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Time is life: Personal calendars help a child develop responsibility

Learn how to manage time and develop responsibility

Dear Dr. Fournier:

During the past school year, my daughter has made great strides toward being responsible when it came to her daily schoolwork, but she fell behind every time there was a long-term assignment such as a book report or science project.

We’re barely into the summer break and I can already see her just living from moment to moment. While I do want her to have a chance to relax, I also want her to understand that we can’t always live for just the moment. What can I do this summer to help her develop her long-range planning skills?

Treena B.

Alexandria, LA

Dear Treena:

Every adult has memories of the last day of school. We all ran out of the building for the final time that year with only one thought: Freedom! Our imaginations went wild with the anticipation of doing all of the things that we were not allowed to do while school was in session, like sleeping in and staying up late.  Yet most of us learned pretty soon thereafter that our parents envisioned a different vacation for us.  For a child, chores and responsibilities can make a long summer seem very short – so it is a great time to learn how to manage time and develop responsibility while still leaving plenty of time for summer fun.


During the school year, children are constantly being reminded of the importance of time, not just in finishing tasks at school but also in their home life. So, it is not uncommon for them to relax as soon as school is out for the summer.

Parents often prod their children with remarks such as:

  • Hurry up and brush your teeth, it’s time for bed.
  • Get in the car or you’ll be late for school.
  • You’re not dressed and church starts in half an hour.

Time hassles children not just in the present, but also in the past tense. On report cards, it’s the category called “Uses Time Wisely.” At home, it’s likely to be an argument that brings on guilt, frustration and anger. Then, these children hear remarks such as:

  • You had six weeks to do this project and you’re just telling me now?
  • Why didn’t you tell me sooner that you were failing?
  • What do you mean you forgot you had a test?

The emphasis on time can be confusing for both children and adults. Although children are expected to finish short-term and long-term assignments on time, many adults have to turn to seminars on time management to learn to do the same things in their daily lives.

“Time” is a difficult concept, but we can use the easy living of summer to teach our children that time is the opportunity of a lifetime.


Get a month-at-a-glance calendar and cut out the summer months. Tape them together in a sequence so the entire summer is visible. Make sure to include the month when school starts again so your child learns to manage the transition.

Set a “time” to sit with your child and talk about the calendar. In your conversation, include these two basic points:

  1. Time is all you were born with. When you’ve used it all up, you’re gone! So time doesn’t belong to the clock, it belongs to you.
  2. Time is your life and a calendar is a picture of your life. Use it to show what is important to you.

Next, have your child make a list of things she plans to do during the summer. The list should include daily events, such as: “I want to sleep late, watch cartoons from 3 to 4 every afternoon and play outside with my friends before dinner.” The list should also include summer projects, such as: “I want to build a skateboard and make a dress for my doll.”

Then help your child add things you know she will have to do that she might not think of, such as: “feed the dog, go to the dentist, get a haircut, and make a card for grandmother’s birthday.”

Now ask your child to fill in her life (her calendar) in the spaces. Have her do it in pencil so each day she can change her life if she needs to. Here is where your child learns that much of her life (her time) is under her control. Finally, have your child write a title on top of the calendar so that you know what to call this later on, something like “A Picture of My Life.”

Each evening, make sure your child crosses out the day gone by so she understands that no matter how she uses her time, that opportunity will never come back again. Have your child assess the next day and make any changes needed in “her life.” Take a long look at the future and focus on the long-term by reminding her, “only eight days left until the fourth of July.”

As summer goes by and your child can see how she can be in charge, you can set her up to take charge of her life when school starts again because now she plans on it!


Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at [email protected].

More Stories By Dr. Yvonne Fournier

Dr. Yvonne Fournier is Founder and President of Fournier Learning Strategies. Her column, "Hassle-Free Homework" was published by the Scripps Howard News Service for 20 years. She has been a pharmacist, public health administrator, demographer and entrepreneur. Dr. Fournier, arguably one of the most prolific of educators and child advocates in America today, has followed her own roadmap, calling not just for change or improvement in education but for an entirely new model.

She remains one of the most controversial opponents of the current education system in America.

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