Practical Dad

August Preparation:  The Family Calendar

While it won't be finished in August - it's actually never completely finished - the family calendar will receive a new batch of attention starting in August as the kids gear up for a new school year.  And don't think that it's not important just because your little ones are only in a three year-old preschool class.  The scheduling starts that young and the earlier the kids get a basic handle on time-management, the more adept they'll be later on.

Because time-management is an acquired skill, not an inborn one.

How and Where to Start

Simple.  Get a monthly planning calendar from an office supply store, large enough to be readable and with enough space to handle multiple entries.  The wall-mounting simply means that it has a permanent home; kids have a stunning ability to make movable objects disappear and anything left on a flat horizontal surface will acquire enough stains to remind you of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Once you have the calendar, start listing all of the information that you know.

Since most activities for younger kids don't commence until after the start of the school year, the logical starting point is the general school calendar.  These dates - showing vacation, early-dismissals and in-services - are typically available on the school or district website starting in July.  The great majority of school districts then supplement these bare-bone efforts with a complete calendar that's delivered several weeks before the start of school.  Use this calendar as the starting spot for the planning.

Calendar Basics

You have the option of just keeping everything together and putting it the family calendar at one time, but you're better served by building the family calendar in a layered fashion.  This means that you're continuing to build upon the basic structure as the information becomes available; you have a better grasp of how activities and events interplay so that as new things crop up, you can mentally compare the times with what you know is already there.  It also lets you begin to work through the logistical requirements of how to get meals served and children One and Two to activities A and B.  And even decide when the particular activity has to be discarded because of excessive strains upon the kid and family time.

Once you've got the information on the family calendar, be sure to keep the original calendar - and subsequent activity schedules - in the schedule folder as backup when disputes and questions arise. 

As each new activity schedule comes home, make certain to add it to the schedule and then move it to the schedule folder.

Calendar Techniques

As kids are added, aged and involved, the family calendar will have to be adapted to meet the family needs.  What can you do to keep it working for you?

  • Use pencil so that any changes don't make the calendar ultimately unusable.  If it helps - or you're just that retentive - assign each child a color and make the additions in the appropriate colored pencil.
  • Get in the habit of a uniform response when the kid asks about being able to do something or go somewhere.  What's on the calendar?  The kid can get into the habit of reviewing it and learn to actually make it a valuable tool.
  • Make it a routine to update the calendar or at least thoroughly review it on a regular basis.
  • Use the calendar as a guide for menu preparations.  Some nights are crockpot nights because of kids eating at different times, while other nights cry out for pizza because there's simply no way to even prepare food.
  • Make it a practice to keep the old calendar for a period in order to refer back to it as the need arises. 

Don't get flustered if the kid occasionally misses a practice or appointment.  The calendar is a constant work-in-progress but consistent use will allow you to add at least one more ball to the daily juggle.  And even the greatest jugglers occasionally drop one.

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