4 Things Every Student Needs

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:

  • Pencils/pens
  • Highlighters
  • Erasers
  • 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?

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32 thoughts on “4 Things Every Student Needs”

  1. This will be our first year with any kind of homework/school supplies. First grade! The big leagues.
    Scarlet has an arts/crafts station and it’s consistent and full of those caddies and lots of supplies. So I’m not sure if we’ll separate it and make a work station or if it can be all in one.
    I love the staging area idea.
    Tamara recently posted…A Missed Whale’s Tale.My Profile

    1. At her age, the arts and homework supplies are pretty much the same, so you are good to go with one caddy:) The staging area is a great “tool” that I wish most adults used!

  2. We have all these things for my son since he started school, now he is off to high school, ugh, where did the time go, I will have to rethink a few things. I usually wait for the first few weeks of every new school year to get a lie of the land and make adjustments from there. Great post.
    Jill Robson recently posted…Do have a morning routine?My Profile

    1. My baby is heading off to college, so I totally relate to the “where has the time gone” emotion!! I think it is smart to wait on actual binders & notebooks because sometimes teachers have specific requirements.

    1. Every adult should have a staging area as well. It is such a helpful little tool, so why not teach our children how to use one when they are young, right Nina?

    1. Thanks, Ellen. You and I are on the same page this week, thinking about back to school. Systems, routines, and being prepared sure go a long way toward student success!

    1. Thanks, Gingi! I always enjoy your affirmations:) Good systems and routines, coupled with some advanced planning, can really help students achieve their best!

    1. I think it is probably as much of a lifesaver for the parents as for the children, but it is a great concept to get children to understand. I try to get many adult clients to use this tool, so why not start young, right?

  3. Excellent Seana! So agree with the homework station. Not having a place for everything makes it hard to be effective and productive when doing that homework. It’s a must for every family. If families could learn this from the start, they’d have a calmer year.

  4. These are such valuable points, Seana. The “4 things” you’re suggesting are not only key to helping our children be successful with the school process, but they are fairly simple to implement. And most kids LOVE having the clarity and expectation of having a system. It’s also great when they can participate in the setting up process…working with them to get the stations and various things in place.

    I’m sure this post will help A LOT of parents and kids.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Fill Your Time With Amazing MomentsMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much for your always kind and encouraging words, Linda! I so agree that children thrive on clarity and predictability. The end of summer can feel like a bit of a waiting period for school to get going, so these can be little projects to build some excitement and give a measure of peace all at the same time!

  5. I have a first grader and he needs all of the above except the planner. But I need the planner because I like to do extra “homework” at home and keep track of his progress! 🙂

    1. Yes, I guess first grade is a little young for a planner. But sometimes they enjoy having their own “book,” just like Mom and Dad, even if they only doodle in it:)

    1. This is such a great suggestion, Sabrina. I saw the same idea by another blogger in the Professional Organizer’s Blog Carnival and thought, ‘Oh, I should have included that!’ Thanks for sharing:)

  6. The well organized backpack is key! I like the idea of having designated areas for items so you can easily locate what you need. I always had a folder in my backpack for school notices and permission slips. I do think for some kids a weekly dump out is needed!

    1. I think everyone should have a folder for carrying paper back and forth – especially in preschool and elementary school. The dump out is not only good for organizing contents, it can help get rid of crumbs and other food remnants that accumulate at the bottom of the bag:)

    1. My youngest also just graduated, Marcia – happy + sad! She was excited this year to get a planner and get it all set before college, which as a time management person, was a total thrill to me!

  7. Thanks for the advice. I agree! Organization is very important part for a student’s (and parent’s) successful school year! Knowing what isn’t necessary in your backpack is also important… summer break is good, a back break isn’t. #keepingitlight

    1. Love that phrase, “Summer break is good, a back break isn’t!” Many children don’t have easy access to a locker these days, so keeping the backpacks as light as possible helps everyone!

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