This summer, the head coordinator of the PTA of a local private school in Los Angeles hired me to give a presentation to the parents on getting students organized. I decided to call the workshop “Back to School Success.” The parents submitted several questions that were on their minds.
Here are some of the most common questions and my answers:
1. What kind of system can you suggest to keep all the kids’ paperwork in one place?
Each child should have a basket, container or drawer to put their school work in that is kept at home, and it should be easily found for reference for themselves. For example, when your child gets back from school and wants to leave their “work in progress” notes, spelling test, and assignment at home, they will have a holding area. This insures there is a place for them to look for work that needs to go back to school. This basket can be in the kitchen or family room or close by where they do their homework. It should be thinned out once a month and kept up to date.
2. What methods (whiteboards etc) do you recommend using to help the kids know which day they are expected to bring in what?
Some mothers like whiteboards and some students respond well to them. You can use different color dry erase markers for each child/student to keep track of different schedules. A whiteboard can be used for homework and school/activities appointment, as well as a wall calendar. Some homes need a hard poster board to write each activity and schedule for the day. It mostly depends on how much each child (and mom) needs to be reminded. Calendar boards are really good, especially if they are used religiously and diligently.
3. What is the most important thing we can do to help our kids become organized?
When parents model good habits for their children, that is the best form of support. That means that the parent is on time and follows through with activities, requests and promises. Having a good CEO is the key to success for any organization, and the CEO here is the parent. Other than that, set up a well-organized home and try to keep it clutter and stress-free. Have everything well planned out and follow up with a smile and praise. (Just like in a well-run business.)
4. By the time they reach junior high, should we help them to plan their time or should they do it themselves?
I think each parent should evaluate how much time their child needs to get work done. For example, you will find that some of your children will need to eat something small as a snack while they are doing their homework, while others will need complete silence and nothing on the table. Some might need background noise like music to work and concentrate. This same priniciple goes for time management also. Each child works at a different speed.
Spend time observing your child and talking to them. Experiment with different locations in the house to complete homework and /or different types of environment. Some might need to go to the library to do work, or use a different location in the home. Some students do well starting with the hardest homework first and saving the easiest for last, as they might get tired in the later evening. On the other hand, some students like to start with the easier work first to give them encouragement that they can do the harder assignments.
5. Do you think organizing their room is part of helping them organize their homework?
I personally think an organized room helps the student focus. How can children works in a cluttered distracted environment? I vote for setting up a homework area with a desk and chair, good lighting and supplies.
6. How much input do you think that the parents should have when helping to keep kids organized?
The parent should set up the system and supply the tools to make the organization “user friendly”. This means giving them a plastic container for their supplies, a drawer or basket for their papers and homework folder. Follow up daily or weekly. See what they need and mix things up if something isn’t working. Think of school as their job. Sometimes the supervisor or boss needs to give advice and input to make the project successful. School and students are not difference then employer and employee.
Remember, your home and children are your most important assets. Protect, support and value their work and efforts.