There are so many types of “family planners” out there. And about a million recommendations for scheduling family life.
Everyone thinks their own way of planning your schedule will create calmer family life.
And the beginning of each new year there are just so many people selling you the “absolute best family planner” for you to try.
Me, I’m a planner and stationery freak.
I love it.
Like I love the smell of new stationery. The crisp feel of new pages turning on a new journal. The testing of the exact colour of ink in a new pen… I actually struggle to use the stickers I get with new planners and often end the year having used only a few because I like the newness of it all…
…well, that and my issues with perfectionism. But I’m working on that one. Which is hard. Coz I want to do it really well….!!! (Yes, I know that is actually the problem!)
So when anyone tells me that they have a new planner for me that will create a schedule for sane family life I am ALL OVER IT.
Like, come here to momma.
And about a couple of weeks in… well… I feel bad for not using it properly. And I somehow just go back to doing what I have always done. And my new special planner becomes another half-used piece of paper/journal sitting in a drawer in my house…
So while I could easily recommend endless different types of family planners (since I have tried a good number of them!) I think it is better to recommend ways to decide how your family works, so that you can then decide yourself which type of planner will work in with your family’s rhythms.
Having said that, I will still tell you about a handful that I have found that I have used more than just a little. After all, if you function somewhat like me, and these recommendations help you, then you may find the same kinds of planners will help you too.
In the meantime, here are the different ways of planning our family life that keeps me moderately sane.
What needs to be scheduled?
Ah yes, the eternal question. Those who are planning types would say most everything. Others who are a bit more inclined to float with whatever happens would not do much…!
So the truth is that it does come down to personality.
Maybe the first thing to think about is the different types of personality in your family.
If you have a super organized person who loves to have it all planned out well in advance, that’s great – but don’t make that person do all of the work. If it’s up on a planner somewhere then at least honour the work by sticking to it!! And the person doing the organizing may need to relax a little about other members of the family who are more “go-with-the-flow types.
I guess the main thing is to have some idea of your personality type and to work to your strengths. And to make a plan TOGETHER. Family plans tend to work best if the parents at least are in it together…!
Some families will just want to put up the basic in terms of appointments and events on a calendar. If that works for you, great.
But I would suggest that you look at these areas to see if there is anything you can do to make your family life run more smoothly.
So many people seem to fight their kids every day to go to school. That includes me, by the way.
Those that don’t fight as much either have cruisy kids, or kids who love school, or really, really, really good morning routines.
Since I can’t change your kids for you (or for me!) let’s focus on morning routines.
And I would like to suggest an excellent book for those of you who are readers (that would be me!)
Bloom book recommend.
The essentials are these: prep the night before, make sure you wake up in plenty of time, and do the same thing every morning in the same order until it is a habit and you don’t need to think about it – in other words, create morning habits!
Let’s break that down a bit more.
Prep the night before
So I still lay out the clothes for our kids the night before when we need to be able to get going in the morning. I lay my own clothes out too. And every workday my husband lays his clothes out now as well. It is one less decision to make in the morning.
Did you know Barack Obama wore only grey and blue suits so that he never had to use any energy deciding what to wear?? This is kinda like that.
I also tend to have packed lunches premade the night before. And bags prepared with everything they need already in them. And shoes ready.
If we need to be especially early I will get breakfast laid out as well.
Make sure you wake up in plenty of time
This is a no brainer. But it still needs to be said. I love my bed. I adore sleeping in. So I have to fight myself to get up in the morning. Especially when we have a disturbed night.
But the whole day runs more smoothly if I get myself up in time to be ready before getting the kids ready. And that is worth it.
Create good morning habits
This is again not difficult. But it takes a bit of thinking about to make sure you get the best way for your family.
The idea is that, like Obama having only grey and blue suits so that he doesn’t use up his decision making energy on unimportant things, you get your body working on autopilot as much as possible in the morning. Then your energy is used on your real work – or on getting your kids to school without any yelling… which may be your real work. (Hey, no judgement here! We all do it!)
So if I give you an example of what I do in the morning when on autopilot: I get up, go to the bathroom, shower, dry my hair, put on clothes and makeup and get a cup of tea. Those things mean I am ready to face the day, whatever else happens. Or doesn’t happen.
You see, if need be I can wolf down some food while I drive the kids to school, or have it after dropping them off. Or I can leave my tea half-finished while I wrestle clothes onto my boy. That happens waaaay too often. Mostly coz he thinks it’s funny and it means he gets his clothes on.
The point is that I don’t use any energy doing those things. I have a completely autopilot routine. So when I do need to start thinking is when I start getting the kids ready. And I can use my energy to get them ready without losing my cool… or at least being less likely to lose it!
If you have kids that wake up much earlier than mine, your morning routine will look different. But it doesn’t matter. The point is to figure out what you can do that will work and that you can turn into something you know so well you can do it without thinking at all of what you need to do next.
My next step is to get the kids into their own routines that become autopilot habits. THAT will make life so much easier!
Most families have their rhythms through the weekends even though they would say they don’t have a routine at all.
But even if it’s sleeping in and then deciding once everyone is vaguely ready to do something what’s going to happen, then that’s a routine.
Our non-planned routine for weekends is generally something like this: We all sleep in until someone (usually the youngest!) wakes us all up. Dad gets up with the kids and Mom stays in bed for a bit longer… we all muddle around if there is nothing to go to until we eventually dress and then go out for some kind of active outing, like to a park or playground. That’s usually active for the kids I should mention 😉 We come home for lunch. After lunch is “rest time” where the kids can have screen time (on small devices) on their beds or on the couch. It used to be reading time first but somehow that got dropped… After rest time we have more attempts at active time, either outside or activities inside if the weather doesn’t let us get outside. And around 4pm it’s back to everyday routine of viewing favourite Youtube clips on the TV together until it’s time to get dinner ready!
What exciting lives we lead!
“Rest time” is a great invention for finding time to get things done while the kids are at home, by the way.
For school holidays we tend to follow a version of our weekend routine.
Since Dad is at work it is not quite the same. And I like to have one main thing that we plan for each day of the week, so that there is something for us all to look forward to, but only one thing to cope with if the day isn’t going very well.
Sometimes that one thing is a visit to our house from friends. Other times we go to the playground.
It could be a trip to the shops to get certain specified items on a list (does anyone else have kids who ask for everything.in.the.store when you go out anywhere?!? We have a list and only get what’s on the list to try to cut down the requests. Yes, it only cuts them down, but it does help the disappointment!) Joking aside, I find we go to the shops very little since it has so many unknown factors and the chances of it all proving too much are very high.
How do I schedule it for my family to see and follow??
Again, an eternal question. Some people want everything up and visible to the whole family to try and encourage everyone to do their part. Others only put some of it up and keep track of the rest more privately.
It will need to be in a place where the family will all be able to actually see it often. So that also means at a height that shorter members of the family can see it. AND it means that those who don’t read so good yet may need visual cues…
I have heard of a thoughtful mom who kept their family calendar in a pantry cupboard so that visiting kids would not see any party or event that they may not have been invited to as well. If you have a lot of people through your house you may want to consider where you put anything that goes up on the wall.
When we have had visual schedules we have tried to use, sometimes we have had them on our living room wall. In hindsight that was probably too open and allowed for anyone visiting to look at them, ask about them and then comment. At the time it may not have mattered but in the future that could cause some self-consciousness for our kids.
SO… think about where you put your planner or family calendar to make sure the right people see it.
Visual schedules are great for younger members of the family and for anyone with any kind of special needs.
I know a mom who drew pictures for her preschooler and toddler to help them remember what was happening on each day of the week. They were simple: Tuesday had a picture of preschool for the preschooler to go to. Friday was the “adventure day” where they decided together on an adventure they would do together. I don’t remember the other days, but you get the idea. It worked well for her to give enough structure without creating things she couldn’t maintain. For her, it was enough and it really helped.
I have seen other parents who have drawn pictures of each aspect of the morning routine to help kids keep to what they need to do in the morning. Those tend to be more detailed helping the kids remember what they have to do in what order.
We have had visual schedules with more details but they usually end up being overly complicated for our 7-year-old with autism. In fact, they become overwhelming and create stress instead of relieving it. So we need to keep working on it to find a good balance.
When we have our images to plan a school holiday week – one each for a day – there is usually good success in helping our kids understand what is going to be happening. So sometimes it does take some working on to find the balance for your kids’ ages and stages.
There are a few versions of this.
Of course, there is the huge year-long planner which most adults need to plan out their work-life and major events. For older kids that may be a good idea to show when fun event happen throughout the year.
When the kids were smaller and we were in a tiny house, I used a wall planner to keep myself on track of all that was happening for us. I simply used washi tape to mark a huge grid on the wall. I taped in numbers for the days of the month. And I used post-it notes to record birthdays and events and appointments that were happening.
At the time the kids were just starting to read numbers so they enjoyed that but didn’t get much out of the wall planner otherwise. I want to do it again but our “new” house still has the textured wallpaper on the wall so I haven’t managed to make washi tape stick on it. I tried and wasted lots of tape 🙁
I’m also taking my own advice and I need to find a less public place to put it up in the house.
So there you are. My top recommendations for scheduling family life.
What would you add to this list?