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prairiewindmomma

large family scheduling (activities, classes, driving, etc.)

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How do you guys manage this? Big paper schedule hung on the wall? Color coordinated shared google calendars? Frenzied shouting as you run out the door?

Do you integrate ALL of your schedules? (IE--include school planning on the same schedule)

I've tried a variety of systems and I need to reinvent the wheel again this year. 

ETA: My friends and family with 4+ kids all have family helping drive or have hired drivers.  My BFF uses 3 different drivers in addition to herself.  My schedule isn't that crazy (because it would kill me) but just keeping track of it all is a lot of brain bandwidth, iykwim.

Edited by prairiewindmomma
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Do you ever watch this lady?  I don't have a lot of kids, and I'm not a Mormon, but systems of organization fascinate me.  

 

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Block scheduling worked for me when we were homeschooling everybody and my kids were all little.... I can totally help 4 kids get ready (directing to showers, doing hair, feeding them, doing backpacks/jackets) + boot laundry + boot dishes in an hour. No problem. I have scheduled meals + shopping lists and can totally hit my windows of errand running to maximize picking up groceries or dropping books off at the library, etc. while I'm in that part of town. I still utilize block scheduling---I'm at a whole 'other level of complexity right now. Like, right now, I'm figuring out on google maps what will be my best driving loop because some kids will be dropped off early since I have pickups and drop-offs in the am happening that are physically impossible for "on time" deliveries. 

It's the little/big stuff that is driving me crazy. An example of a little thing is like how do I remember to send kid #4 with the special latex free supplies while remembering to do 14 other xyz things that same day (special one-time pop up things out of our usual cycle). It's too much for my brain to hold. Do I chart it onto a separate piece of paper next to a paper calendar? Do I put it in my planner? Do I have a daily sheet? Do I make extensive notes on our shared electric calendar? I can do notes on activities on our e-calendar, but it's hard to remember to check the detail when I'm scanning down 9 events for the day.

 A bigger problem is how I can set up life to help dh be able to step in for me if I am out of commission.

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I would put the special thing on your shopping list. Can you do a different book bag/backpack for each activity so you don’t have to repack every day. And the supplies and homework for that class go in that bag and in the trunk. 

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I have a paper calendar in my plan book with a month view. I put everything on this. Each week I transfer it to a weekly view in my plan book.  This reminds me of what we are doing and alerts me to conflicts I need to clear up. In an ideal week dh and I also review this.

Sometimes  I’m dropping off and picking up in 3 towns!  My kids know sometimes they will have time to kill. I regularly tell them about how I used to get places with bus transfers and walking and that it could take 1 1/2 to get to work bc if waiting for transfers and walking and how sometimes  I’d get to work early bc if timing and wait,etc, etc, etc. So they don’t complain. Lol. 

We couldn’t afford insuring my oldest but are making dd a priority bc I really need her driving!

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Oh brother one shouldn’t need to hire drivers, but it can take some planning in margin or dropping a kid off early if there is a conflict.

I use a giant wall calendar with lots of writing space and then verbally set reminders with my phones on departure times.

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10 minutes ago, Arctic Mama said:

Oh brother one shouldn’t need to hire drivers, but it can take some planning in margin or dropping a kid off early if there is a conflict.

I use a giant wall calendar with lots of writing space and then verbally set reminders with my phones on departure times.

Yes, alarms!  I couldn’t do it without my alarms. In really crazy Saturdays I make a flow chart on paper and put it on the coffee table so we all know where we need to be. Then I set alarms—drop off ones and pick up ones.

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I have two weekly dry erase calendars that are sitting on a bookcase, one above the other.  This is where ALL appointments and outside classes are to be written.  We've been using this for a while, including this summer with 3 part-time jobs.

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You all are operating a couple of levels of complication above me, but I'm thinking that we need to petition somebody to make a calendar app that notifies before an activity starts AND BEFORE THE ACTIVITY ENDS. Why is this not a thing?

Or is it a thing and I just haven't discovered it yet? 

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I did it by scheduling backwards. We actually did schoolwork AROUND all the other stuff! It worked for us as everything for many years was close to each other. Once we added in out of town music stuff, I was down to fewer kids. So, the kids' schedules listed piano, cello, violin, trumpet, sports, etc. and then we did schoolwork around those. I was blessed by violin/piano/cello being back-to-back, in the same building, next door for years. I could actually have the girls with one doing piano and the other strings at the same time--that helped. And when we couldn't, we'd work on schoolwork in the student lounge at the college. We used the college library a lot too--in a study room where we could close the door and corral the little kids. For a year or two, I'd drop a big kid off at the college, she'd do a class, walk across town (took 10 minutes) to work at the library, then walk back again for swim practice.  My kids had multiple backpacks: one for music, one for sports, one for schoolwork. They returned stuff to them on pain of death. And once they were on team, they left their swimsuits/goggles/etc. in lockers. The Boy Scout had another backpack just for Scouts. There were times I had to drop a kid off a bit early, or pick one up a bit late. If the Scout really had to be early, he could hang out at the library across the street for a few minutes. I'd try hard to group college classes close together, but I have to admit, it was HARD those years when they were 14 and didn't drive yet. For a couple of years, we carpooled with another orchestra family. The several years of orchestra going for hours in another town was hard, as it was 4 hours of driving. Fortunately, I was down to only two kids at that point. 

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Have you ever looked into having a Sunday Basket system?  It lets you drop all paper (mail, bills, to-do lists, notes to yourself) into a single basket that you go through once a week (on Sunday OR a day that works for you) to plan your schedule.  If the paper can wait another week it goes back in the basket so it's not forgotten.  If it CAN'T wait another week, it stays out.  You end up with a pile of "stuff" you have to deal with THIS week, then you plot your week accordingly on whatever calendar/weekly planner works for you.  The basket is your clutter/paper/brain dump so none of those random 5000 details get forgotten.  

I sit with my basket, my computer, my phone's to-do list and that 30-60 minutes I put into realistically planning my week (including real-live drive times) is a game changer. So if you do have a kid that is dropped at Activity A 40 minutes early while you drive another kid to activity B, you can give Activity A kid a book you need them to read, or a tiny piece of a research project to look up, or just make sure they've brought what THEY want to do and make wise use of that time . . . even if it means they pack a snack before you leave so they can EAT a snack while they wait.  Just because they're sitting elsewhere doesn't mean it's wasted time if you plan for it.  

 

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The other thing that helps me (other than my calendars that tell me when I have to be somewhere) is that I have a weekly to-do list instead of a daily one.  A daily schedule is just too difficult and stressful for me (and my health issues).

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1 hour ago, freesia said:

Yes, alarms!  I couldn’t do it without my alarms. In really crazy Saturdays I make a flow chart on paper and put it on the coffee table so we all know where we need to be. Then I set alarms—drop off ones and pick up ones.

Bingo.  Those save me so much mental energy.  Like, preschool bus drops off at 11:00, so I set my alarm for 10:55 so I don’t get busy and miss it.  Done, don’t have to think about it again until alarm goes off.

And on my iPhone I can set the days it repeats, so my pick up and drop off alarms go M-Th only, meaning I don’t have to manually activate them each day or deactivate them on non school days.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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1 hour ago, SusanC said:

You all are operating a couple of levels of complication above me, but I'm thinking that we need to petition somebody to make a calendar app that notifies before an activity starts AND BEFORE THE ACTIVITY ENDS. Why is this not a thing?

Or is it a thing and I just haven't discovered it yet? 

It’s a thing, you can do it with alarms, as I mentioned in a previous post.  Total life saver.

I also make liberal use of the reminder app, especially if something happens when I’m out, I might say “Hey Siri, remind me to write down my 2:30 dental appointment for Sept 14th when I get home.” And the get home phrasing means that reminder triggers when my phone recognizes I’m in those specific GPS coordinates.  So helpful.

I’m also really visual, so I keep a wall calendar with all the non-school stuff on it right where I can see it from the dining room table.  I consult it each morning and plan our departure times and drives and meals accordingly, and sometimes flex school depending on what fell where. But I have to have a color coded, big, tactile thing to help me keep the multiple activities and specialists and therapies and church/friend stuff straight. 

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I have it all on Google calendar, with a different color for family events that is synced to all my teens and DH. Mine has all my personal to do lists on it too, but I haven't shared that one with anybody. If it's something specific to just 1 other person then it goes on my personal calendar and I invite the person in question to just that event (and sometimes DH).

Most of the to do items are not in any particular order because I don't input them with a time, just as an "all day" event. So each day I write the day's events/to do items on a post it note in the order it makes sense to do them. I like the paper and pen list and physically scratching stuff off of it for that day's stuff, but the digital version in the cloud on Google is easier for longer term planning than just that particular day.

I do not have school stuff on Google calendar. I have a separate paper binder/list that tells me what subjects are prioritized highest and I do them in that order during our two blocks of school time, which are generally the same each day.

Every week I go through the upcoming week in Google and if a to do item needs to be moved to a different day because that one already has a bazillion things on it, then I move it.

Basically Google calendar is my brain dump so I don't have to remember anything ... which is good because I ... usually don't remember anything 🙂

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3 minutes ago, moonflower said:

We do the frenzied shouting.

Okay well, yes, that is also added into our scheduling, but I figured it went without saying 😆

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My kitchen whiteboard calendar is almost only for out of the house events.
My (paper) planner combines out of the house events and To Dos.
(Rough) homeschool plans are in their own notebooks.

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I have four kids. The need for me to be the driver is a little less now that DD17 drives and the other kids can take the bus to school. For several years, I drove four kids to three different schools with no busing; one of the schools was 25 minutes away, and another was 20. Then also a crazy afterschool schedule. I had to schedule all of the rest of life around my driving schedule.

I have a paper calendar that I keep in my purse. I use the Lang Pocket sized calendar, because it has a monthly format (I need to see more than a week at a time). I use fine point pens and color code what I write in there; DD17's activities and work schedule are in green, for example.

I need to carry my calendar with me, so I don't want to use a wall version. And I like paper better than digital. And I am a long-range planner, so weekly versions annoy me. So the Lang version works for me. It's just a pain when I occasionally misplace it.

I only keep one main calendar, because I found that when I tried to have more than one system, keeping both updated was a problem. DH writes things that he needs to know about on his own calendar and will look at mine, if he needs to. If we need to coordinate transportation, he and I will discuss it in advance, and he will write it on his calendar. This week, for example, one of us needed to go to a cross country meet, while the other went to a school meeting. I knew the time conflict in advance, so we planned in advance. I will text DH reminders or to ask him to put things on his calendar.

I do have a white board calendar as well, but I use it to keep note of things like which kid has an upcoming test at school, or who needs to return a permission form. Things that I need reminders about with just a glance in the morning or the night before. When my kids were younger, I used it to record the days that we had ordered lunch at school (we had to order ahead) and days that the kids needed gym clothes or instruments for band class. These things don't need to go on my main calendar, but I still needed a way to remember them.

Oh, I also have a separate planner for meal planning. I don't have room to write about food on my small pocket calendar. I could use my wall board for meal planning, but I like to sit at the table and compare my calendar to the grocery flyer to my recipe books, etc, and it takes awhile, so it's easier to have something I can have at the table with me, instead of something posted on the wall.

 

Edited by Storygirl
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I admit I have envied people who have extended family available to help with driving. Getting four kids where they need to go has always been complicated and stressful. There have been times when we've had to say that one kid can't do something because another already has something on the schedule, and I just can't be two places at once. When DD was dancing daily, it was a big problem.

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13 hours ago, SusanC said:

You all are operating a couple of levels of complication above me, but I'm thinking that we need to petition somebody to make a calendar app that notifies before an activity starts AND BEFORE THE ACTIVITY ENDS. Why is this not a thing?

Or is it a thing and I just haven't discovered it yet? 

You can set an app like Time Tune or Habitica to remind you of things in the desired pattern. I only have one kid and I have my phone remind me to go get him from scouts at the right time on Monday nights.

I use Habitica because it has room for habits (things to do sometimes, when possible), dailies (X must be done on days A, B, C), and To Dos (which can have a deadline or not). Things you don't do start turning red, and you can set reminders for dailies and to dos if desired.

I also use a big whomping wall calendar, which I have to design myself (because I require a week starting on Monday) and get printed each fall. But Cozi or a Google Calendar works better for sharing for some people.

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16 hours ago, prairiewindmomma said:

 A bigger problem is how I can set up life to help dh be able to step in for me if I am out of commission.

 

I only have 3 kids, so technically not a large family, but this is the tricky part for us.  

My DH works a job where he can be called in at a moment's notice at any point, so anything we rely on him for needs a back up plan.  We've also got a kid who can throw a wrench in any plan for medical reasons, and if he's out of commission a parent is too.  So, we need a system where someone can step in for someone else with no notice.

Right now, we have a google calendar that is shared with family members who we might call on at the last minute.  We also have a whiteboard version of the schedule (we try to keep them "synced") for the kids, and for the one adult who hasn't mastered google calendar. 

Given that we've been homeschooling 2 days, I can't tell you if it will work at all, but that's what we're trying.  

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My Ds is friends with a boy from a 9 child family. My Ds knows his friend’s schedule better than his own because the friends’ mom has the kids very regulated and consistent scheduled. 

All the middle / high school kids do activities in same place at same time, one activity per child at a time.   Everyone in family goes to church on Sunday, and is home doing home things rest of weekend other than possible sports meets — which if there are any, have to be only one team for all kids per season (for example the same cross country team for all the kids).   

They do have a couple of drivers among the adult siblings and a high school senior, who sometimes help drive for the one allowed activity. Easing the mom’s load from chauffeuring to deal with emergencies, doctor visits etc.    

All the minor boys have identical buzz haircuts (done by mom, I think).  There are no twins,  but I find it hard to tell which boy is which.   The Mom Simplified everything to the degree possible/reasonable, it seems.   Also she’s extremely blinkered to do just what she’s doing, nothing else.  When she’s picking up her kids at events, she does that as quick as possible, no chit chat. 

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It is a lot, that's for sure!  We don't have anyone driving for us, or family helping.  During the day, it is all me.  Husband helps in the evening when he can, but between his job and the ongoing house projects, he is busy.  (Yes, I realize we could put the house projects on hold.  But we did that when the older kids were younger, and they really need to be done.  They also reap huge rewards for our QOL as they are completed.)

 

Breakfast and dinner meal prep on weekends helps me a ton.  It cuts down on a lot of the mental bandwidth.

 

I have a rotating chore chart of cleanup rooms that gets posted every week.

 

I use a lot of phone alarms, even for stuff like, "Get So and So's X," set to whatever interval I know I will need in order to get said item.

 

Certain things get posted to the kids' checklists on their tablets, which they have to check off before they can play games -- morning chores, make sure you have your martial arts clothes for class tomorrow, etc.

 

And sometimes it is still chaotic. 

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Oh to notify DH I just keep it on the main calendar and text him the day’s itinerary, if he’s taking over.  His ical is too congested as is, to pair the family calendar on top of it.  

A text with instructions like “school 8-3:00, feed lunch at 1:00 and our boys down. Head to PT @ABC at 4:00 for 4:30 appointment, swing by rec center w/L @5:00 for 5:15 archery, pick up at 6;00 and Dominoes” works just fine for him.

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1 hour ago, Arctic Mama said:

Oh to notify DH I just keep it on the main calendar and text him the day’s itinerary, if he’s taking over.  His ical is too congested as is, to pair the family calendar on top of it.  

A text with instructions like “school 8-3:00, feed lunch at 1:00 and our boys down. Head to PT @ABC at 4:00 for 4:30 appointment, swing by rec center w/L @5:00 for 5:15 archery, pick up at 6;00 and Dominoes” works just fine for him.


I'm pretty sure that the relatives sign in and out of our google calendar.  I don't think they have it showing all the time, so Grandpa isn't getting reminders that it's our turn to bring orange slices to the soccer game between work commitments.  If there's something I do want him to know (e.g. a performance he might want to be at), then I'd share that with him separately.

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Our family is not that large but our schedule is complicated.  Google calendar, Alexa and a Fitbit with notifications helps so much.   On google I don’t put gymnastic 4-8pm instead I put drop off x at 4pm pick up x at 8 pm.   Alexa is set to to tell people when to get ready and what they need.  Example at 3:15 get ready for gym..pack snack, do hair, put on Leo.  

For school and chores we use good old fashioned check off sheets that I make a week in advance and also lets me get any special supplies or prep work.

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59 minutes ago, rebcoola said:

Alexa is set to to tell people when to get ready and what they need.  Example at 3:15 get ready for gym..pack snack, do hair, put on Leo.  

 

 

How do you do this? I have used a Alexa for alarms but I can't figure out how to get her to tell me what to do.

Susan in TX

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realistically, we just don't have complicated schedules, and every child old enough for activities is old enough to keep track of when they need to go to them.  The only ones we have now are for DD14 and DS11, who do scholar bowl, math team, and book club after school.  I just go pick them up, it's the same time every week, and if I forget someone reminds me when that kid doesn't come home on the bus that day and I go then.

I dunno, it's not that bad.  

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We use Cozi calendar on our phones for quick additions and I keep an updated (monthly) huge color coded Flylady calendar on our wall. Every evening I check the wall calendar and put the next day's activities on a chalkboard that sits at the bottom of our steps and near the front door. Everyone in the family needs to walk by it every morning, so everyone should know what's happening that day. I also set alarms on my phone as reminders to get ready for an activity, leave for an activity, or leave to pick someone up. I used to stress all the time that I was going to forget someone, so the cell phone alarms have made my life easier (and nobody's been left waiting since I started). Our homeschooling schedule is kept completely separate unless it involves something out of the house. I don't have as many kids at home anymore, but the kids here have many different activities right now.

 

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Try to uncomplicate the schedule as much as possible-  have set Home days and set days you go out.  I color coordinate a printed calendar with outings, apts, ect on it. A different color for each kid.  School is scheduled in a different place, weekly, after looking at the upcoming appointments.   Some weeks are just 3 days of school, some weeks we have 2 half- days, ect.  Depending on the outing calendar.   I keep a running grocery list, so as soon as I know I need something it goes on the list.  In your example of needing gloves, they would be put on the list as soon as I knew I needed them and sent to school asap.  I have tried a digital calendar,  but I like seeing it all written out.   I do not like too much on one thing either,  which is why I keep it all separate- list, school, outings. If I did meal planning, it would be it's own calendar, and I would coordinate it with my outings calendar.

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2 hours ago, Susan in TX said:

 

How do you do this? I have used a Alexa for alarms but I can't figure out how to get her to tell me what to do.

Susan in TX

It’s the routines feature it’s really easy in the app!!

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