Jessica McFadden is a very busy mother of three who founded the popular blog for Washington, DC-area families A Parent in Silver Spring in January 2008. A Parent in Silver Spring has become a go-to resource for Washington, DC area parents with her informative (and often humorous) posts about local kid-friendly events, outings and resources. This spring Jessica launched a site to house her personal essays, musings and mishaps for parents everywhere at A Parent in America. Between her writing work and managing her family’s activities we just had to know ‘How Do You Do It’, and how does Activity Rocket make it easier?
1. What activities do your children do throughout the year?
I have three children, all of different ages and diverse interests. My eight-year-old son Charlie plays on Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball and soccer teams, takes after-school art classes through Art Horizons, and swims competitively in the summer for our local pool club. My six-year-old daughter Eve takes ballet all year at Maryland Youth Ballet, seasonal basketball and soccer clinics through CYO and also swims competitively. And now our one-year-old baby Alice is getting in on the act with her music classes at Kidville!
Even though this seems like a lot, my husband and I make a very conscious effort not to over-schedule the kids and allow lots of time for relaxation and just hanging with the family. I know my son would like to play a couple more sports, take martial arts classes and join Cub Scouts, and my daughter would like to try Irish dancing, gymnastics and art classes, but we will instead pursue those with a few summer day camp choices or table them until they are older.
2. How do you usually choose an activity provider?
As a local family events blogger, I treat keeping up with the activity providers for families in the area as a job. I have web alerts set up to capture new offerings, and as my blog’s readership and has grown, I receive announcements, press releases and updates from activity providers which are very helpful. However, the first-person recommendations I receive from my fellow-parent readers of my blog and friends are usually what compel me to actually register my own children for an activity!
3. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to activity planning?
I believe the biggest challenge for planning a family’s activities is striking the balance between enrichment and stress. I have seen with my children that the right amount and variance of activities truly rounds out their educations and contributes to their happiness. But crowding a schedule with too many classes, games and meetings (and the driving to and fro!) is the fastest way to stress and exhaustion in my family.
4. Which activity has given your child(ren) the biggest boost in confidence?
My son Charlie has gained so much healthy pride in his work through basketball. He has seen how his after-school practices with his teammates and individual shooting of baskets in the driveway has a direct impact on his game. The concept of hard work = reward is valuable and rare, I think, for kids these days, and I hope that this work ethic and confidence carries through the rest of his life.
My six-year-old daughter Eve has always loved to dance, and the discipline of classical ballet for beginners has truly improved her behavior at school. Finding an activity that plays up my children’s personal interests and strengths, while improving their general citizenship and childhood joy, is one of my top mom goals.
5. What is your favorite Activity Rocket feature?
I love, adore, WORSHIP Activity Rocket’s ability to search for activities by proximity to home and school. I have learned through long commutes this year how essential it is for my personality and our family’s schedule to sign up for activities located close to our house. The last thing I (or Charlie, Eve and Alice) want is to be stuck in parking-lot traffic at dinnertime, 50 miles from home. I will definitely be using Activity Rocket’s zip code and “within X miles” search features heavily for our summer and fall activity planning!