Do you have a child at home who goes to school? If you do, then we all know getting your student organized can be stressful. Before fourth grade, teachers and parents tend to organize children in class and at home. By the time they departmentalize in middle school they are carrying the weight of the world on their backs literally and they now have to determine how to organize:
- Space – Backpacks, lockers and desks (home and school)
- Paper – Binders, notebooks and folders
- Time – Planner or at least a calendar
“Once the technical aspects of a student’s academic life are taking care of, the child can then concentrate on doing their work instead of locating it! ” The Organized Student by Donna Goldberg
These are the same areas (space, paper and time) adults organize so we need to help our children with the basic skills they need to structure their organizing systems. Remember POSSE’s recipe for organizational success; SSPOE (Sort, Select, Purge, Organize, Equalize) each time you help your child organize anything.
Example: Backpack (SSPOE)
Prior to any organizing endeavor with your child make sure you have his permission to help and include his participation. You will see and hear solutions that you may never have thought of and most likely he will keep up the organizing because he was part of the process!
- Sort – Take everything out of the pack and together sort everything into logical categories: books, loose papers, pens, pencils, folders, electronics, money, extracurricular items, food, bus pass, cell phone holder, keys, garbage etc.
- Select – Determine what is important and belongs in the backpack. What should and shouldn’t have come home from school such as certain books for homework assignments.
- Purge – Anything that is obviously garbage such as food wrappers, doodling papers etc. Discuss what should not go back into the backpack such as any kind of toy.
- Organize – Put the items back into the backpack the way your child “thinks” about them. Should his books/folders/binder be in the order of his classes from morning until afternoon, should they go in order of his favorite subjects to least favorite, does he want he books together from shortest to largest or does he want to put things back according to color? It doesn’t matter how he does it as long as it makes sense to him and he consistently uses the same “system” everyday to keep order. This way when he gets to his locker he can mimic the same set-up. If his locker and backpack are organized the same way it will save him time and thinking when finding his subjects.
- Containerize – Try your best to buy a good quality backpack with several compartments so you can set-up “homes” for different categories of items. Make sure your child’s drink area is on the outside of the pack or in a leak-proof area of the pack.
- Labelize – Use a labeling machine and label the areas in the backpack such as: Books, Folders, Homework, Money, Pencil Case etc. This will be a visual reminder of where things go and kids tend to obey the signs they create. You may also want to create a “map” of the pack or take a picture of the newly created order so they can continually refer back to it until memorization is solidified.
- Equalize/Enlist/Enjoy-Nobody is perfectly organized especially for children. There will be backsliding of course. You’ll have to remind them daily at first and then weekly to ensure they are keeping up with their maintenance. You may want to have them clean out their packs every Friday or Sunday night until it becomes routine. Explain how important it is for them to perform this ritual regularly as it will keep them organized.