Photo of Anne Blumer and Student

Anne Blumer working with middle school students to organize their schoolwork.

Parents need help organizing their children and their homework (typically middle school students with ADHD). The challenges of transitioning from one teacher in elementary school to many teachers in middle school often take students, and parents, by surprise.  The virtual classroom can be challenging for students, teachers, and parents.  Now is an excellent opportunity for you to help all three and virtually!

Many students lack the organizational tools necessary to handle the multiple classes, assignments, projects, teaching methods, and expectations. This leads to a breakdown in study skills, lower grades, and increased tension between parents and children. What’s a parent to do? Here’s where you, a Professional Organizer, can help decrease the tension by sharing these tips for parents.

Tip #1 Parents Need to Stay Involved

Parents need to stay involved with students of all ages, and at least until their student shows he can manage his own workload. Help their student by creating a routine and habit of the parent checking in with their child each day to review their homework and their projects. Have them check daily to ensure their child has completed his work and packed it in his backpack or binder.  When the student returns from school, make sure he’s turned it in. If the student is learning remotely, make sure it is turned in electronically. For most kids, these daily checks will become habits before long, and the parent will be able to relinquish the responsibility.

Tip #2 Make Homework Routine

You can help by making sure the student has a suitable space to work without distractions and with homework supplies nearby. Find a place that’s comfortable but not so comfortable he’ll fall asleep. Create a routine of setting aside a regular time for doing homework, not just “sometime tonight.” Have a specific time, so that gets developed into their routine and then becomes a habit.

Tip #3 Use Tools Wisely

Most middle school students use binders and planners, but many don’t use them effectively. Help them to choose a binder with several pockets, then designate the pockets as follows: One for each subject, to hold all completed assignments the teacher has returned; one for all homework to complete, so it’s easy to see what needs to be done; and one for homework to turn in, which should be empty at the end of each day.

With planners, suggest finding one that shows a week-at-a-glance, with blank headings for columns and rows (also known as teacher planner). Designate each column as a day of the week and each row as a subject area or class. Include a row for extracurricular activities as well. This way, students can see everything they have to do each day. If one day looks heavy and another light (no assignments in one class or no extracurricular activities, for example), help your student determine how to use time on the light day to make the heavier day less hectic. Instruct the student to highlight completed assignments in the planner, and check them off once they’re turned in, so you can quickly scan the week for anything not completed and turned in.

Tip #4 Teach Time Management

It’s the rare middle school student who can gauge how much time an assignment will take. Suggest your student use a timer to develop the skill. If they time themselves reading a fifteen-page chapter, for example, they’ll have a good idea how long to allocate when they have to read thirty pages, sixty pages, or more. Plan their week every Sunday night or sometime over the weekend. Instruct the student to write in their planner any known commitments and assignments. Also, review what materials might be needed for projects during the week.

Tip #5 Teach Project Management

With longer projects, planners are essential. Suggest students subtract two days from the project’s due date for each week they have to work on it. (For a three-week assignment, for example, subtract six days and consider the new date as the due date.) This gives the student a buffer if anything comes up to throw him off schedule. From there, help your student work backward in his planner to create shorter-term goals, such as “purchase materials,” “complete outline,” “finish the first draft,” etc. This helps them manage their progress along the way and avoid a frantic rush to finish at the end.

Tip #6 Help Them Find Their Own Way

I have learned from my own experience that what works for me and works for my son and works for my husband doesn’t work for my daughter. If your client’s method of organization isn’t working for your student, help her brainstorm a different way that will work for their child.

Parents need additional help more than ever with their children/students during the Pandemic.  You, a Professional Organizer, can help them get their school year started off smoothly with these six tips.  Reach out to your clients now, to schedule a student organizing session.

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