Let’s Get Organized

By Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman, MA

Jason comes home with his report card showing C’s and D’s. As his parent, you are surprised. You know he understands his school work and did well on his tests. Jason explains that he may have forgotten to hand in some of his assignments.

It is 9:00 at night, and Erica announces that she has a major project due tomorrow. Why didn’t she start it earlier? It was assigned last month, she explains, and it seemed as if she had plenty of time. Then she forgot about it until two days ago, but then she had soccer practice and a big Math test.

Jessica is studying for her Biology test. It is 12:00 at night, but she insists she cannot go to bed yet because she still has a lot to study. Why didn’t she start studying before today? She didn’t realize there was so much to study, she explains.

Marc has homework, but he isn’t sure where he put it. When the bell rang at the end of class, he was in a hurry. You offer to help him look for it in his backpack and are surprised to find a stack of crumpled papers, including parent notices you never received. How can he function in such a state of disorganization?

Most people do not want to be disorganized. In fact, being disorganized shows that your life is controlling you, and most people would like to be in control of their lives. I recently read an article in Home Office Computing that gave awards for the most disorganized offices. One man admitted that he wasted hours looking for important papers. Another man admitted that he lost business because phone numbers became lost on scraps of paper in the pile of papers and books. None of the people being interviewed enjoyed being disorganized–they just lacked some basic organizational skills. These skills can be learned at a very young age, and parents can help.

First of all, from the age of two, teach your child that everything has a place. Before bedtime, he should put away all toys and books. Books go in the bookcase, leggos go on one shelf, and dolls go on another shelf. Your child can apply this basic concept thereafter.

When your child begins school, he should have a notebook and a folder for loose papers. (Many Kindergarten and First Grade teachers supply such materials and help the children organize their materials.) Parents should examine the homework papers and see that the child completes them and returns them to school.

By Third Grade, many parents and teachers assume that children can organize their own materials, but this is not necessarily the case. Each elementary school student should have a three-ring binder; and label each section by subject; parents should periodically check the binder to make sure each section contains the labeled subject. The binder should include folders. Never assume that children or teachers will hole punch all papers. If there are no folders, loose papers will probably get thrown into the backpack. There should additionally be a separate homework folder, which can also be used for parent letters, that goes back and forth each day. Parents should check this folder every day until the child proves that he is responsible enough to complete his homework independently and give parents the letters that the teacher sent home. Even with folders, some children will continue to throw loose papers into backpacks, where they will get lost or too wrinkled to hand in respectfully. Some children will need to have their parents check their backpacks every day until they begin taking care of this
chore themselves.

After every quarter, your child can clean out the binder. He can toss inactive papers or file them in hanging files in his room. Then he can subdivide each hanging file into categories, such as tests, notes and worksheets. This will provide easy access when it is time to study for midterms or finals.

In addition to organizing materials, students must organize their homework and studying time. Make sure your child copies homework every day into a homework notebook. If not, you may need to speak with the teacher about checking your child’s homework notebook. Then you can check to see that your child completed all assignments. Checking should be temporary, and the goal should always be to help children learn to be responsible without being checked.

Students should write down long term projects and tests as soon as they are assigned. For a child who continually saves such chores for the last minute, purchase a giant
desk calendar. Using the desk calendar, it is important to write in all extracurricular activities and special events, which should be taken into consideration when planning homework time.

When a teacher assigns a project, write down its due date on the calendar, and break down the project into sections, each section to be completed on a different day. For example, Erica has to do a research project on the rain forest. On Tuesday and Wednesday, she will do research. On Thursday and Friday, she will write her report. During the weekend she will complete the visual aids, and on Monday she will hand it in. By writing each of these steps on the calendar, and looking on the calendar each day, Erica will produce a better quality report and reduce her stress level.

A student can use a calendar also for studying for a test. Jessica can break down the studying for her Biology test, which will include re-reading, reviewing important points, and answering sample questions. On Monday, she will review parts of the circulator system. On Tuesday, she will review the circulatory process and on Wednesday she will review complications from a blockage. On Thursday, she will reexamine areas with which she is not quite comfortable, and on Friday she will be ready for her test. She will feel as she is in control and will maintain a reduced stress level.

A person who organizes his materials and time has greater control of his life, and will probably be more efficient and less stressed out when learning and implementing some important skills. Some people are meticulously organized and seem to have been born that way–lucky them. For the rest of us it is a constant effort, but an effort that pays off.

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