11/3/17

15 Tips for Managing Multiple Extracurricular Activities with Multiple Kids and...Still Having a Life


By on 11/03/2017 12:09:00 PM

As a parent, my hard and fast rule for sanity with our eldest daughter was a limit of one year-long activity and one seasonal activity at a time.  She needed time for studying, we needed time for family activities--and she had two much younger sisters that I didn't want living in a car through the first 5 years of their lives.  This worked well with her.  She played soccer in the fall and spring, sometimes tennis, she did ice skating lessons and snowboarding with the ski club in the winter--and was involved in the school orchestra year around.  As the two younger girls grew, we added Irish dance (year around) and orchestra (year around)....and soccer by the season along with cross country and track in the fall and spring, respectively.

Then.  BAM.  This year broke the rules.  All of the rules.  Both younger girls are enrolled in the school orchestra (year around)--the youngest is also taking Celtic fiddle lessons (year-around).  The youngest is enrolled in Irish dance (year-around)--and made a local club soccer team (fall, winter and spring with a couple of summer camps).  The middle one stopped Irish dance due to a severe ankle injury--and I agreed to let her try out for the school's color guard team because we thought that cross country may be nixed with the ankle issue as well.   She made the color guard squad (summer and fall)--and the ankle healed enough to allow fairly regular cross country training (summer and fall)--so she was on both "teams" for the fall.  Hmm.  We were suddenly a multi child family with multiple extracurricular activities in the same season.  How could we manage that--and still have some sort of family life without losing our sanity (or our jobs)?  Here are my  15 Tips for Managing Multiple Extracurricular Activities with Multiple Kids and...Still Having a Life.



Update, Sync and Color Code those Calendars. Daily.  I simply use a free Google calendar to update, sync and color code my daily life.  Each member of the family has a color--and I am able to sync soccer practice calendars, marching band/color guard rehearsal calendars, orchestra event calendars, cross country calendars, and more--and use it on my phone when standing at the orthodontist's office wondering if we have any free day next month for an appointment.    Using the sync function is especially useful when working with a group that makes frequent updates to the "mandatory" calendar.

Some parents prefer a printed calendar like this Do-It-All-Moms calendar..or a planner.

 


*Helpful Tip*  Add addresses for all of the practices and events onto your calendar in case you need to shoot your spouse a quick, "Pick X up at XYZ at 7!"  The address will be in your calendar for a quick and easy reference or cut and paste!

Enlist the Village for Help--and expect to Talk to those Coaches more than you Ever Wanted to.  My high school daughter suddenly had to "find a ride home" for the first time in 14 years.  She managed.  There were simply days and times that I couldn't be there when she finished a practice or an event.  She had to enlist the "village" to get her home.  Luckily, she had friends in each of her activities with parents willing to help out.

*Helpful Tip*  While, enlisting "the village" is necessary--it's also necessary to talk to those coaches, advisors and directors a lot more than you'd probably like to do since there are going to be event conflicts--especially toward the end of the season with competitions and tournaments.    Plan ahead and expect to negotiate and compromise from the early weeks of the season if your child is involved in multiple sports/activities in the same season!

Pay it Forward.  At Every Opportunity.  I never ever (ever ever ever) miss an opportunity to drive one of the girls' friends to or from a practice or event.  Never.  If I am in attendance--I can and will spend an extra 20-30 minutes to drive that friend home or even to their next event if that's what's needed.  I pay it forward constantly--because I have to enlist the village for help multiple times over the season. Good Karma is your friend with multiple kids in multiple extracurricular activities.

Create an Awesome Activity Storage and Organization System.  The best thing I did this fall season was a simple investment in a storage bin "organization system" to keep all of the girls' gear contained and ready to pack off into bags each day.

                                               

This made my life SO easy!  I didn't have to spend time searching for color guard gloves or the tool to remove cross country spikes or searching for a pair of poodle socks for Irish dance class.  I put all of the uniform pieces (including socks and sports bras and shoes, etc) into the appropriate bin as soon as the pieces were home and/or through the wash.  There is nothing worse than tearing the house apart for a specific, black, sports bra at 6 a.m when the bus leaves at 7 for a cross country meet! 

Pack the Car with Back Up Supplies.  Stash some water bottles, some snacks, hoodies, leggings, and extra socks (for all of the activities) as well as changes of clothes with "normal" street shoes.  I also stash a first aid kit with some pain relievers and even some cold medicine because sometimes a shin pad rubs a blister or a something just starts hurting or a nose gets stuffy or a cough comes out of nowhere!

                                                              

My youngest daughter usually takes extra water bottles in her soccer bag for games because her friends often forget water or run out.  (Paying it forward...Earning some good Karma.)  I also pack a bin with some umbrellas, hats, extra towels, garbage bags, lawn chairs and blankets to plan ahead for rainy, wet, muddy, cold Ohio Fall outings!

Stay Up to Date with the School. Daily.  School work should be the priority for our students--so it is your job, as the parent, to ensure that you are up to date with any and all of the technology offered by the school to inform families of grades, events, and upcoming activities.  Then.  You need to help your child learn to plan for all of the upcoming projects, tests, and activities--AND attend those practices, games and events for their "other activities". 

Plan to Work Ahead on School Projects.  Sometimes--WAY AHEAD.   I spent a lot of time nagging over the past season.  One child had an independent reading project due at the end of the quarter--that we knew about in August--and I could see (in my all knowing mom wisdom) that she was going to have a soccer tournament, a class book final project, a science test, a social studies test--and a couple of orchestra playing tests during that final week as well.  Don't get me started on the high school, enriched coursework situation.  Families with multiple children in multiple activities need to plan to work ahead on projects--and that means reading, writing, planning projects weeks or even months in advance!

*Helpful Tip*  Pick up poster board and project boards in various sizes and have markers, colored pencils, glitter, glue, construction paper and an assortment of project supplies to stash away and make available for those late night project work sessions!


Expect to Miss Some Activities. To complicate things for our busy family this fall; my husband was "forced" to start a new job when his division at a bank closed.  With the job change, he lost a lot of his flexibility to leave the office at random times.    With multiple children involved in multiple activities--we had to split up and attend separate activities or accept that our schedules would not allow either of us to attend an activity on a given day.  I would recommend taking turns so that each parent gets to attend at least one event per child to ensure that the child knows that both parents appreciates his/her efforts--but, prepare the kids that sometimes they will not have a parent at a given event.


Take Lots of Pictures--and Ask for Pictures from other Parents. I am SO fortunate that there are parents taking tons of photos at soccer, color guard, orchestra, and cross country.  We always have great photos of the girls even if I am sidelined (or at another event in a different city!) So--since I have a great photography network--I also try to take a lot of photos of other people's kids when I visit events as well to share!

Plan Menus Ahead--Break Out the Slow Cooker--but, Expect more Takeout than you Would Like.  If I plan ahead--we tend to eat healthier, more "real food" dinners at home.  Some days, the only way that we eat a real meal in any form is with a slow cooker or a make-ahead recipe.  Having said that--my color guard/cross country daughter was often at school from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. without an opportunity to come home.  She ate more takeout this season than I would have liked!  Chipotle, Subway, Panda Express, our local Chinese place, Pizza, and some randomly packed up granola bars, chips, fruit, cheese sticks and snacks rounded out her fall meal plan.  When things get busy--takeout happens--sometimes even you plan and generally follow through on those menus!

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Learn to Say No.  Can I go to XYZ after practice? (After waking up too late for breakfast, eating a school lunch and having about 4 hours of sleep because of the previous night's homework and activities!)  Can you volunteer this weekend at the concession stand?  Can you come to a family cookout on Sunday? (After you spent 12 hours at events for the kids on Saturday--and have a soccer game Sunday evening!)  No is not a four letter word. It really is not.  You and your kids cannot do everything and be everywhere and go to every event and activity happening when you are ultra busy with multiple extracurricular activities and multiple kidsYou need to say no sometimes--and accept that it's okay because it is what's best for your family.

Be Patient with the Volunteers.  Almost all of your activities include booster organizations or parents serving the team as volunteers--just to help out. I was a room parent for nearly 10 years.  I was a "chairperson" for all sorts of fundraisers.  I remember receiving a list of parents willing to donate items for fall classroom parties (scheduled for Thursday) on a Monday morning.  I called those parents that afternoon, apologizing for the "lateness of my call"--and I remember all of the irate comments for the late notice.  I understood their frustration.  I would have LOVED to have planned our classroom party the week before.  (I worked too, had other children--and hated last minute chaos....but...the PTO sent me my list of parent volunteers on Monday morning...for Thursday.  I bit my tongue, I apologized.  I learned a lesson.  I try to be patient with parent volunteers in all of our activities.  Sometimes, they are given the short stick.  Sometimes they just shouldn't have volunteered for their duty(ies).  Nonetheless, they are trying to be there and help with your kids.  Show patience.


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Be Patient when you are a Volunteer.  If you are volunteering at a concession stand for the high school football game--the patrons probably still think they are going to McDonalds for dinner--and you suck at your job if the food is less than perfect temp or takes too long.  Smile.  Apologize.  Be gracious.  Expect to be disrespected--but, know that your kids benefit greatly from that tongue-biting and extra effort.  Expect to receive the details and the important info at the last minute--and expect to work a lot harder as a volunteer than you ever did when you got paid!  Patience.

Expect the Unexpected to Blow your Day to Hell at Least Once a Week. I have been driving child 2 to dance class...thirty minutes away from child 1's cross country practice when a lightening storm broke out for child 1...and practice was cancelled.  That 14 year old child 1 doesn't drive herself to practice--and I was 30 minutes away. Kids get sick.  Cars break down.  Schedules flip upside down.  Weather strikes. Life happens.  Unexpectedly.  Usually at least once a week.  Really.

*Helpful Tip*  Make a backup plan before the unexpected strikes.  Make sure that the child has options for rides from teammates or knows the plan if something goes awry.

Schedule Family Time (i.e. Schedule Having a Life).  You know, when I offered tips for managing Multiple Extracurricular Activities with Multiple Kids while Still Having a Life--I was serious.  You can still have a life with 6 nights a week booked with activities.  You just need to schedule it.  We have gone to family gatherings, hockey games, school events, family dinners, haunted attractions--and shared a few family dinner/movie/game nights over the past 3 months.

How?  We scheduled family time.  

I bought non-refundable tickets for events, we agreed to split up for some activities (a couple of us going to a school event while a couple of us went to a hockey game or a soccer game), we agreed to meet between activity A and B for a family friendly Activity C.  Sometimes, we just shut down for a Saturday or Sunday (or a Thursday or Friday) and planned family time.

We had to say no to some things.  We had to stay positive when the unexpected erupted.  We had to keep up with school and work commitments--and color code those calendars to find some space--but, WE DID IT!  We scheduled family fun--and we survived six activities between the girls plus gifted/enriched academics and two jobs...4 cats..a dog...and a temperamental house needing random repairs.  

...and, while I say we will never do this again....we will probably do it again next fall!


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About Angela

Angela is a freelance writer and blogger, blessed with 3 daughters, 4 cats, 1 needy dog, and 1 very supportive husband.

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