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The Taft Family Summit

If you have ever wondered what weirdos do over their Thanksgiving break, wonder no more. Amidst hiking, leaf raking, puzzling, reading, turkey prepping, napping, and fighting over control of the music that Alexa plays for us, our crew sits down for our annual, sometimes biannual, Taft Family Summit.

A Family Summit around here is much like a Marital Summit (also invented by my guy and me), except a little less intense. We schedule the event in advance. Discussion topics are announced to all. Attendance is required, as is active participation. We use this time to check in with one another on some foundational areas, and give the family opportunity to set new goals, revisit old ones, and figure out what we are doing well, and where we need to put forth more effort and consistency. My husband and I have always gained so much from doing this as a couple - even before we had children. And so now that the kids are old enough to contribute meaningfully to the discussion, we've made it a regular part of our year. As we've learned over the past few decades, what gets talked about and written down GETS DONE. The written list is a constant reminder and helps us hold each other accountable.

The main talking points we discussed this year include:

  1. Home Repair, Organization, and Upgrades

  2. Education/Life Skills

  3. Personal Growth

  4. Short Term Goals (current month and next)

  5. Fun Stuff

  6. Other

Below is a picture of what it looks like on our giant white board, which I have to say has more than paid for itself several times over with all the use it gets around here! As you'll see, inviting our kids to be more involved in keeping our home running smoothly is a huge area of focus for us. I often find myself doing menial household tasks they are perfectly able to do themselves, and then I feel resentful that I don't have more help. The solution: give each of them more responsbility, and stick to the plan. We still have more specifics to add here - like names and dates, so there's no ambiguity. We told them come 1 January, there's a new sheriff in town, and he puts children to work! He also makes time for fun.

Likewise, my husband sometimes laments that he is not taking the time to teach our kids everyday survival skills that used to get passed down intentionally from one generation to the next, but are now (possibly or possibly not) picked up informally from perfect strangers who are skilled at posting YouTube videos online. Certainly it's amazing that all of this information is so readily available, but as a family we feel something important is lost when skills are transitted in this detached manner - sort of like the world of difference between a personal in-person meeting versus a distracted Zoom call. I am reminded of this every time my boys and I sit down to read the Little House on the Prairie book set. We are amazed at how many things those pioneers knew how to do, and how much their very lives and the success of future generations depended on that knowledge being passed on from father to son, and from mother to daughter. Sometimes it worries me that my boys might not know how to build something with hammer and nails, or that my daughter won't know her way around a kitchen or a sewing machine. So - we are making steps to educate them in these lesser-appreciated arts that we believe are still so important, empowering, and satisfying. We are made to create things with our hands!

On the other side of the white board (not shown), we gave each family member an opportunity to share one GLOW and one GROW. In other words, in what area(s) do you feel like you are really nailing it, and in what area(s) do you want to see more progress? Some of our GLOWS included: balancing work and homelife well, rocking our homeschool routine, managing more demanding school work independently, making time daily for creative pursuits, caring well for pets, and being a steady, hardworking teammate in athletics. For GROWS, I'll just share my own two so as not to violate anyone else's privacy. My two simple goals include 1) developing new menu ideas, and 2) moving my cell phone and charger out of the bedroom in the evening so I'm not sucked into the bedtime scroll routine instead of reading something of quality and substance.

The key with our approach is getting started on the list right away, and perhaps transcribing it to a piece of paper, or at least taking a picture of it, before the white board is needed for something else and all of our ideas erased. The nice thing about the holidays is that we are spending more time at home, and have opportunity to review and act on our list often.

Anyone else out there use a planning method like ours? What sorts of things make your list? I'd love to hear your ideas and perhaps borrow a few for our own family. There is still plenty of time to draft a plan and create your family vision for the new year!

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