September brings not only the beginning of a new school year, but also the start of a variety of extra-curricular activities for your children. Trying to manage your children’s busy schedules can be challenging; trying to fold their lives into your own busy life can be downright difficult. How can you do it without losing your mind in the process? Here’s one suggestion: a comprehensive calendar system, along with a little pre-planning.
To come up with a plan, the first step is to figure out how many activities you are willing to let your child do. Questions to consider include:
If you have more than one child, should you stagger or alternate their activities? How much schoolwork do you anticipate your son or daughter will have this year and how will after-school activities impact that? (For example, a sport that holds a daily practice and has a game every weekend is a bigger time commitment and will interfere with studies more than a one-hour per week art class.) Are there certain activities you consider non-negotiable, in which your child must participate, i.e., CCD or Sunday School? How many activities can you afford to pay for this semester and will you need to purchase any additional equipment or supplies?
Once you’ve answered these questions, sketch out what a sample week’s schedule will look like. Make a grid listing each day of the week across the top; going down the left-hand side of the page list times, by hour, from school dismissal until evening (i.e., 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, etc.)
Pencil in each activity your kids are considering, and make sure to include travel time. But don’t forget to include your own activities so you don’t commit Johnny to karate lessons at the same time you have yoga class.
After you’ve finished, take a look at your grid and decide if it’s reasonable: are you over-committing either your children or yourself? Did you schedule in some downtime and study time? If not, make any needed changes now.
To make your schedule work, everyone needs to know where he should be and at what time each day. A family calendar hung in a prominent place, such as the kitchen, can accomplish this — just make sure the calendar has large boxes for each day that allow plenty of room to write. An electronic calendar that each family member can access, or that can be printed out and displayed, is another option.
If you have several children, assign each child a specific color and color-code her activities. This can be done with both electronic and paper calendar options. If you’re using a paper calendar, simplify the process by tying the colored markers to a string and attach them to the calendar — you’ll always have the correct marker at hand! Also, be sure to check for weeks when activities don’t meet (i.e., winter vacation, President’s Day, etc.) and make a notation on the calendar.
Here’s something you may want to consider, especially if you have more than one child: set up a carpool and share transport with other families. If that’s not possible, consider hiring someone to drive your children to and from functions.
Wishing you a fun-filled, stress-free school and extra-curricular year!