Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Seeking Big Families to Give Feedback on New Product

big families
Loving Big Families was recently contacted to participate in a new program to develop a new approach to large family chores and scheduling. As a reader to Loving Big Families, you have the opportunity to join the program to put in your 2 cents about how this new program works, your suggestions, and much more!

Information about the Product:
This is the very early stage of the "product" so I don't have "materials" to send you.  I can, however, describe what we are doing and how it's different.

What we are building is a family schedule / chore system that will eventually become a full family organizer with calendar, meals, etc. What we have working thus far is a unique weekly chore system / schedule that is easy to manage and fits our style of parenting.

I say style of parenting because this is one of the root issues we have with other systems. We need a system that is not based on rewards, stars, allowance, etc. Our firm belief is that the art of living is something each person does for and within themselves, building an internal reward of a better life. It isn't something that requires outside rewards to accomplish, in fact.... the outside rewards (treats, allowance, etc) actually detract from the real lesson here of "learn to do for yourself and others and feel good about that for what it is".

 Our system is also based around the traditional American farm mentality of "set reasonable goals and then work till the job is done,"  then relax.  It's not "clean the room for 20 minutes" .. but rather it is "start 10:30 and clean the room to the required level of organization, then take a break". If they procrastinate, they work all day. If the become efficient and focus, they get free time as a reward . In other words, the reward for a job well done is the freedom to gain free that is managed by you.. you work to show how well you manage time, then get more time to mange at your discretion as a reward".  Also, this stresses that the job must get done, not just "work at it" and not "work for something"...

The system is designed for the large family, could be an overkill for smaller families with 2 or 3 kid, but of course would work. It is built assuming that it is impossible to capture everything on a "master chart"  and instead offers different "views"  that each person can use for their particular needs.

It is compatible with all ages, although at this early version it does not include graphics instead of words for youngsters. It will, just haven't gone there yet.

Our system is also family centric. It assume that there are events during the day when the entire family comes together. That's how we work. For us, it is around meals... the day is organized around set meal times when we all sit down to share our time as a family over a meal.  This is inherent in the design, not something you "schedule for," but a basic architectural assumption. The reward for a efficient well completed job is free time, but the "release" from the schedule is family together time.

Weekly Scheduling
The system is also built around a weekly schedule on purpose.  Experience shows that plans more than a week out rarely help except for main events. Planning for less than a week is horribly inefficient because you end up planning all the time.  The balance is planning once a week for the coming week. Then that plan carries over to the next week but adjustments are made weekly. This gives a very comfortable routine of weekly effort in review for what worked, adjustments for what needs changing, and carry over for what is ok. Part of the weekly schedule is making/reviewing  the weekly schedule. This is also the time we review child development, family issues, family direction, school needs, etc.  In the future the plan is to incorporate a yearly "calendar" that will automatically merge with the weekly schedule for adjustments around things like birthdays, trips, dr appts, etc

The system is also designed around set time slots... you decide on the smallest element of time  to control (we suggest 30 minutes) and everything is scheduled within that. There is the notion of "task summary and task detail." If the summary task is too small to be a half hour with some amount of free time after,  it should become a detail of a larger summary. What this does is set a "summary schedule" that lists what TYPES of things everyone is working on in a given time period (school, chores, outside play, etc)  and the details list off for that person what the definition of that is for that particular event.  For instance.. 10:00 to 10:30 could be "home chores" while on Monday that means "take out trash, sweep porches", etc.  This gives dual views.. family summary view and personal detail view. Both useful and necessary for different reasons.

How It Works
Technically the system itself is built on Google sheets. It is a spreadsheet interface with custom menus. This allows "reminders" to be sent out via email or email-SMS gateway while giving an easy to use interface. My wife HATES computers, so I designed it to be as simple and straightforward as possible. Eventually this will be tied into Google calendar for yearly / monthly events to interact with weekly schedule.  We are also planning interfaces to smartphones and tablets for audible announcements, two way tracking (active checklists) and automatic syncing among devices (mom and change schedule on the home tablet  from her smartphone while away from home,  kids check off items as completed  and the checks populate mom's view, etc)

How Your Can Help
What I am looking for at this point is a few families that would be interested in using what we have now, offering feedback and suggestions, and helping to build the rest of the product. In the business world these would be called "early adopters" of new technology.  I am not ready to advertise, have no instructional manuals, no website, nothing. Just a working minimal product for basic usability.

If you're interested in participating in this opportunity, email:

Dave Salch

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