There is an almost direct relationship between how organized a child is and how well he does at school. Kids need an uncluttered space in which to focus, and they must be taught good time management skills or they will never be able to stay on top of it all. If your child is struggling, one of the first things that you can do as a parent is to take a look at the tools you're providing to help develop good study and organizing habits.
Where does your kid do his homework? At the kitchen table (where dinner preparations interrupt his train of thought)? On the sofa in front of the television (where he is constantly distracted and seems unable to get anything done)? Spread out on his bed (where he's likely to fall asleep during a boring math chapter)? If your child does not have a quiet, undisturbed location for studying, do whatever you can to find one for him — now!
Kids don't require much space — even a small niche is fine as long as it is away from noise and distraction. The ideal solution is a child-sized desk in your kid's bedroom, where your young student can shut the door and really focus. Even a folding table set up in the den, a basement family room, or a quiet corner of your office would work. If you can't designate a permanent work station, set up a rolling cart so your child can easily take his papers and supplies from place to place — just make sure that wherever he goes, he has comfortable seating, good lighting, and enough room to spread out.
The tools a child needs for class depend on his grade and course schedule. But every homework station should be equipped with the basics — writing implements, paper, scissors, tape, ruler, stapler, etc. (all in labeled containers.) Stacking trays or see-through plastic drawers are great for organizing paper. Lidded tubs can hold smaller loose items, and a pencil cup is still the best solution for supplies your child needs all the time. It's also not a bad idea to have duplicate those items used both at home and in class. Keep one set at your kid's homework station and another in his school binder. You run less risk of something important being lost or left behind.
It can be hard to remember which folders and supplies and books are for what subject — the trick is to color code. Choose a different color for each class — say, math is blue, history is orange, and science is green. For math, your child would have a blue pocket folder, a blue textbook cover, a blue pouch for any class-specific school supplies, and possibly a blue poly envelope or expanding wallet for larger materials. No more excuses for showing up to class unprepared!
It's one thing to set up a functional physical space for doing schoolwork — it's another thing altogether to create the sort of mental environment that encourages kids to do their best. Children have to be taught to focus — it's not a skill with which many of us are born. The first step is to have a set time for completing homework each day — before play, before dinner, away from distractions. Your job as parent is to provide a solid routine that your child can count on.
If your kid still has focus problems, try setting a kitchen timer — ask your child to work for 15 minutes at a time, taking a short break between sessions. If you've got a daydreamer, you can also set a recurring alarm as a reminder to bring your child back to the task at hand when he drifts off while working on an assignment.
Another important factor in insuring homework success is taking stock of the school situation — every single day. Set up a 2-sided pocket folder for each class, a different color for each subject. The left side is for new assignments, the right side is for completed homework that needs to be handed in. You can check the left pocket when your kid comes home from school to see what must be done that evening — then review the right pocket when he says his homework is finished (to make sure that's actually the case). It's also good to double check in the morning to make sure your child has all of his folders and school paraphernalia with him — think about how easy it is to walk out of the house having forgotten something even when you're organized!
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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