had to be willing to let them walk away and try something new. The kids realized that they couldn’t just veg out all day. Physical activity was equally important as academics and family bonding. We thereby compromised.

They agreed that they both wanted to continue swimming. Geneva wanted to stick with the advanced group. After talking with coach, she was inspired to take part in more swim meets and asked us to assure we could make this happen.

Jeffrey wanted to return to the intermediate group. He agreed he would occasionally swim with the advanced group if we had a schedule conflict (a couple times a month).

Because I was willing to listen and find a compromise, the kids are still swimming. Their enthusiasm for the sport has returned. When the summer season began in May, they both returned to the advanced swim group.



Our Summer Plans for 2015

Summer is upon us and I am delighted. I have been battling with a growing feeling of burden upon me. I can’t seem to shake the desire to just drop everything and run into the hills.

My husband says I do too much, that my burdens are self imposed. I know he is right yet the eager beaver within me has a hard time letting go.

As obligations have begun to fall aside with the changing season, we have been giving thought to our summer plans. Vowing to relax and enjoy the sunshine a little more, we’ve settled upon the following activities.

More Art Journaling

Over the past year we have begun to dabble a little with art journaling, incorporating it into literature circle. It has been a fabulous way to express ourselves, combining art and words. We have begun to explore new media, mixing paints and printed papers to create unique art pieces.

Celebrate Summer: Mixed Media Workshop
We are looking forward to celebrating the delights of summertime by turning them into beautiful art under the tutelage of Alisha Gratehouse. Alisha offers a wonderful e-course, Celebrate Summer: Mixed Media Workshop. These projects are not your typical “summer camp” crafts. Each is a unique work of art to encourage your child to explore his or her creative talents.

Heritage Camp

The kids attended the Sons of Norway Heritage Camp last year for the first time and had an absolute blast! They have been looking forward to returning again this year and have been working hard to earn money to help offset the cost of the camp.

heritagecamp1Classes will again include Rosemaling, folk dancing, heritage, crafts, and Norwegian language. This year campers will learn money management with bank books, Norwegian Krone, a daily kanteen for purchasing special treats, and much more authentic Norwegian food at mealtimes.

Junior Olympics Swim Meet

The kids have been a part of swim team since we first moved to California. As is typical, JOs conflicts with heritage camp on the calendar. I thereby gave the kids the choice, “JOs or camp? You can’t do both.”

Last year, they were both in new age divisions and while they improved their individual times, only one qualified for JOs. After a short discussion, they agreed they would rather go to the meet with both competing. They were also eager to experience heritage camp.

junior olympics teamThis year they’ve both qualified in numerous events and their coach is encouraging them to compete. As we expected, camp and JOs conflict once again. Fortunately, camp is only 40 miles away (as opposed to 170 miles as in 2014). We thereby plan to do both – albeit they will miss a day or two of camp.

Lake Days & Sailing

Last year we had the opportunity to take part in a wonderful sailing clinic. The kids loved it so much they have asked to become a member of the local yacht club so that we can utilize the sunfish sailboats all summer long.

sailing101Whether we pursue that option or not, I am not sure. I do know, however, that we will be getting out to the lake more regularly. The kids also want to camp more – so my plan is to pitch a tent a few evenings each month.


I’ve also come to discover that I need to resume training – for both my physical and mental health. I know myself well enough to also know I need a little carrot to keep me on target with my fitness goals.


I have thereby registered for a full marathon in late August. It will be my fourth – but I am building from scratch. I must focus on quality of my runs as well as build endurance and distance. I can’t let myself worry about speed – which was my Achilles heel years ago.

As before, Geneva has expressed interest in also running distance events. We will be running the Moonshine Trail Run again this year (in 2013 I did the 15K and she the 5K). I am excited to run it with her .. her pace, if I can keep up. 🙂

Our Well Traveled Family

I am so excited to begin this new venture. I have been blogging about our homeschooling journey for years. As we have begun to travel aboard more regularly as a family, I have had a burning desire to share our stories with the world.

I realize, however, that not everyone who visits my homeschool blog is interested in the details of our travel. It is for this reason that I was inspired to create Well Traveled Family and I am delighted that you are here.

Welcome to Well Traveled FamilyMy first memory of traveling abroad was a road trip with my parents to British Columbia when I was about 9 years old. I recall vividly how enthralled my brothers and I were watching an HO train traverse along the tracks of an elaborate model. I can visualize my father holding my hand as we meandered the pathways of the botanical gardens in Victoria.

In college, I spent a summer in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico teaching at a girl’s orphanage and working with the municipal government in a youth sports program. These experiences engrained in me the importance of connecting with one another through travel.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  ~ Mark Twain

When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share experiences and moments that shape our family. Each adventure – whether a day trip to the mountains or an international excursion – is a memory we share with one another.

No matter where we reside – initially in Oregon and now Northern California, we seek out adventures and opportunities to explore our surroundings. Not only does it give us something to do, it strengthens our family bond. When removed from the distractions of our work and other obligations of life, we are able to better connect with one another.

My goal for Well Traveled Family is share our experiences traveling as family in hopes of inspiring you to seek out new adventures. I will share anecdotes from our excursions as well as traveling tips and hidden gems we have discovered along the way.

Join us as sail away from the harbor and catch the trade winds.



Lessons Learned from My Mother

Last week, I shared with you the Lessons Learned from My Father.  While many of the lessons learned from my mother are similar, today I share with you the wisdom I have gained from her.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Bell

lessons mother


I learned to be myself.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my mom was to be true to myself. I struggled a lot through school battling with peer pressure and bullying. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood what I was going through and who really listened to me. She was always there to comfort me when I came home in tears. She was always there to pick me up when I failed.

Above all, however, she encouraged me to stand up for myself and not succumb to peer pressure.  “You are beautiful. You are loved. Don’t let their jealousy change who you are as an individual.”

I learned the fundamentals of leadership and service.

My mother was always eager to help. She was my 4H leader as well as a room mom, volunteering to help in the classroom whenever necessary (building floats for the annual Cranberry Festival, holiday parties, etc.). Through her example, I learned the value of leadership and volunteering.

Leadership capability is a pretty accurate indicator of success in an individual. Leadership skills include proactivity, responsibility, empathy, creativity, vision, and public speaking skills. As I stated last week, kids learn by osmosis.

In other words, they will copy what they see us doing. As parents, we can help nurture leadership qualities in our children by giving them opportunities to take responsibility for themselves and their pets and by encouraging them to lead discussions in small groups like book club, and to share their talents with others.

thankful mother

Connection Traditions

I learned the importance of a family meal.

Growing up, we sat down to dinner together most every evening. It was a time to come together and discuss what was happening in our lives. We discussed plans for the weekend and concerns for finances when money was tight.

Countless studies have shown the positive influence that sharing a meal together as a family has on children. Of course, when I was a child electronic devices were unheard of, but today they are a huge distraction. Consider these suggestions for connecting with one another around a meal:

  • First: no TV, no cellphones, and no tablets.
  • Begin with grace. If you’re not religious, have everyone share something that they’re grateful for that day.
  • Family news: everyone takes turns sharing something positive and negative that has happened to them during the day.
  • “Got any stories?” This is a tradition that Patrick and I have had for a few years. Each person is expected to bring something interesting to the table that they’ve read or heard during the day.

I learned the value of preparing home cooked meals. 

Every August, my brothers and I would accompany my mom to Dillard where we would spend the day picking fruits and vegetables.  We had only a small garden ourselves and the farms in Dillard provided us with the food we would need for the next year. Doesn’t sound really exciting, but we all looked forward to it.

We were always a stinky, hot mess by the time we were done. Mom always stopped at Bear Creek on the way home so we could cool off in the water. For this reason I love little side adventures and unexpected surprises when traveling.

When we got home, she would spend the next week preserving and canning the produce we brought home. It was such a joy to come home from school to see rows and rows of delicious canned peaches and spicy beans that lined the counters.

I learned the importance of holiday traditions.

Instead of setting out the Easter baskets by our bed or in the living room, my mom always created a fun hunt for them. Adding a scavenger hunt to anything turns it into an awesome, memorable tradition. I’m not sure there’s anything more fun as a kid than a scavenger hunt.

On Christmas Eve, my mother would bake our favorite dishes for a buffet style meal and invite our neighbor Mr. Cole, our grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles to our home. The following day, we would load the car and drive to her parents where we would spend the day with our extended family.  I’ve always attributed Christmas with a huge family gathering as a result.

~     ~     ~

How about you? What lessons have you learned from your parents? What examples do you hope to provide for your children? Share in the comments. 🙂

Galápagos Scavenger Hunt :: Winners

Subscribers to my quarterly newsletter have had the opportunity to take part in an online scavenger hunt in anticipation for our journey to the Galápagos this fall.   The following scavenger hunt questions were posed and all correct responses were entered into a drawing for a fun, surprise package that I will mail to the winner upon our return.

  1. Many of the plant and animal species that inhabit the Galapagos Islands are endemic. What does this mean? (Answer: They can be found nowhere else on Earth.)
  2. What famous American author visited the Galapagos Islands during the whaling era and later wrote about them in his story “The Encantadas”? (Answer: Herman Melville.)
  3. Name two threats to the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands that environmental groups and government officials are trying to prevent. (Answers: Population pressures; tourism; introduced species; poaching; illegal fishing)
  4. True or False? The only islands that are formed from more than one volcanic peak are Fernandina and Isabela. (Answer: False.)
  5. What cyclical climatic event has a huge influence on weather around the world, and especially on the Galapagos Islands? (Answer: El Nino.)
  6. What island can you discover Hammerhead sharks while snorkeling?  (Answer: Wolf and Darwin islands.)
  7. What island can you find the Galápagos Albratros? Name one interesting fact about the Galápagos Albratros.  (Answer: The waved albatross breeds primarily on Española Island in the Galápagos archipelago.)
  8. What island can you see both sea lions and fur seals? What is the difference between them? (Answer: The Galápagos Fur Sea Lion is an endemic species to the Islands, and prefers rocky coastlines. It has a rather blunt snout and thick fur coating. Galápagos Sea Lions have a rather pointed snout and thinner fur lining.  They inhabit both beaches and rocky shorelines.)
  9. What is the oldest island in the Galápagos? (Answer: South Plaza and Espanola islands.)

Surprisingly, there were only four entries in the contest. I thereby decided to honor all four entries! Congratulations to Sarah Dierflinger, Krista Baker, Dawnielle Penn, and Cathy Plungis!!  I will mail out your surprise package – and reveal the contents here on my website upon our return this fall. Look for more details in the weeks to come.

You can have one of your own high seas adventure by exploring the resources and activities I have developed in anticipation of our travels. The Galápagos Across the Curriculum is a complete unit study integrating math, science, geography, history, language arts, and current events. It is a great supplemental unit to your life or earth science curriculum.

galapagos unit

I will also be sharing field notes upon our return. I am not confidant we will always have internet, however. If I do, you will want to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter for live reports from the field.


My Well Planned Day is Anything But

I have been using the Well Planned Day planners for years and I absolutely LOVE them. So much so that, this year, the kids have started using their own student planners.

Despite my best intentions however, my plans never go as I envision. I thereby utilize the Well Planned Day planner book in a somewhat unconventional manner.

This post contains affiliate links.

well planned day

If you were to ask me, “Which homeschool philosophy(ies) is your style?”  I would have to say it depends on the day; but we have always had a very relaxed homeschool style. At times, I consider ourselves to be Unschoolers. Other times, I would describe us as Classical homeschoolers, inspired by the philosophies of Charlotte Mason.

Our Well Planned Day

I begin each week with first penciling in the activities and obligations we have outside the home – language classes, music lessons, co-ops, swim team practice, and lodge meetings.  That’s it.

Rather than plan ahead the lessons and activities we will cover each week, I use my Well Planned Day planner as an ongoing record of what we have accomplished. After their Mandarin lessons, for example, I’ll note in the planner the topic of their lesson and the homework for the following session. This also helps me to stay abreast of what they are accomplishing each week.

Recently, I have also begun to use it to keep a running tabulation of the living books the kids have read independently and the audio books we’ve listened to in the car.  This helps me to dive into resources at my disposal (both online and in print) for discussion questions and activities to supplement their reading.

Back to school is coming soon and there’s no better time than now to start getting organized! The Well Planned Day Line of Planners are the perfect resources to help you stay organized and make the most of your time, so you have time for the things that matter most!

I am particularly excited about the NEW My Well Planned Day Digital Homeschool Planner. A digital planner is the perfect solution for the mom on the go, providing access anywhere, anytime.

Best of all, you can try it FREE for 30 Days – No Credit Card Required!  If you subscribe by August 15th – you can lock in the introductory price of just $44.99 for 1 year! (A $20 Savings!)