Q: What suggestions do you have for helping my son become more organized about his schoolwork?
A: I have several! Here are some ideas to try.
Set up a homework/study calendar. Look for one that has a lot of space for writing. Encourage your son to use a red pen to mark the dates of tests or due dates for important projects. Then have him use a green pen for activities leading up to the due date. For example, spelling test may be entered on Friday and the spelling homework activities leading up to the test may be entered in green.
Make a home-study kit. A lot of homework time is wasted looking for pencils and paper. Having materials on hand makes being organized much easier, so put the necessary tools in place. A shoebox will do, and I recently made a model home study kit using an easy-to-put-together box from a discount store. Keep the following in your son's kit (let him help you shop for these items if he's interested):
- paper: lined, blank, and graphing
- pencils and pens
- marking pens
File fix-up. Have your son set up a file folder for each of his academic subjects. He can do this with regular office-supply folders or make his own folders with construction paper. He can then label each folder and only keep important papers. For example, it is a good idea to look at old spelling tests to prepare for comprehensive tests at the end of the semester. Also, it is helpful to keep adding all the research for a paper to a folder so everything he needs will be in one place when he starts to write.
Teach him a 5-minute focus exercise. Before your son starts his schoolwork, encourage him to take 5 minutes to focus on what he needs to do. This can take the form of writing down what he will do. For example:
1. Math problems __
2. Look up information for report __
3. Study spelling words __
4. Read __
Then he can check off each task as completed. It feels great to check off items on a to-do list.
Week #32 Organized Home Challenge
Homework Area & Morning Launch Pad
In this week's challenge we're preparing for morning and school day success by creating a homework area as well as a home launching pad for each family member.
With school now in full swing for many families, you may have noticed your mornings are a bit crazy, trying to get everyone up and out the door in time for school.
Heck, even without kids mornings can be crazy trying to get everything done to get out the door for work or other activities.
That's why this week's challenge isn't just for families with kids in school, but for everyone, to help put organizational systems in place to make mornings go smoother and your day thereby start out with less stress and chaos.
Plus, for those families who do have school age kids, we'll also deal with after school homework, to get that activity organized and under control too.
Are you new here? The Homework Area & Home Launching Pad Challenge is part of the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).
Step 1: Create A Home Launching Pad For Each Family Member
One of the most challenging parts of getting out the door on time each morning is gathering up all the materials you need to actually head out the door.
For some reason many of us (including myself) underestimate how long this task can take, or forget that something we've got to take with us isn't actually ready until we're about to leave the house.
Then, we run around like crazy people trying to get it all done with too little time to actually get it accomplished, at least well and in a stress free manner.
One way to help with this problem is to create a launching pad for each family member, which is a fancy way of saying that each person needs a designated space close to the door where they can keep stuff that they'll take with them, when they leave the house.
I've touched on this idea a couple times on the site in other articles, because I've found this to be such a simple but effective method for making my own mornings less stressful.
For example, I discussed this in my Top 10 Back to School Ideas article.
This week, as part of the Homework Area & Home Launching Pad Challenge we'll actually create this area in our homes.
Examples of common items that you might want to include in a school kids' launching pad include:
- Backpacks (it is nice, if possible to get these off the floor where you're prone to tripping over them, such as by having them hang on hooks or from a rack, as shown on the right)
- Lunch box and/or snacks, drinks
- Permission slips and other papers to return to school
- Books, including library books
- Sports equipment, or other hobby equipment needed for school or after school activities
- Coats and other winter or weather gear
Click for charging station ideas
When considering an adult's launching pad, items you may want to include are:
- Mobile or smart phone (make sure it is charged by keeping a charging station nearby, such as the one shown on the right)
- Mail (such as in your home mail organizer)
- Purses and briefcases, and/or diaper bag
- Coat and other weather gear (gloves, hat, umbrella, etc.)
- Packed lunch for work
- Items to return, or for errands
- Dry cleaning
Launch Pad Storage Solutions Ideas
You'll need to create a space for all these items around the exit to your home. Ideas for storage solutions include cubbies, hooks and pegs, baskets, or whatever else you can think of that can containerize each launch pad. Check out the Mudroom & Entryway Organization Challenge for more ideas.
Create Habits To Effectively Use Your Home Launching Pad
Finally, as with most organizational systems, your launching pad won't actually help you in the mornings if you don't use it.
You need to get yourself and your family members into the habit of actually placing their stuff in this space as they come in the door, and taking it with them when they leave the house.
Further, some of the items you've got to leave with take some preparation to get ready. I suggest a part of your nightly routine is to get as much stuff ready, and in your launching pad as possible, the night before.
For example, plug in your phone to charge during the night in your charging station, sign all homework and permission slips, and place your shopping list in your purse by the door.
The trickiest items to remember are those which can't be left there and ready the night before, such as lunches that need to be refrigerated.
My personal solution for this is to place a note (my favorite are post its) on top of my other stuff in my launching pad area reminding me to grab these things in the morning before I head out the door.
Another similar possibility would be to place a bulletin board or dry erase board by the door that can similarly help remind you.
Step 2: Create A Homework Area For Your Kids
The second step of this week's challenge is to create some peace and calm in the afternoons, just like we're trying to do in the morning with the launching pad.
The reason for this is that as soon as the kids come home from school, things can get crazy. It's often called the "witching hour" because you're trying to find out about the kids' day, supervise homework, get dinner cooking, and get ready for sports practice or other after school or evening activities, and it can get overwhelming trying to do it all at once.
Laptop lap desk
[Buy similar one on Amazon.com]
Whether you're home when your kids get home from school or not, it is important to show your kids homework is important by having a designated area for them to do their homework in.
This area doesn't have to be fancy, and you don't have to have it dedicated full time to homework use. For example, we just make sure to clear off the kitchen table around the time the kids come home from school, so they can do their homework on it while we help them, as needed.
Wherever you choose for your kids' homework area to be, just make sure they've got a flat work surface in a well-lit area, that is relatively quiet, to allow them to get their work done.
If you don't have such an area, consider getting your child a lap desk to create such a flat surface for them, such as the one shown on the left. Many such desks now also double as a comfortable way to hold a laptop in your lap without it overheating your legs.
Make sure that close to the homework area you've stocked any needed school supplies, such as pens, paper, scissors, glue, markers, a pencil sharpener and extra erasers. Here's my list of school supplies you should stock at home for homework and school projects (including a free printable).
Next, make sure that you organize your school supplies so when it's time for homework or school projects your kids can find and use them easily (and also put them away for next time when done). Here's my article with 3 ideas for how to organize school supplies for home use.
Further, older kids may also need to use a computer as part of their school work, so have one available in a space where you can provide supervision, if needed.
The key to any good homework area is to make it a consistent place where your kids can know when they sit down there, it's time to get in the mindset to get their homework done.
This can make your afternoon or evening less stressful, and also get homework out of the way so you can get on with other evening family activities.
Step 3: Develop A System For Dealing With School Papers
One of the things that suprised me most when my kids first went to school is how much paper they bring home every single day. Even with all the talk of being green, and putting things online instead, I have seen no decrease in the mounds of paper my kids bring home in their backpacks.
As always, the first step is to deal with any accumulated school papers that have already accumulated, by decluttering. Yes, you want to save some of your kids homework assignments and school work to show how they progressed and what they were like at various stages of their life. But that is definitely not every single piece of paper. You'd be buried under it all.
It can be difficult to decide what to keep versus throw away (or most likely recycle in this case since we're talking about paper), so I've written this article which lists 6 questions to ask when decluttering kids' art and school papers. It gives you guidance to help you make those decisions for yourself, so you can feel confident you are saving the right things, and can then get rid of the rest.
But in addition to decluttering the excess you've accumulated, you need to create a system for dealing with these papers from now on, so they don't accumulate again in the future, as well as to organize those you do decide to keep.
I've written an article with tips for organizing kids' school papers here. There are ideas for what to do right now, at the beginning of the school year, to set up a system for this year's papers, as well as tips for daily actions to take to keep up with the papers as they come in the door.
In addition, here's the Declutter Backpacks Mission, which is part of the Declutter 365 missions here on the site, which gives guidance on how and why want to develop the habit of tidying and clearing clutter from your kids' backpacks daily.
Tell Me How The Homework Area & Home Launching Pad Challenge Is Going For You
I would love to know how this week's Homework Area & Home Launching Pad Challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized this area of your home in the comments below.
I also would love to see before and after pictures of your homework areas and launching pads, once you've completed the challenge. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and blog posts and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!
Sneak Peek For Next Week's Challenge
We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from this week's Challenge. However, I know some of you love to know what's coming next, so I'll tell you.
This week we took a quick detour, focusing on back to school issues, since that happens around this time of year. But next week we'll continue on with organizing and decluttering clothes, moving on to organizing your kids' closets. It's the perfect time, when you've got to deal with all their new clothes for the school year!
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