A helpful tool for organizing your family is to develop a family timeline. What is that and how does it help?

Here's how it works. You gather the whole family together. Bribe them with food, if necessary. While using a big whiteboard/chalkboard or pad of paper, announce you're going to work on a family timeline. The whole family will gasp with joy and congratulate you on having such a brilliant idea and will enthusiastically participate.

OK, that's the theory anyway. In my family, it worked like this. I announced that we were going to do this family timeline. Immediately everyone, including my usually supportive spouse, began to grumble and complain. A large fight erupted (lovingly referred to as the "activity portion" of our evening.) It got so bad, Daddy closed the evening. Then, they all started doing their own things - two were playing a game, Dad reattached to his computer, the others were just poking each other, and I sat there with my pad of paper. Undeterred, I might add.

I began filling in years, names and activities. I would talk out loud to myself, "Let's see, if Parker is 14, he should be about to a Life Scout and in the ninth grade... and Tanner should be a Star Scout and ..." Tanner pops up his head and says, "Hey, I'm gonna be a Life Scout at the same time as Parker!" Parker argues, "No you won't." I stop, "OK, well, each of you figure out at what age you'll be what. Then, I'll stick it in." I ignore them as they start negotiating, like it's some big Peace Accords or something. They then inform me of what ages they'll be what. I dutifully plug it in.

I then call out to my husband, "Where do you want to go on our family vacation next year?" He says, "I was thinking of doing a Southwest thing like around Mesa Verde and around there." "That sounds cool," says one of the boys, "We studied that in school." So I plug it in.

Well, you can guess, after about 15 minutes, the whole family was right by me putting in their two cents worth on what year to put each activity of their life. It was hilarious. It's at times like these a mom just bites her tongue and smiles at her "cooperative" family. My tongue has a huge scar, did I mention that?

Anyway, you put down a bunch of years (at least 10.) Then, put in the names of the family members and what'll they want to do that year. I also put in family vacations because we have a plan for that, as well. We want to make sure our kids see all the places we want them to see by the time they grow up. Here is an example of a few years for a family.


Dad - lose weight, run 500 miles, organize office

Mom - take a computer class, read scriptures

Daughter - Graduate H.S., work summer, college

Son - 7th-8th grade, Life Scout, Eagle Scout Project

Son - 4th-5th grade, Band camp, Arrow of Light, Nov.-Boy Scouts

Daughter - 2nd-3rd grade, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, dance competition

Summer Vacation - Redwoods, California

Other Vacation - Spring Skiing in Utah


Dad - organize family videos, organize garage

Mom - put in garden, start blog

Daughter - college, summer internship

Son - 8th-9th grade, Eagle Scout, internship

Son - 5th-6th Grade, Band, First Class Scout, CPR class

Daughter - 3rd-4th Grade, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, swimming lessons

Summer Vacation - Yellowstone


Dad - Rotary club, community service project

Mom - PTA president, blog marketing

Daughter - Semester abroad, summer at drama camp

Son - 9th-10th grade, debate team, volleyball team, job

Son - 6th-7th grade, Life Scout, summer camp

Daughter - 4th-5th grade, state piano competition, church camp, Band

Summer Vacation - Canada

This is just a short version. I've left out the more personal goals.

Now, let's talk about how to use this tool to raise independent youngsters. This is a great planning tool for the family. You realize you will have three kids in college at once. You need to start saving five years in advance. Let's plug that in. This year, you'll have a child starting band. You'll take them to see the symphony, or some college sports events to see people playing instruments. This will help them pick what they like.

You may have a family vacation coming up to Canada and want to begin studying the country in your family meetings.

You can see the entire family's life summarized in a few pages. Now, you can begin to plan and plug in certain events and activities and accomplishments you want to do. It allows you to start teaching and training in advance. Also, it gears the family's plan around preparing the children for those items.

Plus, it recommits the family to the goals of each member. There's nothing like seeing in black and white print "at college" and "Eagle Scout" to reinforce those goals. It makes them seem almost an eventuality. Also, you can see what the entire family needs to do to prepare to get each person where they want to be. This is also a flexible, constantly changing tool.

It can be lots of fun to have your family work together to PLAN their futures rather than just seeing what happens. This is a great tool to inspire the entire family to help MAKE things happen rather than just HOPE they happen.

Get started tonight - and bring snacks.

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