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The Latest Fad Is Family

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All across America families are on the move—to music lessons and sports activities, dance practice, church groups—staying active, being involved and seeing very little of one another.

It's enough to make a family ask for a "time out." And, reports CBS News Correspondent Russ Mitchell, that's exactly what some are doing.

In one Minneapolis suburb, the Peterschmidts were running their own version of the modern American rat race. For 12-year-old Max there was accelerated math class and scouts and trumpet class. Nine-year-old Betsy played soccer and had piano lessons. Both kids also went to Wednesday night youth church group.

"I remember a couple of times waking up and saying, 'I know exactly how I am spending every minute of every day until I go to bed tonight,'" said Bugs Peterschmidt.

But even though they were all very busy, they weren't always very happy.

Eric Perterschmidt recalls: "We would see less of each other, tempers would get short, we'd get less sleep."

"I don't think anybody was real happy. The kids were talking about how they were real burned out," said Bugs. "And the signal was strong and clear: it's too much. It's just too much."

But it happens, say some experts, far too often, one reason why Bill Doherty, a professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Take Back Your Kids, is leading a grass-roots effort called "Family Life First" that helps families who are ready to slow things down.

"I gave a talk on this problem which I call overscheduled family hyper-activity. And it was kind of electrifying. People said, 'Yes, you know, this is a problem that didn't have a name, and we're part of it,'" Doherty remembered.

"A big part what we are talking about in the Family Life First movement is not just the negative message, like 'cut back' and 'be more moderate,'" he stressed. It's to emphasize family life and family rituals."

Family Life First is asking coaches, churches, gym teachers and youth groups to cut back on rehearsal and meeting time, to not penalize kids for missing practice, and above all, to avoid scheduling activities that cut into the family dinner hour.

"Things like family meals, bedtime talk with kids, family vacations, visits to relatives—these sort of things are the foundation of the pyramid, if you will, of childhood," said Doherty. "And nothing else is going to replace those."

But putting family life ahead of extracurriculars hasn't proved simple. There's pressure on parents for their kids to succeed, which translates into pressure on coaches to produce winners.

"There are some skeptics out there," said David Gaither, a football coach.

"I'm getting some feedback from parents that says, 'Gosh, is five hours of practice enough? Can you teach them what they need to learn? Are they going to be competitive at other levels?'" Gaither said.

Indeed, says Doherty, t's hard for families to say no to activities they took up because they were deemed important—especially when restricting activities means less enrichment for their own child.

"It is very difficult for individual families and individual parents to just say no, because their child individually takes the consequences," he said. "What we're trying to do, and it's already beginning in this community of Wayzata, Minnesota, is a community-wide discussion, so we move together towards sanity in this area."

This summer the Peterschmidts aren't watching their kids play ball under the lights, instead, they're dining at home, by candlelight.

"Well they won't be a Michael Jordan, probably," said Eric. "But I think what we are giving them is a better appreciation of all of life. Not just narrow segments of it. That's what we are trying to do."

"Children are wonderful, intelligent beings and I think, just let them calm things down, drop it a few levels. At least this is what we have see," said Bugs.

"Things are quieter now," she said. "And because they are quieter, they are better."