Family planning, the low-tech way

The BoardWith a dozen or so games and practices on the schedule every week, it’s a minor miracle that everyone in the house gets where they need to go. Sometimes it feels like we’re running a logistical operation on par with UPS. I’m sure at some point we’ve ended up at the wrong rink or had the wrong time for practice but those instances are very few and far between thanks to a great overall team effort and the use of our decidedly low tech but extremely efficient dry erase calendar.

The calendar, or The Board, as we call it, is the most essential communication tool in our house. If it’s not on The Board, it’s not going to happen. It’s a great tool for the kids to learn how to budget homework time and take (some) responsibility for knowing where they’ve got to be and when. It also encourages “whole family thinking” which means knowing how another person’s life impacts yours. So, if Mom is taking your sister to practice, she’s not likely to be around to help you with your homework project.

The how to
After shopping around for a non-existent weekly calendar, I bought a monthly dry erase calendar and corrupted it for my own purposes. I kept the days of the week at the top but labeled the rows for each person in the household so you can look down the row to see what is scheduled for any individual, or down the column for the day’s events. We use a Monday through Sunday system, so every Sunday night or Monday morning, the week’s events are updated.


Important notes in another color so they stand out

We also use The Board to keep track of the rotating weekly jobs, add notes or items for the grocery list (there’s a memo space at the bottom) and write in reminders. I try to make additions or important notes in another color so it stands out. If I’m REALLY on top of my game, I’ll write the menu for the day also. Okay, so that hardly ever happens. But it has.

The keys to success are:
A prominent location. Mine’s on the fridge since my boys spend most of their waking hours in front of it. But any high traffic area will work.

Keep it updated. Obvious, I know, but really important.

Train the family. My kids and husband know to check the board often and write things up there if they want them to happen. And it keeps them from asking me 60 times a day when practice is or if they have a game this week.

Keep it simple. Early on I tried a different color pen for each family member and cute magnets for marking special dates or events. I’m over that now but we do sometimes draw little pictures for birthdays and stuff.

Less is more. You don’t need to write every last detail. Just a time and location works fine, with the details on your planner or e-calendar. You want this to be a quick, easy read.

There are a number of ways you can keep your family organized, ranging from the aesthetically pleasing yet pocket depleting Pottery Barn system, or a board similar to mine at Staples, The Container Store or Amazon for under $20. Or if you want to make it cute, Mom 4 Real has instructions on how to make one.

So, what’s your trick?  Share your best planning and family calendar tips in the comments.

6 Comments on “Family planning, the low-tech way”

  1. Michelle says:

    I love this! This is similar to how I manage the family calendar. I’m a gadget girl though, so it’s all in my iPad. Each family member has a color and I include meal planning, notes, driving directions, etc. Unfortunately, because it’s all in my calendar, I’m the go-to person for the “Do we have anything going on Saturday” type questions. (And yes, we always have something going on Saturday!) But if it weren’t for having everything in one place, my head would spin. And like you said, having it all in one place means everyone sees how their activities impact the family as a whole, no compartmentalizing. It makes our family a team…I like that feeling!

    • Gadgets are good! A fridge with a built-in iPad that automatically syncs the family calendar would be nirvana for me. And then I won’t have to worry about The Board being accidentally erased by my kids wrestling over the last of the milk.

  2. Busy mom says:

    We are more high-tech, but it works for us because everyone is synced simultaneously. I keep Google calendars for each of my kids, and one master for “whole family” events. These calendars all sync with my iPad, and everyone in the family has access to them on their laptops, iPods, and iPhones. Whenever a new entry is made, the other relevant people get an invite so they are alerted to the event. I also make sure to invite my work calendar as well as my husband’s, too. Everyone has editing privileges so each child can enter in birthday parties, etc.

    And finally, the calendars all sync with our Sony Dash that sits on the kitchen counter so the schedules are available to all at a glance, including our nanny.

    It sounds complicated, but it’s not. One entry, and 7different devices are synced all at once (my iPad, my Android phone, my work calendar, DH and DS iPhones, DD iPod touch, and the Sony dash.)

    • Wow. That’s impressive. You are far more technologically advanced than we are. We only have one smart phone amongst the five of us and I can’t even get my kids to answer texts reliably. I would love to have everyone on the Google calendar or iCalendar system. It’s something to shoot for. Hats off to you, Busy mom.

  3. Lynne Logan says:

    Our family is also a user of the dry erase board organizational system. We call it, “The Command Post,” or “Mission Control.” All events, practices and games are posted as well errands that need to be completed on a specific day…like get the oil changed in the car. At first it seemed like it would be extra work and a chore that I wouldn’t want to do on a regular basis. Once you get into the habit of doing this, it’s not a chore. It’s a necessity. The dry erase board has worked well for us for the past four years. I highly recommend giving it a try. Thanks Trophy Mom for another helpful tip!

    Softball Mom

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