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Learn to Quit

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Live & Learn

By: Celeste Ezell    | January 5, 2023

Every January as we clean up Christmas decorations, we go through the kids’ rooms to make space for new toys. Our third child has inherited so many toys from her siblings that it’s hard to maneuver through the door. Now that we’re another year older, this daunting but satisfying purge makes our house a better fit for us this new year. Similarly, we have to make room in our weekly activity schedules for new & better learning opportunities!


I’ve always wanted to instill in my children a value for finishing a task. When my daughter was frustrated in the junior basketball league, I had to insist she play out the rest of the short season. She felt embarrassed that her friends had more experience than her and could dribble and shoot with more skill. So we spent some extra time practicing and encouraging her. She remembers missing the shot during a game so we stayed and practiced shooting over and over until she finally made it and couldn’t miss. By the end of the season, she had improved, connected with the team and hated for the season to end. She was eager to sign up the following year.


But sometimes finishing a task can be draining or even harmful. After seven years of piano and two years of piano proficiency exams, my oldest was burnt out. With violin, choir, and advanced classes, she had a full schedule and dreaded practicing. Then, when her teacher tried to motivate her, she was mortified. Eventually it was untenable. We made an agreement that if she completed the piano exam, she could quit lessons. And she did. The hardest part for me was letting go of my hope that she would read piano music as well as me. But she knew the task was too much for her. Instead, she focused more on violin and flourished. She took up ukulele, viola and the electric bass too!


Similarly, when our little boy was only four, he decided to quit preschool summer camp. We had enrolled him full time so that we could both work our Maker Camp for the summer. On our shadow day, he loved the animals, the playground and the activities. He was so excited and came home from the first day with a smile on his face. But on his third day, he candidly informed me he was going to “play hookie that day.” I was so impressed he knew that colloquialism, I said, “OK, but then we’ll go back tomorrow.” But when it was time for me to leave the next day, he wouldn’t let go of my neck. I felt that a “good mom” would have left him anyway, but I just couldn’t. I took him to camp with me instead. A few years later, when he learned about bullying from an episode of Little House of the Prairie, he finally filled us in: some bigger boys had told him he couldn’t play in the treehouse and pushed him out, a scary two foot fall. At four, our guy didn’t know how to communicate his problem, but he knew that the environment wasn’t good for him. Turns out, even though he was too young to attend our Maker Camp, he participated as much as possible. All the other kids played with him, and he thrived.


During COVID our daughter’s music class went on Zoom, and then a new teacher took over. He did his best, but our girl was feeling more and more drained from attending. She went from loving it to dreading it, so I listened in during the next class. The teacher used our girl as an example for others to emulate but spoke negatively to everyone else. The class had been her favorite, and I hated to see her quit, but she knew she couldn’t stomach it. After a few parental attempts to deal with her teacher trouble by text or email, she quit mid-year. A few months later, she auditioned for an exclusive a capella group and got in. This met two needs. The group turned out to be a lovely supportive and encouraging community of friends for her, and they sing so much more!


During our recent holiday vacation, we declared a media fast (no Netflix or social media) and spent two weeks connecting with each other, our cousins and grandparents. With this clearer air space, we could easily listen to our kids’ needs and make changes accordingly: more game nights; less screen time. More walks, more talks and less worry. More time with certain friends and less time with other ones. The homework and practicing might not always get done. They might decide to drop out of some incredible after school activities. But we’ll keep doing our best to set them up to thrive.


As you start the new year, I encourage you to reevaluate your child’s activities. Too many activities can clutter our kids’ lives and burn us all out, like too many toys just make a mess. Here are some questions to consider:

How much time does each activity take, including traffic, practicing, and preparations?

Which learning environments are life-giving? 

Which peer groups influence your child in a positive way?

Which teachers inspire and invigorate your child the most?

What strengths can you invest in? Is your child motivated to learn these skills?

Is the level too challenging or not challenging enough?


May the new changes you make bless your children and family this year!


Celeste & Daniel Ezell are parents to three children who have attended, attend or soon will attend their accelerated K-8 Micro-school. They founded Chronos Academy to integrate all subjects to a timeline with creativity, music and making. You can reach Celeste by email at Follow Chronos Academy at @chronoscohorts or learn more at 
More from this issue:

Dawn of the Big Girl Bed Read >>

Feelings First Read >>

Gardening: What Fertilizer to Use? Read >> 

IVF | Intense & Vulnerable Feelings Read >> 

Learn to Quit Read >> 

Life Changes: Food and Noises Read >> 

The Spirituality of Raising Kids Read >> 

What Happens to Your Brain Before Your First
Orangetheory Class Read >> 

Wisdom & Wiggles Read >>