Summer Sanity Saver System

I have kind of mixed feelings about summer.  Of course I love the slower pace, the extra time with the kids (though now that we’re homeschooling that may not be a big change), the summer only activities, the nostalgia.  Then there’s the boredom and it’s so scorching HOT here I’m not a giant fan of being outside all day.  Also, this may be a giant no-no for a Texan to say, but I’m not a big fan of the swimming pool.  It’s ok, but I always leave with a headache and exhausted. This summer I wanted to really take advantage of summer, so:

  • I made each child an activity book.  I went around inside and outside the house and took pictures of all the different toys, play areas, and activities they could possibly do with their time.  I categorized the pictures into “Things I can do on my own”, “Things I can do with a friend”, and “Things I can do with my family”.  I put 2 on a page sorted into their categories, printed it out, and put it in a report folder.  I remind them of this book to get their ideas flowing on what they could do if they’re bored.
  • I made a screen time checklist for each child.  Screen time is like my nemesis and it’s an easy source of bad feelings between parents and kids in our house.  They have a bit of extra screen time during the summer.  Whenever they use up screen time, it gets checked off.  When it’s used up, it’s up.
  • I decided boredom is ok and healthy.  In the past I have felt as if its my job to be the family’s entertainment planner.  Well, as an adult, being bored is precious to me as it’s such a rare feeling!  Seeing what the kids figure out to do when bored is interesting!  If they ask me what to do, I usually welcome them to dust, vacuum, or clean baseboards.  🙂
  • I started a simple reward system.  They get a marble in a cup when they behave well, a marble taken away when they don’t.  They get and lose marbles liberally.  When their cups are full they get a big prize (this just happened and they selected Chuck-E-Cheese’s trip).  I know reward systems like this have some downfalls, but it seems ok for us.
  • We play!  I enjoy playing a wide variety of games with the kids and we have the time to do it!  Sometimes the games are academically oriented (like Hangman) – shh don’t tell.
  • I set some general goals.  I’m working on some academic things with the kids each day, no more than 20 minutes a day, but it makes a big difference when done daily.  I have a few goals for myself too so I don’t get the “I wasted the day” feeling.
  • We do have a very light “schedule”.  There is some scheduled activity for at least one kid every day except for Friday.  (for ex: science club, piano lessons, gymnastics, swimming lessons, field trip with grandma, visits with friends)
  • My husband absolutely loves going to the pool.  I have let him take the lead on this activity.  If we have time and the opportunity presents itself to go at other times during the day we go!  Otherwise, I’m not going to try real hard to work it into the days.

I think it’s going pretty well!  It’s given me some freedom from guilt for not being the entertainment master AND extra time to do some stuff I need to (like plan homeschool!).  The kids really seem pretty happy with it too.  They know what to expect and enjoy it when we go somewhere and when we’re home since I believe we have a healthy balance. What are your summer sanity savers?

Schedule Keeping

Everybody seems to have a very busy schedule and we are no exception.  Anything that takes up my time is involved in my schedule and this discussion. My friends tell me I am a very organized detailed person.  I hope they truly feel that way!  Actually I am really spacey often, get distracted so easily it’s laughable, forget what I’m saying right in the middle of a sentence and have a terrible time remembering where I put anything.  If anybody asks me what I’m doing tomorrow, I probably have no idea, even though it’s likely planned out.  I’m messy. I procrastinate.  I have no problem with doing something in the short term that I know will cause long term problems (staying up too late, reading a useless book). So how could somebody like me possibly have a reputation for being very organized, detailed and generally reliable?  It’s a requirement in life with an autistic kid.  I use a ton of redundant record keeping to keep up with it.

  • At the heart of my system is my Google calendar that I share with those closest to me so they can see what I’m doing and maybe even remind me of it!  I set it to alert me to appointments, though by that point it’s likely too late if I’ve forgotten.  Just about anything I can attach a date to goes on there.  The obvious things are appointments.  But I put stuff like “Start on project X”, “finish project X”, “NOTE: next week you need to bring cookies to…”.
  • I replicate this calendar one week at a time on a whiteboard on my fridge with colors and stars and whatever else I need. If there is something I need done by Friday, it’ll go on Wednesday and Friday slots.  I keep a running list of things I need to buy in the column on the left.
  • I have another whiteboard prominently by my computer for reminders and other long-term schedule items.  It currently has my general plan for each day of summer, my personal to do list, general planning goals I’d like to complete, and a detailed to do list for one of my projects.
  • I have another whiteboard in my closet upstairs.  Upstairs is the weakness in my system.  If I remember something up there, getting it transported in my brain down the stairs is very difficult!  The whiteboard helps.
  • Email could be in its own post, but in general:
    • I use my email box kind of like a to do list and appointment reminder system.  Emails from myself to myself with reminders are common.
    • I don’t delete an email until I’m “done” with its subject matter.
    • I have many email folders (and filters that send email directly to these folders) that I use and check.
    • I have multiple email addresses (4 currently) for different roles in my life, but I check all of them at the same time in the same email client.
    • If it’s scrolling off of my screen I take care of it!!
  • Keep the clutter down.  The old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” applies not only to physical things in my house to keep organized but also to my schedule.  I don’t keep tiny slips of paper all over the place with reminders, appointments, “to do’s”, and I definitely don’t keep it just in my brain.  It all goes into one of these redundant systems.
  • Schedule free time.  I majorly need my time to be spacey and free with no organization at all, I always make sure I have it every week.
  • I haven’t even discussed how I manage the household organization and to do lists. It’s important to have good systems for these things as well so they don’t become huge drains on your schedule.  Sounds like a future post!

For some this system may sound complicated, obsessive, like I need to get a life, and doomed to failure.  However keep in mind I am a super spacey person, easily distracted, short term thinker, procrastinator, not intrinsically motivated to do these kinds of things, and a daydreamer.  Yet, I doubt many who know me well would think of me like this! My responsibilities require focus, patience, and long term goals.   This is how I do it. Any tips?  I definitely think in the future when I’m not the sole schedule keeper of the family, things will need to change.  I’d love to hear how you keep a schedule!