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.
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.