Defining Priorities to Make a Family Schedule

A reader asked some time ago (it takes me time to put my thoughts together) if I had any family scheduling advice to share and although I don't have all the answers I have a few ideas based on what works for us.

These are the guiding principles I use when planning our family's weekly schedule, regardless of the time of year, if we are focusing on school type activities or enjoying a summer week of days at the beach and berry picking. 

1. Shared family values

Recognize what activities your family values, make time for those and then pursue them - together as much as possible.

The together part is key because the more you integrate your life the more you can accomplish multiple and varied goals.

If you are having problems identifying what you value you might start with a family mission statement. I love what Simple Mom has just recently posted on that topic here and here.

There is only so much time in a day and if everyone is on the same page you have more of a chance of hitting the mark. As a family you will have to say no to many "good" causes and activities to live this way. And you probably won't fit in with people around you who are running around the clock to be here, there and everywhere.

I have also had to let go of some personal desires for the good of the whole family, who hasn't? But if you approach it with the right attitude you will gain more in the end than you lose.

Example: Damien is not a gardener, I am. Damien loves the outdoors and although I do also I'd be just as happy working in the garden on a weekend day (having no idea the beauty I'm missing in the great outdoors). To compromise we've scaled back the gardening to what is manageable in 2-4 hours or so for me during the week. Not including the lawn, Damien cuts that. That leaves our weekends free for outdoor family time in beautiful places where I can take lots of photos. We all win. And where are the kids in all this: they love working on their gardens and having me outside during the week and they love our weekend outdoor adventures.

2. Give and Take: Making time for personal goals

This point kind of relates to the first. As mothers, wives, partners, daughters, friends, sisters etc... our lives are not our own. We share them with the people we have relationship with. I share mine (predominantly) with my children and husband. And although my personal goals are in line with our family's vision and values sometimes I need alone time to accomplish them.

I've learned that if I work to meet the needs of my family and they feel secure they are more willing give me time to pursue some of my interests. This involves communication and action; expressing personal needs and goals and supporting each other in achieving those.

Relationships are a give and take and carving out personal time in the midst of raising a family is part of that. When the kids were babies the personal time came in snatches and was less predictable. Now I schedule an hour a day, after lunch, as "mama's writing time" and the kids are old enough to mostly fend for themselves (sometimes a video helps). But they know I am am available before and after that time for their inquiries, tattling, amazing discoveries etc.

3. Time for Work: Time for Play

I like to schedule my weeks, no matter the season, so that I get the worst work out of the way early in the day or week. Homemaking is a job so you can't escape work but you can move the drudgery around a bit. Schedule chores and your least favorite tasks for early in the day. Laundry, meal planning, errands, vacuuming - whatever.

Get it done early in the day or week but don't pack all the work in one day, the kids will revolt. And don't wait for all the work to be done either before you have fun and pursue hobbies. The work will never all be done.

Speaking of the kiddos, engage them in both work and play. Young children don't understand the old adage "duty before pleasure" it's all fun to them! They love to help. Let them. It will benefit you in the end but take more time initially.

Older kids seem to lose their enthusiasm (maybe just mine) for work but do understand "this morning we do chores, this afternoon we go to the beach". Our "play" is pursuing hobbies, together or separately, creative pursuits, outdoor time, summer trips to the beach and such.

4. Enjoy and embrace the season

This applies to both your life season; whatever family stage you're in -caring for babies & toddlers, raising school aged children etc, and the actual seasons on the year.

If you have young babies you won't get as much done in other areas, that's ok. Lower your expectations. What you are accomplishing is laying a foundation of love and care during the most crucial years of your child's life. I'm through the baby years but I still have to scale back my homemaking & creative pursuits according to the needs of my children.

I live in an area of the world that changes by season so it's natural to adjust our schedules accordingly. I'm also learning not to carry over baggage from previous seasons into the new.

In other words, if we don't meet an educational goal during our "school year" I'm not about to stay home from the beach during summer to "catch up". There will be time enough for that when the weather doesn't allow us to be outdoors so much.

And sometimes you don't catch up you simply let go.

Show me something practical

This all sounds kind of theoretical so here's a copy of our actual summer schedule to show you how it works in action. Each family has different values, goals and resources so use it as an example and nothing more. Please feel free to ask questions or share your own tips and advice for determining a workable family schedule.

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  • kirwin

    kirwin on July 15, 2009, 2:39 p.m.

    "As mothers, wives, partners, daughters, friends, sisters etc... our lives are not our own."

    That's my favorite quote. That's the part of motherhood that I was not expecting, and it's been the hardest part to get used to. I'm still working on carving out my "mama time" during the daily nap time (whether they actually nap, or not.)

    I loved looking at the PDF. It looks like a wonderful, well-balanced schedule.


  • nicola

    nicola on July 15, 2009, 7:02 p.m.

    fabulous post and super helpful attachment. you are soooo organized and i think that is wonderful. being organized and scheduled (as negative as some people might perceive this to be) is so incredibly helpful for our living a calmer, simpler, balanced, happy life together! nicola

    nicola's last blog post... corner view: revealing myself


  • Naomi

    Naomi on July 16, 2009, 1:56 a.m.

    "And sometimes you don't catch up you simply let go." I absolutely love that statement, it is SO true! I've been doing some letting go myself lately, and it feels so good even though it isn't easy. Kids are more than worth it!


  • Simple Kids

    Simple Kids on July 16, 2009, 2:55 a.m.

    Yes to what Naomi commented - that was the most powerful line for me, too. I've been learning that a lot lately. A lot more than I would like to learn, actually, but I'm trying to accept the lesson for what it is and go with it.

    Megan at Simple Kids's last blog post... What We?re Reading Wednesdays: James and the Rain


  • Kika

    Kika on July 16, 2009, 7:27 a.m.

    Interesting and revealing post - it seems you're excellent at creating balance in your home/life and focusing on your priorities. What are the top two or three areas that you feel you'd like to improve in or specific goals you're working on in your life?


  • Rana

    Rana on July 17, 2009, 2:26 a.m.

    I like your schedule it's kind of like mine. I put it on the google calendar to keep up with it. Everyone is color coded. Every morning I get the hardest chores done so that in the afternoon we can spend time playing games, being outside or just doing whatever the kids want to do. That was my goal for this summer. I'm calling it the "Lazy days of summer." I wanted it to be for my kids how my summers were for me when I was there age. Sometimes it's hard to say just let me finish this last task and we can do whatever. I'm learning that those little chores can wait. Spending time with my family is more important.

    Rana's last blog post... Nature Study


  • Andie

    Andie on July 18, 2009, 3:59 p.m.

    We've had a family mission statement ever since I read, "The 7 habits of highly effective families" or something of that title back when I was pregnant with my first.
    Gorgeous photos!!


    • renee

      renee on July 19, 2009, 12:28 p.m.

      family mission statement: we've been working on ours for years. We know what our values are and how we want to live and we talk about it often but it hasn't made it to paper. I hope to do that soon, since I'm the family recorder. Damien's the idea man but not into writing it out.


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