Calendar guy

Hello, junior kindergarten: As his son Miles begins school, Jon Willing enters a new scheduling nightmare


Miles Willing gets a taste of life as a junior kindergartener during orientation at his new school. Photo Credit Nicole Willing


The first year of school — and possibly the ensuing 13 — requires a proper hardcopy calendar.


That was the first lesson for our household as Miles prepared to start junior kindergarten in September.


Sure, the transition from preschool to big school can be jarring for a four-year-old who, in our case, has spent the last three years with friendly, familiar faces and a rarely changed routine, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


The daily cycle suddenly blows up; the midday naps disappear and there’s a whole bunch of new kids and teachers.


For parents of new JKers, it’s a new world order.


In our pre-JK household, Miles had somewhere to be almost each day of the year between our working hours.


The new reality meant there were a couple of hours at the end of each school day that needed attention, and sorted out way before the school year actually started.


The hustle to secure after-school care was just the warmup for the scheduling olympics. Nicole and I sat at the dining room table on an afternoon this past July sorting out vacation requests for August — that is, August 2023.


Of course, this is nothing new for families that have been in the school system for several years. But for newbies like us, it was a rude awakening.


Part of the challenge was needing to submit vacation requests before knowing anything about the status of various summer camps, which I hear is another Hunger Games-esque experience for parents desperate to find spots for their kids.


At first, we were high-fiving at the five-figure cost savings we were about to score over the year, thanks to daycare costs ending. Then we realized much of the money would be shifted to camps.


Just when we thought we had our schedules figured out, I received a hot tip at the soccer field one evening that it’s more difficult to find day camp openings at the end of August because camp staff are heading back to their post-secondary schools.


And that’s just summer. There’s the two-week Christmas break and one-week March break. Add Family Day and Easter Monday to the list if your household doesn’t get those days off.


Then there are the P.A. days.


Which brings me back to our realization about calendars. You need to see what’s coming beyond the next week, or even the next year. 


It seems to me, a calendar needs to be unavoidable and right in your face every day, like taped beside a toilet, though most families stick with the fridge door. 


I have visions of standing in front of 12 monthly calendars pinned to a wall, and holding a box of markers, crunching the numbers to make sure our vacation days and day camps cover the non-school days. Maybe we could convert our garage to the “calendar room.”


I suppose this is what every July will now bring. It turns out, I have fewer worries about Miles’ new school life compared to our household managing the school-less parts of the year.