Jake Frost shares his technique for teaching children about the time-management decisions they make every day.

We started something new this summer: my ingrained lawyerly habit of keeping fastidious time records has filtered down to the realm of preschool summer antics.

Well, not really preschool, at least not for much longer, as my youngest will be starting kindergarten in the fall.

Nonetheless, whether properly classed as pre- or primary schoolers — and now that I think of it, the oldest will be starting middle school in the fall, yikes! — I determined that this summer all of my progeny should be introduced to The Power of an Hour, which far outstrips any pecuniary considerations and is something I hope they learn to appreciate.

So I added a new sheet to our morning school packets. We do daily packets of math facts, states and capitals, and sundry such summer academic activities, which each morning await the kids in a folder with their name on it at the dining-room table. That lets them start on their schoolwork right away and get it done first thing so they can enjoy the rest of their day. If they so choose. Most do, but sometimes one or another has some activity already percolating and prefers to push schoolwork off for later in the day, which is fine: it’s up to them, so long as it gets done.

Which is kind of the whole point of the new element I introduced to our daily packets. I started adding a blank “Plan for the Day” sheet in their folders. It’s nothing fancy, just a Word document I typed-up that runs from 8 AM to 8:30 PM, with times marked on one side of the page in half-hour increments and a blank space on the other side to write in proposed activities.

That way the kids can look at their day and decide what they want to do with it. They can set their own priorities, make their own choices, and take responsibility for their own day.

Not that they have to. I don’t “make” them create a Plan for the Day each morning. I do suggest that they think about their day, and every morning at breakfast I go over my own Plan for the Day, so everyone knows what I’ll be up to and what family activities are afoot (and whether such family activities are optional or will compel their participation — for example, if we go to the beach, everyone comes). And when someone asks if they can do a particular activity, I will usually say: “It’s fine with me. Why don’t you look at your Plan for the Day and see when would be a good time for you to do it?”

Hopefully the planning sheets will help them realize the choice they have in how their days are spent.

It’s also a helpful tool for coordinating when you have six people living under one roof. And it helps at those times when the end of the day arrives and we’re donning PJ’s and suddenly someone says: “I didn’t get to do modelling clay today!” There’s no one to blame. That was a choice, and there is always tomorrow.

Which is the real goal of Plan for the Day sheets: to begin realizing that you are making decisions. Whether there will be a craft with modelling clay is not dependent on the caprice of the cosmos. It’s up to you. It depends on your decisions. If that’s something you want, maybe it will mean curtailing splash time in the cool of the pool to make space for clay in your day. Or maybe you’ll opt to enjoy the pool while the sun is shining and put-off clay for a rainy day.

The key is to understand that you have choices, you have control over your own life, and by your choices you determine how that life will go — and to realize that you are making those choices all of the time anyway, whether you’re aware of it or not. So be aware! Take charge! Plot your own course!

The idea was inspired by my folks, who forwarded me an old poem that used to be on the wall in my Dad’s house when he was a kid, which reads:

God’s Minute

I have only just a minute,
only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.

I posted the poem in our home as well, to help remind us that we have choices, and not just about time, and encourage us to make good ones!

This article was originally published at CatholicMom.com and is shared here with permission.