If you think online calendaring is for scheduling business meetings, appointments and the occasional lunch date, you’re missing out. Online calendars can also be a great way to bring order to the chaos of family life — if you create or subscribe to the essential calendars that will keep your family happy and functional. Here are 5 calendars that can help:

  1. School calendar: With any luck, your kids’ school or local school board publishes an online calendar that shows school holidays, professional development days, and other school closures or special events. As long as the calendar outputs an iCal feed, you can subscribe to it — like the one on this calendar from Sherman Elementary in San Francisco. If your school doesn’t share its calendar in subscribe-able form, let them know you’d like to see their calendar as an iCal.
  2. Family-friendly events: Ever wake up on Saturday morning and wonder what you’re going to do with the kids today? Set up a calendar to track fun events and performances for kids. Look for a family events calendar in your area and (if it offers an iCal feed) subscribe to it, or check out the family category on Upcoming and subscribe to that for your town.
  3. Pick-up schedule: It can be awfully hard to keep track of who is taking which kid to school on which day, picking up who where when, or handling the job of ferrying kids to and from after school activities and playdates. Create a dedicated, shared calendar just for pickups and drop-offs, and mark who is responsible for taking each kid to each location on each day of the week.
  4. Homework schedule: If your kids have reached the age where they have specific homework assignments and due dates, create a homework calendar to track when that book report or science project needs to be handed in. Share the online version with all the adults in your home, so they can help the kids keep track, and if your kids use a computer, smartphone or iPod Touch, sync their homework calendar to those devices, too. Just as crucial, print out the homework calendar every few weeks and post it where the kids will see it — and then remind them to get to work!
  5. Family wireframe: The toughest part of managing family life can be the job of making time for your kids, your relationship and yourself. Create a separate calendar that you can use to wireframe your ideal family life — to create an outline of the way you’d ideally divide your time between work and home, and the way you’d like to allocate your home time to things like family outings, homework time or other activities. I mostly keep mine hidden, but every few months I switch it on and use it to ground my decisions about how to spend my time and structure my work.

Do you use an online calendar like Google Calendar to keep your home life running smoothly? I’d love to hear your tips.