When I was a kid, mine was the backpack with the three-week old peanut butter sandwich. My bedroom was a disaster area. My roommate from collage picked me out because mine was the only application with food stains. You get the idea–I was an organizational disaster.
Throughout my life I have worked hard to learn strategies to help me–and I could never be the mother of four without them. These are the skills that are so important for kids to learn: study skills. By study skills, I mean organizational skills. So many students do not know how to organize their notebooks or keep track of their assignments. The important thing to realize is that these skills do not come naturally for most kids. Kids need to be directly taught how to organize and how to work together–and often it is not being done in the school.
It is never too early to begin teaching study skills. By teaching kids self-help skills we are laying the ground-work. The funny thing is, we often do not teach independence skills because 1)we feel like it is easier to do things ourselves and 2) we feel like it is our responsibility to do the work. When the kids leave their stuff in a pile at the doorway, it is easier in the short run to pick it up ourselves, and in many ways we may feel that as the mom or dad we should take care of it, but in the long run, this hurts the child. The best thing you can do as a parent is to provide the structures and support necessary for your kids to do as much as possible on their own.
My children are 2,4,6, & 8 years old. There is no way I could get out the door in the morning if I tried to do everything for them. The older three get dressed completely independently. All of their clothes are in drawers low enough for this to be possible. They each have cubbies in the doorway to hang their coats & put away shoes and hats and mittens. Without the cubbies, mornings would be mayhem. These skills are preparing them. Through providing the structures, I am teaching them that they can be independent and preparing their brains to be organized. In school, this will serve them well.
It is important for parents to do their best to teach study skills at home and present opportunities for students to practice them. Some things to keep in mind:
NEVER ASSUME: Often parents assume that children have skills that they do not.
BE DILIGENT: These skills need to be worked on daily–even if you are short on time. Fit them in–don’t let children leave with his/her notes out of his/her binder–they are bound to get lost!
BE FLEXIBLE: Ask children to share their own strategies & if their strategies work, don’t make them change to yours–there are many different methods for study skills and working things out.
BE PATIENT: These skills sometimes fall into that “duh” category–the ones that we can’t believe that children are not getting it even though we have gone over it time & time again. Kids are not trying to make you angry–it is very tough for some kids to be organized (I know–I had a lot of trouble!) so it takes a lot of time and patience to help them.