No one would accuse Erika DeBenedictis of having a light schedule. Ms. DeBenedictis, 17, recently finished her junior year at the Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, where she took A.P. Physics, A.P. Chemistry and a multivariable calculus class simultaneously. When she wasn’t doing homework, she worked on computer-programming projects for science fairs, entering several over the course of the year. She practiced the piano for 30 minutes most days and got up early to sing in a choir, too.
In other words, she could be the poster girl for the “overscheduled child” phenomenon that parents and educators like to work themselves into a stew about every time the calendar flips to September. Kids feel so much pressure to build a college-worthy rÃ©sumÃ©, the story goes, that they’re sleep-deprived and anxious””or as psychiatrist Gail Saltz put it at a lunch I attended recently: “You might have a child who really wants to learn Mandarin . . . but if they are pushed too hard, you will likely wind up with a child who speaks perfect Chinese . . . on Xanax!”
So is Ms. DeBenedictis facing a nervous breakdown as she enters her senior year? Hardly. “I’m very happy when I’m busy,” she tells me. It’s when she doesn’t have enough to do that she starts “moping around.”
She’s onto something worth pondering in this back-to-school season….