Every fall, usually in October, parents call my office because their children are struggling with organization, time management or specific school subjects.
These children often start the school year off with grand plans, shiny pencils and multiple Trapper Keepers (they’re back!), but somewhere within the first six weeks of school, the best-laid plans go awry. It could start off with a missing homework assignment or a forgotten test or quiz, and suddenly, people start to panic – and by people, I mean both parents and children.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Following are some simple strategies for back-to-school shopping and preparation that can contribute to a successful school year.
• Streamline supplies. Many students buy too many school supplies without really thinking about how they will be used on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, students should keep all of the needed supplies for each class in one place. We find the most success with simple hardback binders, five tab dividers and reinforced binder paper. Accordion folders offer too much opportunity for things to get lost by being placed in the wrong compartment, and bulky multiple subject binders promote co-mingling, with the English homework ending up in the History section, causing unnecessary scrambling.
• Tracking all activities is essential. How is your child going to keep track of homework, tests, long-term assignments, sports practice, music lessons and family commitments? Figuring out a way to keep track of everything reduces stress and increases productivity. We’ve found that many of the online apps and options for managing homework aren’t effective in helping students remember all of their different activities and assignments. Typically we suggest written planners, even for students who attend schools that have tablet or laptop programs.
• Develop a routine and track progress on a regular basis. Taking even 30 minutes as a family to think through daily routines around homework, socializing and chores once school starts can be a helpful way for everyone to listen to one another’s goals, hopes and plans. Every week, devote a few minutes to helping children look at what worked well over the past week and what they would like to do differently in the upcoming week. Tracking progress on a weekly basis allows enough room for growth and improvement without too much time passing by if a problem needs addressing.
• Create space for success. Where is your child doing his or her homework? For many students, it is helpful to get out of their bedrooms and do the work in a public living space. This is particularly true for students who primarily use a tablet or computer – they can also be their biggest distraction.
• Focus on wellness. It is easy for children to become overscheduled, but they are still growing and need time to rest, relax, be bored and chill out. Sleep and food choices affect every aspect of their school experience, and they must be prioritized in back-to-school planning. What will lunches look like? What is the sleep routine?
• Seek support if needed. If your child needs outside support to find and achieve his or her own version of success, don’t let too much time pass before identifying potential resources.
Ana Homayoun is founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, 302 Main St., Suite 201, Los Altos. For more information, visit greenivyed.com or anahomayoun.com.