Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday's Answer: Scheduling Savvy

"I know you can't please all the people all the time, but how do you deal with multiple differences in schedules when you're trying to plan an event that will benefit everyone--like a park day or moms' night out?"

Scheduling an event at the right time can be tricky. Our family has such a difficult time planning anything ahead of time because of my husband's uncertain schedule. He is always on call and jobs are inconsistent in how long they take to complete. Other families in our area deal with the crazy hours of shift work or working nights. This can make it almost impossible to get everyone together at the same time.

Despite the variety of families' schedules in your group, you can find the best time to plan your event by working within these 10 easy guidelines that I always keep in mind when scheduling:

  1. Stay informed ~ Know the big events of your community that everyone might be attending. Keep in mind church service times, practices and games of team sports that involve your families, and other homeschool group activities. Schedule around these as best you can.
  2. Consider your target attendees ~ Who are you trying to reach or serve with this event? If it is moms, schedule best when dads can watch the kids. If it is kids, schedule during the day. If it is dads, schedule a weekend event.
  3. Make it a family event ~ When it is particularly hectic, schedule one event for the whole family. Then you are not taking away family time, but giving time for families to make good memories together. If one cannot attend, the rest of the family can still have fun.
  4. Take a poll ~ This is especially good for an ongoing event like park day or co-op classes. Let the families vote on which day of the week is best for them and their schedule. Keep the poll to only three choices so you can see a clear winner.
  5. The coordinator's vote is heaviest ~ It takes lots of time and effort to plan and execute an event. The leader in charge needs to weigh in on the choice of day or time to make sure they can be there and be ready. They should get first choice.
  6. Consider homeschool schedules ~ Your group is to build up the homeschool families in your group, not take away precious learning or working time. Watch the calendar and don't plan too many things during "school hours." Try to work events into the afternoons or classes into one school day, only taking away from the family school hours once in a while.
  7. Be consistent ~ Keep recurring events always on the same day and time. This gives your families time to look forward to these activities and plan ahead. They can even work their own schedules around these events.
  8. Overcome schedule objections ~ Anticipate problems with a scheduled time and find a solution before it even comes up. If your members include shift workers or single parents, find a way to provide child care on a moms' night out, for example.
  9. Multi-task ~ Help lower the driving times for families by planning events for different members at the same time and in close proximity to each other. Specific groups, such as a moms' night out and a teen activity, can meet separately and yet still be able to ride together when you plan this way.
  10. Do your best, then rest ~ Thoughtfully plan the best time and day for your event considering these guidelines. Then let it work out for each family the best that they can do. Be happy with the turn out and don't worry over it. You will never be able to work it out 100%, but you can know you did your best to serve your group.

Even the best schedules can be overturned or upset by unforeseen events. We have rescheduled our group activities because of hurricanes or other weather, shift workers getting called in for seven-day-a-week turn-arounds (as they call them here), or a conflicting event that was missed in planning. Personally, I've canceled plans when my husband got called out of town with only 30 minutes notice. These kind of upheavals are not fun, but they do happen in real life. I've learned that a good, flexible attitude that rests during all the changes makes it easier on everyone.

Hoping this came at the right time,
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