While parents want their children to be well-rounded individuals and try to provide as many opportunities for them as they can, it can be more than a little tricky to juggle everyone’s schedules and after-school activities. Between sports and other extracurricular activities, dinner, housework, homework, bath, and bedtime, parents and children rarely have time for anything else, and sometimes they don’t even have time for all of that. If you’re searching for an answer to the after-school juggling routine, you may find some of our tips helpful for making it all work.
1. Make and stick to a family calendar
A family calendar is a must if you want to juggle after-school activities. First, purchase or make a large calendar and choose a central location in your home to hang it. Everyone needs to be able to see the calendar to know what is happening and when; it helps to avoid overlapping events and stretching everyone too thin. Consider color-coding events so that each family member has his or her own color, and enlist teenage kids to assist in driving younger siblings to dance, soccer, and other activities when you have to be two places at once.
It’s also a good idea to add a corkboard to the calendar so you can hang important papers, reminders, permission slips, and other materials near the calendar. You and your kids most likely will remember materials if they are in the vicinity of the calendar itself. Dry erase boards or chalkboards are some of the best choices for family calendars because you can change the calendar at a moment’s notice without having to cross things out and take up much-needed calendar space.
2. Make meal planning a priority
If you don’t plan meals, you will suddenly find yourself falling into a fast food rut that is not healthy for you or your family. Make meal planning a priority and stick to a routine to make meals as a family possible. You may not be able to eat as a family every night of the week, but you can strive to eat together as much as possible. Choose a day to plan meals – many families choose Sunday because it is the least busy day of the week – and buy and prepare ingredients ahead of time. You also should consider investing in a slow cooker if you don’t have one already so you can prep meals and then allow them to cook all day while you are at work and kids are at school. Slow cooker meals also stay warm, so your older kids can grab a bite to eat when they get home from a late-night study session, practice, or game.
When you can eat as a family, keep meals simple and involve younger kids who are home in preparation and assembly. You may be able to manage Taco Tuesdays or Pizza Fridays and get kids involved in setting the table, filling water glasses, and carrying condiments from the fridge to the table. By preparing meals together, you will ensure that you are spending quality time with your kids while also making it easier to get dinner on the table.
3. Prioritize and plan ahead
Sometimes, juggling after-school activities means keeping track of how many balls you have in the air and refusing to add more. While your daughter may come home from school raving about a tumbling class her friend just started, you may not be able to enroll her if she’s already involved in softball or instrument lessons. One option is to hold family meetings regularly to get an idea of which activities your kids want to do and choose those that will fit together the best. For example, if your son’s football practices are every day after school and football is his number one priority, allow him to play football but hold off on starting karate until football season ends. You also can plan ahead by carpooling with other families to free you up a few times a week.
Use your family calendar during the family meeting to visualize the schedule and show younger kids why some activities just won’t work. Younger kids will not always understand why they can’t participate in something when you tell them about the conflicts, but if you can visualize the conflicts for them on the calendar with their colors, they will have a better idea of why the schedule does not have room for all of their activities.
4. Be consistent and follow a routine
If you are consistent with your schedule and keep the family in a routine, there will be fewer opportunities for wasted time. For example, younger students should come home from school and immediately complete their homework and pack their lunches for the next day. This ensures that they will be prepared for school ahead of time and cuts down on potential chaos the next morning. Older children also should be as consistent as possible with their homework and chores, so they learn time management skills and have time to participate in extracurriculars without falling behind in school work or chores.
Routines are just as important for family pets. If you find that your dog is having accidents, it may be because you have fallen out of the routine of walking him or letting him outside. Consider hiring a dog walker to keep a consistent routine with your dog on your busiest days. Maintaining a consistent routine is important for all members of your family.
It is not easy to juggle after-school activities with all of the other things that families need to do to keep up with school work, housework, and paid work. But, there are steps families can take to make sure younger and older children get to participate in after-school activities and still spend quality time together without letting anyone or anything fall behind.
Guest post by Joyce Wilson, creator of TeacherSpark. Joyce created TeacherSpark as a resource for engaging lesson plans and activities.