In this day and age, kids may seem busier than ever before. With school, extracurricular activities and homework, there's barely a second to rest, and as a parent you might sometimes feel more like a personal assistant than a guardian. If you have more than one kid, keeping everything organized and on schedule might seem downright impossible, but the truth is you don't have to be a miracle worker to organize your kids' schedules. You just need a few good techniques.
Often, problems begin because your kids' schedules are constantly changing. A new school event pops up here, a birthday party there and before you know it, you have four things to do this Saturday at 10 a.m. It's tough to plan for this type of thing. However, you can plan for everything else, and by doing so, you might make the unplanned events a little less stressful. Accomplishing this could be as easy as putting up a color-coded calendar, or you might have to take it a step further and have your kids fill out permission slips to return to you to attend a certain event or participate in an extracurricular activity [source: Children's Rights Council].
Depending on how technologically astute you are, you might be able to use computer software to keep your kids' schedules organized as well. There are programs you can use to keep track of every appointment, pick-up time and homework assignment your kids have. Some will even send reminders right to your phone.
Keeping your family organized may always be a challenge, but there are definitely methods that can help make the task easier. Keep reading to find out more about a few of them.
Methods for Organizing Your Kids' Schedules
Organizing your kids' schedules should be a group effort. It's not a bad idea to pick a time every week when your family can sit down and go over the coming week's events and appointments. Sunday nights often work well for these meetings, but whatever night seems the least busy is probably your best bet. An easy way to stay organized without spending a lot of money may be to buy a large calendar and a different colored pen for each member of your family [source: Family Plus]. When you sit down to plan out the following week, each member of the family can tell you what's coming up and you'll simply write it on the calendar. When you're done, you'll have a visual representation of everyone's commitments, and it should make coordinating schedules a lot easier.
One of the key elements in organizing your kids' schedules is organizing all the pickups and drop-offs that will be necessary to make sure everyone keeps their appointments. On top of feeling like a personal assistant, most parents start to feel like chauffeurs at some point or another. If you have more than one child, the chances that you'll be able to get them all where they need to be -- when they need to be there -- are slim to none. That's why it can be helpful to coordinate with other parents who have similar schedules. Carpooling can be a lifesaver [source: Redbook]. You can use the same calendar that you use to keep track of everyone's commitments to also keep track of who is in charge of driving to and from those commitments.
At the end of the day, keeping your kids' schedules organized might mean making some tough decisions as well. You may have to limit the number of activities you allow your kids to participate in. You might also consider setting up an incentive program, in which you reward kids for good behavior or good grades by allowing them to participate in more extracurricular activities.
Successful methods for organizing your kids' schedules may involve specific tools. Keep reading to find out what you might need to put your scheduling strategies into place.
Tools for Organizing Your Kids' Schedules
Using the right tools can be a key factor in keeping your kids' schedules organized. There's the big calendar, for example, which you learned about on the previous page. These calendars are usually cheap, easy to use and incredibly efficient -- if you're diligent about using them. The calendar system does require a certain amount of cooperation from everyone, but once your kids see that it makes their lives easier as well, they'll probably be more willing to contribute.
If you want to take things a step further, you could also use a contract or a form that your kids have to fill out in order to participate in an activity or go to a specific event. Not only can this help keep you meticulously organized, but it will teach your kids about responsibility as well.
One child advocacy group, the Children's Rights Council, has developed a form that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. It is aptly titled the Activity Schedule for Kids -- or "ASK" -- form. The way it works is simple. When your kids want to participate in an activity, they fill out the form completely, including the date of the event, the time and a short description, as well whether or not you will need to provide transportation. The form also includes a spot to list the cost of the activity and a section for emergency contact information, so you'll always have a way to get in touch with your child. Try filing the completed forms according to date, so that you can easily reference them when planning out the week's schedule [source: Children's Rights Council].
One benefit of keeping your family's schedules organized can involve meals. Everyone needs to eat, and it's nice when you can find time to do it together -- but sometimes you need the right tools to make this happen, too. For example, you can make eating together efficient by planning out the week's meals in advance and separating all the ingredients you'll need for each meal in a labeled container. Then when it comes time to cook, you won't have to spend time looking for things [source: Woman's Day]. You can use the time you saved by pre-planning to spend more time with your kids.
For those who consider themselves computer savvy, you can take organization to the next level by using computer software to keep track of your kids' schedules. Keep reading to find out what programs work best.
Schedule Organizing Software
Whether you use a Mac or a PC, there are ways your computer can help you organize your kids' schedules. There are several software programs designed specifically to help you keep your life organized, and you can try many of them for free. In some cases, there may even be an application already built into your operating system.
If you use a PC, MSD Organizer might be a good organizational software choice for you. If you're already familiar with Microsoft Outlook, you probably won't have much trouble using MSD Organizer. It has a very similar layout to Outlook, and you'll be able to keep track of everything, from your kids' schedules to your mortgage payment and finances. You can download a 30-day trial of MSD Organizer for free [source: CNET].
Another popular program for PC users is Lexa Organizer. Not only does this program allow you to easily keep track of all your upcoming events, but it also lets you rank them by importance -- and set audible alarms so you won't forget about them. You can download a trial version of Lexa Organizer for free, and it lasts for 15 days. After that, if you decide you like the program, you can buy it for $19.99 [source: CNET]. Other programs, like Google Calendar, are available free of charge.
For Mac users, one program that can help you stay organized is already built into your operating system: iCal. With this program, you can color code each kids' commitments as you enter them into a common calendar. This will allow you to see your entire family's upcoming schedules at a glance and understand how they fit together [source: Apple]. The application also allows you to set alarms and even sync your calendar with your phone so you'll be reminded of upcoming events no matter where you are.
For a lot more information on how you can organize your kids' schedules, check out the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Apple. "Mail, iCal, Address Book." 2010 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.apple.com/macosx/what-is-macosx/mail-ical-address-book.html
- California State University, Northridge. "Television & Health." 2007 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html
- Children's Rights Council. "Access Services & Parental Education." 2007. (Accessed 01/18/2010)http://crckids.org/members/prog-parent-support-ask.php
- CNET. "Lexa Organizer 3.5." September 02, 2004 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://download.cnet.com/Lexa-Organizer/3000-2074_4-10191632.html?tag=mncol
- CNET. "MSD Organizer 10.3." September 14, 2009 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://download.cnet.com/MSD-Organizer/3000-2074_4-10039341.html?tag=mncol
- Family Plus. "Organizing a Family Schedule." 2009. (Accessed 01/18/10)http://familyplus.bgca.org/PARENTINGQA/Pages/OrganizingaFamilySchedule.aspx
- Gibbs, Nancy. "Raising a Child Costs Some $221,000, Before College." Time. August 24, 2009. (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1916278,00.html
- Google. "Google sync for your phone." 2010 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.google.com/mobile/sync/
- Hong, Jeng-Tyng & Lisa Stark. "A Nation of Overscheduled Kids? Maybe Not." ABC News. December 4, 2006 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WNT/story?id=2700060&page=1
- Redbook. "How to Streamline a Jam-Packed Schedule." 2010 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.redbookmag.com/recipes-home/tips-advice/organize-busy-schedule
- Woman's Day. "14 Tried-and-True Organizing Tips." January 11, 2010 (Accessed 01/18/10)http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Shelter/Organizing-Cleaning/14-Tried-and-True-Organizing-Tips.html