On Scheduling

I don’t have the definitive solution to this conundrum, but I’m interested to hear how you decide what to schedule in for your children. And by that I mean, the decisions around whether they learn piano, sing in the choir, play football, ballet, the list is long and somewhat unrelenting.

(And I do have the definitive recipe for banana muffins, so all is not lost.)

Obviously this issue of scheduling depends in part on what your children are keen on and motivated to do – but left to their own devices; one of my children would want to do every sport and play every instrument, whereas another would happily avoid anyone with the title ‘teacher’.

Given that neither of these are particularly desirable outcomes, here are some of the things I try to rely on for decision making…

Rule one: all three year olds should learn to skate if only because the tiny skates are so insanely cute

1. The Realistic Bit

For better or worse, my four children are a large-ish crowd of competing – sometimes conflicting – needs. When my son wants to take tennis lessons twice weekly after school for an hour, I have to consider whether this can realistically fit in with the crowd.

They might wear coordinated rain gear but they have wildly different and often conflicting needs

Even if you have a slightly more socially acceptable number of children this problem remains one of those dull but unavoidable fundamentals.

2. The Balance Bit

A bit of sport, a bit of music, a bit to be social with friends, a bit to master an essential skill. I think?

3. The Before-it’s-too-late Bit

This seems to creep up on the decision making. One moment you’re wondering if having your 18month old join a language class makes you a pushy parent; the next moment you’re realizing that if they haven’t learnt to swim by now it’s likely to get even harder to master.

An essential skill means a summer of exceptionally unglamorous poolsides

There seems to be a window for these decisions and that window isn’t as forgiving as you’d like.

Too soon to start basketball?

4. The Not Putting Them Off Bit

For me, a fundamental. Am I trying to encourage my children to be professional musicians? Not particularly. Do I want them to be put off music forever by feeling pressured into something? Definitely not.

So all of these activities need to come with a caveat, that they are light and fun enough not to leave my children with an irrational hatred of gymnastics, or the piano. Not to mention, making sure the activities are bolstering their sense of self.

5. To Mix it up or Not?

That is – do you have your child try different activities or try and keep them focused enough to really see improvement and make the whole endeavour more deeply satisfying?

Some activities – and I’m thinking here about swimming, or even sports like tennis – some activities just aren’t as fun until you have mastered the basics. The first part is a slog, but once you push through the first couple of stages of learning then you really start to enjoy the results. But how to keep your children happy and motivated through the slog?

The plight of the fourth child: always watching someone, somewhere, in a lesson

6. Time to be bored

A final thought: I am really keen to make sure I don’t over-schedule the weeks. There are plenty of studies confirming Sontag’s description of the creative purpose of boredom and I’m inclined to agree.

So all of the above, with the caveat that an overly busy life has the potential to be profoundly unfulfilling. No pressure!

Be busy; but not too busy

So. Six thoughts on managing children’s schedules. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this hard in the eighties.

tMatM x



  1. Sarah
    January 24, 2018 / 4:48 am

    What do you think is the window for learning to swim? My almost one year old has developed a sudden hatred of the pool and while I definitely want her to learn to swim I figure it’s too soon to worry about missing the best time.

  2. Caroline
    January 24, 2018 / 5:29 am

    Hey hey 🙂 I faced this dilemma last year. Two things helped me an awful lot and have resulted in making this (school) year a great deal less stressful: Taking the leap and making the cut: I had to cut F‘s football (2x weekly 2 hours…until 19.30!). And I cut twice weekly athletics. But both f&l love tennis, so they now have lessons together (at the same time!!! Brilliant for all concerned) instead. 2. I cut (most of) the driving: I brought everything home. I.e, music lessons, dance lessons, sport, clubs etc are now all within easy walking distance, which means the bigs get to go by themselves and the little ones get to have a life (!) and don’t have to always accompany and watch for hours on end. It took a bit of detective work…
    Swimming: in pairs: f&l swam in a club up to being able to actually swim and getting their badge; o&c will also go together in about 2-3 years time. All go once a week with A anyway…
    It’s definitely reduced our time in the car and given the little kids more freedom….
    And our week reflects your thoughts: a bit of sport, a bit of music, a bit of French/Spanish, some playtime and some ‘boring’ (exciting!) time ☺️ All about balance and fun… xxx
    (Mind you… it’ll all turn topsy turvy when O starts demanding afternoon activities 🙈)

    • January 24, 2018 / 10:07 pm

      Hello! I like your approach…the benefit of having children close in age is definitely being able to double up on lessons – or at least at the same time, I managed to find simultaneous skating lessons for them all on Saturday mornings (including Mim) which makes life much simpler. And less time in the car is sooo important! I think ultimately a bit of compromise is just part and parcel of family life even if you don’t have lots of siblings but my goodness it is a bit of a schlep trying to organize everything x 4! Can only imagine how busy it will be in a few years! Xxx

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