Back to school is a busy time. To help your child make a strong and sustainable start, be sure to provide these four things.
1. A Homework Station
Children differ in where they like to work. Some enjoy the kitchen table, others like the floor, and still others prefer a desk in the bedroom. There isn’t one specific set-up that functions best. What matters most is that students have a place they can use consistently that is fully equipped with needed supplies.
Depending on the age, a good homework station should have:
- A calculator
- Loose leaf paper
- A stapler/paper clips
- A computer
- Post-it notes
- A 3-hole punch
- Glue sticks
- A pencil sharpener
If your child is productive at a desk, you can put the supplies in the drawer. If your child prefers working in a shared space, stock these supplies in a portable container. I like a rolling cart like this, or a portable caddy like this or this.
For children who have a tough time sitting still, consider having different stations for different activities. For example, have them work on math at the kitchen counter, then move to a chair in the family room for reading, and then to the dining room table for English.
2. A Well Organized Backpack
The backpack is an important piece of the school day. This container needs to be sturdy, organized, and regularly cleaned out to keep it working well. At the beginning of the school year, spend a few minutes with each child, talking about where in the backpack he/she should keep specific items, such as school supplies, forms, water bottle, money, etc. Having designated spots helps the user to keep items in order, and to quickly notice when something is missing.
I suggest families do a “dump out” every month to clear accumulated clutter.
3. A Staging Area
A staging area is a specific place in your home where each child puts his/her things for the following day. This could be a cubby in a mudroom, an area on the floor in the entryway, or the corner of a bedroom. Try to give each family member a separate location so that belongings don’t get intermingled. Any time your child thinks of something he needs, he should immediately put it in this staging area. In addition to the backpack, this zone might also contain a gym bag, lunch, musical instrument, etc. Ideally, it is stocked and ready to go before bedtime. (You can read more about staging areas here.)
4. A Good Academic Planner
As children grow up, part of what they need to master is the ability to plan their time. This is a skill, and they need instruction and encouragement to acquire it.
Your child may be given a planner at school, or you can buy one (if you are buying your own, I like this one.) Show your child how to maximize the efficiency of this tool by encouraging them to:
- Write down all daily assignments
- Record long-term project due dates
- Block out time in their day for activities (include travel time)
- Schedule their tasks (e.g. daily homework, research, writing of rough drafts, studying for exams, silent reading, etc.)
Help your child to set aside chunks of time for everything he/she needs to do, and don’t forget to consider the weekends. A phrase I often repeat is, “What gets scheduled, gets done.”
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While every child’s needs are unique, providing them with flexible tools sets them up for success.
What tips do you have for back to school?