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Taming the Teenage Schedule

photo from Pottery Barn

Guest post by Elizabeth at Ordinary Time

Life with many children is busy and I have found it just gets busier as those children get older. They each have their own interests, activities and friends and trying to keep track of all the comings and goings of these not-quite adults can make a mother go gray even faster than she already is.

To try to save my sanity, I have come up with a game plan that keeps my busy older children happy while allowing me to keep track of what everyone is doing. Some of the key items of that game plan include:

1) Using a family calendar

We have a large, write-on calendar hanging in our kitchen. Everyone is required to write their activities and commitments on the calendar. If they aren’t on the calendar, they don’t exist.

I make sure to put family activities on the calendar so when my children are scheduling their lives, they know what to avoid. Our general rule of thumb is that whatever makes it on the calendar first takes precedence.

2) Making family dinners a priority

Our older children know that it is the very rare activity that can take precedence over family dinners. And really, it has become such a habit that it is not an issue. Sometimes, dinner time is the only time our family has to visit together. We believe that this is important to our family’s well-being and we make it a priority.

3) Planning “enforced family fun”

As children get older and their schedules get busier, sometimes we have to schedule our fun. If my husband and I want to do something as a family, we make sure to pick a date and get it on the calendar. Our children know that it is a non-negotiable activity.

When our children were younger, it was easier to be spontaneous, but as our children have aged, we have had to give up a bit of spontaneity in order to have family activities. It is worth the trade-off.

4) Teaching our children how to schedule their own time

Part of being a functioning adult means being able to plan and schedule on one’s own. As our children get older, we give them more responsibility with their own time management. We offer advice and guidance and sometimes help with the inevitable crisis as our children learn this valuable skill.

We begin when they are about 11 or 12, making daily schedules with them and as they get older, we contribute less and less. The most difficult aspect of this for me is to try not to remind as much as they get older. It is hard to watch your child get into a bind, time-wise, but sometimes it is the only way they learn.

Raising children through their teen years can be challenging for many reasons, but having a plan to keep the scheduling aspects of life under control can make it more enjoyable. Not only does is help keep life a bit more manageable, it can also help to strengthen family ties by allowing families to continue to spend time together.

Elizabeth Curry is a homeschooling mother of 9 children, ages 17 to 17 months. When she isn’t busy raising her children, she writes, sews, reads and blogs at Ordinary Time.

If you’re a mom of a teenager, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for time management! Share them with us in the comments.

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  • Ashlee says:

    We only have a baby and are super busy! Both my husband and I come from homes where the family dinner was very important. We plan on continuing that with our children. It really just helps the whole family connect and I believe helps foster better eating habits. I’m so happy that was in this post.

  • sara says:

    I like the idea of the picture above…is that something that you made at home? I have a large desktop calendar that could easily fit this idea. Would love a ‘how to’ guide on to construct one.

  • janella says:

    Our oldest is a senior on 2 varsity teams, band, and academic teams plus all the other stuff that comes with school and volunteering. I bought a blank monthly calendar that is taped to his door. All morning meetings, meets and concerts, and regular volunteering is written on the calendar. Each week we jot down the service hours completed on the calendar. At the end of the month tear off the page and save it for scholarship info that you will need on the number of hours served and dates. Only wish I had started this 3 years ago.

    Other son- 7th grade gets the family calendar with his own color.

  • Antoinette says:

    We have a large family wall calendar that we had laminated so we could dry-erase or wet-erase. We are getting to the point where the kids each need their own color…that would put us up to 6 to 7 colors…and not enough room to write it all down. Am contemplating going with the large paper wall calendars and using different colored fine-tip markers or something so we can get more on the calendar (not that I want more on the calendar, mind you!).

    I get kinda tired of updating the google calendar, my pocket planner that has to go with me to work and meetings, the wall calendar, etc.

    We also have weekly “correlation meetings” where we discuss the next two weeks. Everyone makes sure their items are discussed (if they want them to happen) and we make sure everyone is aware of the family flow for the week. Even then, chaos happens….

    Looking for more tips to quarantine the chaos!!

  • We have 7th and 9th grade daughters. The 7th grader is not gone much as of yet but the 9th grader is quite busy. She is on the Speech Team at school and is in Advanced Choir which includes Madrigal and Jazz events. At church she sings in the Band on Tuesday nights (class night for 5th-8th graders) and on Wednesday nights she sings for the K-6th grade class at 6pm, then she sings in the band for the Highschool class at 7pm.

    We have yet to come up with a schedule system that works for us but I am now thinking some type of calendar on the fridge would be great. Because everyone gets in the fridge! 🙂

    Since we do not have a schedule set out to refer to I find myself asking the girls everyday what their agenda is.

    Supper together is mandatory even if it is super fast. Sunday’s are go to church and stay home with the family days, we will keep this mandatory also. When I lived at home Sunday with the family was mandatory up until I got married and moved out.

  • Melissa says:

    We have 3 kids, and only one is in school now, 1st grade, and I have noticed how much busier our lives have become! We limit him to only one after school activity, which is currently tap dance, but between school events, dance classes and recitals, etc., the schedule gets really full. I imagine it will get crazier when all three of them are in school and activities. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • K. says:

    I know this is counter-cultural, but we simply limit our children’s outside commitments. We believe that the time we spend as a family is far more valuable than the myriad of outside activities that teens can be involved in. They have sleepovers with friends and are involved in some church activities and the occasional class to learn a skill, but I refuse to turn into a taxi service.

    • Antoinette says:

      @K., amen!! although my hubby and I definitely disagree on this one…he believes we need to let them explore their talents and be involved in whatever they want to be involved in, etc., etc., etc. and I believe that home/family/service/our relationship with God come first and that you can explore your talents in all kinds of ways by focusing on that.

      My MIL uses this filter: will being involved in ____ help me (him/her) become a celestial/Christlike person?

      I believe too that “to everything there is a season” applies to my children’s lives as well. And the quote is “to everything there is a season” NOT “everything must happen in a season”.

    • Stephanie says:

      @K., We feel the same way, but also want them to explore their different interests so we *try* to keep them in similar activities or if that is not possible, we limit them to each child being involved in one activity at a time. This doesn’t always work perfectly, but it helps limit things a bit. Since we never have been involved in a lot outside the home, it has cultivated a love of being at home as a family with my children. They are not all teenagers or fully grown yet but I hope that it something that stays with them forever!

  • blue j says:

    We use a version of the family calendar listed above. However, I have added a color coding system so that I can see at a glace just exactly which child has an activity going on. This has been a sanity saver for me.

  • Holly says:

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one still using a wall calendar. How do you handle scheduling follow-up appointments when not at home at the calendar? I don’t really want to drag my big wall calendar to the orthodontist. Right now I schedule when I’m there and then double check the calendar when I get home and write it on. I’m wondering how others handle this.

    • Elizabeth says:

      @Holly, This is the trouble with the big wall calendar, isn’t it? I do carry a small calendar in my purse, that I try to keep current with the big one. (I’m not always succesful!) I will schedule appointments using that and then put them on the big calendar at home. It’s not a fool-proof system and it’s a good thing the orthodontist calls a few days ahead to remind me.

      I also wanted to comment, and agree with K. I should have included that in my original list. We do limit the number of activities our children are involved in. I believe having dinner together and my children having some free time is far more important than being scheduled in many activities. All those activities may be good things, but we will often say no to those things in favor of better things… time together, etc.

  • marisa says:

    Thanks for this post. We have 5 kiddos, one with special needs and one teenager thrown in. Life is very unorganized for us right now and this was helpful.

  • Kim says:

    My scheduling life saver…a PDA (mine is a Palm brand) that syncs to my computer. I have four teens! And three are busy, busy, busy 17 year olds! My family can view it on our computer, I carry my PDA in my purse and sync it often. If you have a PDA you can color code people or items (whichever you like) and print the calendar and post if you want. You can store contacts, view word docs and so much more. For me it is second only next to my Bible. Did I mention I have a Bible on my PDA? $200, but I’ve had mine for years and they’ve gone down in price. The trick is to not always want the newest, latest model. This would make a great gift!

    What also helps me with our families’ schedule is to know when to say no. Two of my children are graduating from highschool this year (homeschool) and I was convicted about the small amount of time I might have left with them. So I have relinquished almost all of my volunteer duties for a season. I am ever thankful that I volunteered while they were young, it planted a seed of giving in my childrens’ lives. However, now it is time for me to be available fully to them as they transition into adulthood. They have also said “no” to many extra curricular activities. Does little Johnny really need to play EVERY sport?

    Accepting help is the last item I would say helps with our schedule. When you have a crisis, or are moving (which we are about to do) or some other event happens and someone offers a hand, say yes! Saying “no” to appropriate things and saying “yes” when help is offered not only frees up your schedule for your teens, but it demonstrates to them how to effectively manage their time. After all, isn’t that what we want, to model for our kids?

    Many Blessings.

  • Janet says:

    I was a single Mom when mine where teens. Both of mine where very young when the graduated from high school. I did the family calendar thing and had the family dinner nights which worked well. However, the one thing that the kids would consistently forget is that they could not book Mom to drive them in opposite directions at the same time.
    Each child was given a decent car and the insurance to drive during the final year of highschool / this was secretly out of my own sanity so that I could get some rest! After graduation they both had to turn in the driver’s license as I could not afford the insurance for longer than one year and they both opted for colleges in New York which thank God has great public transportation! Any child wanting a chance at a good to great college and scholarship money will tend to be massively overscheduled between Leadership, Academics,Community Service, Sports, Arts, Clubs, Honor Societies and Work. If they wish to learn about the real world they will learn how to balance all of this. I had family dinners on Sunday evening (I did make it an exception they could each invite one friend however, everyone would sit down and eat a real meal together) I also tried Wednesday evenings and I managed to get quite a few but also many of these had to be canceled due to other commitments.
    The other massive problem is children highschool age easily forget that they need to save time for doctor and dental appointments as well. Braces take a number of visits. Sports require physicals at the beginning of the year or semester etc…. Plus they never factor in if they become ill.
    Of course most of us adults forget to factor time to recover from illness as well. I also taught my own 250 lessions that every child should know before they head off to college. Little things like knowing how to cook , and balance a check book and do a load of laundry as well as larger things. I scheduled a weekly appointment with my kids for one on one time starting when they were 11 to learn these tasks which I had jotted down 250 of so that they would know how to grow to become independent young adults.

  • Fern says:

    I’m the teenager in this situation 😉 We have a difficult time trying to keep schedules up-to-date in my family and co-ordinate everything, even though my dad works regular hours, my brother is normally away at uni and my mum works from home and can often reschedule her day if I need a lift at a random time or something.

    I have a diary in which I write everything that affects me (so that includes stuff that my parents don’t care about, like if a lesson in the middle of the day is cancelled or something). We also have a calendar on the fridge where we write things that affect each other (eg. if I’m going to be out because I have a driving lesson, I write that down). Every time we go to the fridge, we check the calendar to double-check what’s coming up.

    The problems arise in that we live in a rural area and public transportation is practically unheard of. I can get to college and back okay, but anything else, forget it (case in point: I have a Saturday job 20 mins away and it’s 1 1/2 hours on the bus, and longer in the morning as I get there 45 minutes before I start!). My schedule is pretty full, what with college, music lessons, driving lessons and work, and I endlessly fight with my parents over lifts (as public transport, even if it takes ages, is often not an option at all as it just doesn’t exist). Roll on a driving licence…

  • Lori says:

    I have four kids born in five years. My third just graduated high school. Since they were in elementary we have used the family calendar. I buy mine off Amazon every year. I get a 24″ by 36″ calendar. Family color code is black and the kids each have their own color. This has worked for us for years! And even if I’m too far away from the calendar to read it, I can see at a glance who has an activity on any given day. I just use a purse size calendar when we are at appointments to schedule future things. I check them against each other pretty frequently so have not had too much trouble with this. Now that the kids are all older I get them to write in their work schedules as well so I know where they are if not at home! =)

  • Mellisa says:

    We have a family calendar, but in addition to that my husband and I also use a couple apps on our android devices. Google keep allows us to create and manage lists and tasks, together or seperately. And we both use the Google calendar, which allows us to sync our calendars together & schedule accordingly.

  • Angela says:

    We use the free Cozi calendar app so that all our family members can stay current on our schedule. I can even meal plan according to the schedule on there, and everyone can add to our shopping list. I was always a wall calendar person, but now that we have a middle schooler and a high schooler who are both in sports, it’s become necessary. Unless you don’t allow your children to play school sports, you unfortunately will have limited weeknight suppers together once they’re that age. : ( Sad but true – we’ve started having really nice breakfasts together instead and it’s been a great way to start our day.

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