School Success Starts with Routines and Habits
News Flash: We are not born organized.
Organization is a learned skill. Just as children are taught to do long division, hit a baseball, or play a musical instrument, they learn organizational skills, like how to organize their space, time, and tasks. As the adult in their lives, it’s your important job to pass along helpful tips for organizing success. Here are a few ideas:
- Help create a habit of doing homework in the same place, at the same time, every day.
- Teach time management skills. Encourage younger students to look at the family calendar each day so they know what’s coming up. Middle and high schoolers can use a planner to track assignments, large projects, upcoming tests, extracurricular activities, and appointments. Help them see that some things will take a long time to accomplish, while others will only take a few minutes.
- Help them prioritize tasks each day, focusing first on assignments with the most urgency or earliest due dates. Teach them to use high-energy times to their advantage: It’s often best to do the hardest task first, rather than saving it for the evening when they’re tired. Or have them start out on a good note by tackling one quick, simple task first to get momentum going, followed by the hardest assignment. Older students will benefit from creating to-do lists: Teach them to use two task groups: an urgent, “To Do today” list and less timely” do it this week” list.
Now let’s consider how to establish school year routines and habits.
Morning wake-up time:
It is FAR better to have a little extra time in the morning to get ready rather than a blurred rush out the door. For most children, about an hour is needed to get up, get ready, eat, etc. If your child must be at the bus stop for 7:30 a.m., wake them up no later than 6:30 a.m. If your child tends to be a bit of a slug in the morning, you will need to wake him/her up earlier and/or put them to bed earlier at night.
There are certain tasks that only take a couple of minutes that can (and should) be taken care of first thing in the morning. For example, have your child learn to make his/her bed before leaving his room in the morning. In addition, have them put their dirty clothes in the hamper and wipe the sink out when they are done brushing their teeth. For younger children you may want to set-up a timer and give them a certain amount of time to wake up, get dressed, do their morning tasks, and come for breakfast. You can make this a game with a prize if they make it to the breakfast table all week long before the timer goes off. A good prize would be a board game with Mom and/or Dad. Rewards should not always be monetary … get clever and be creative!
Homework truly should take precedence over anything else. Sit down with your child and come up with a workable time block for homework. This time block does not have to take place at the same time each evening, just try not to have this be the last thing that they do before going to bed. In addition, it is not always a good idea to simply say they have to do their homework before they can go outside/watch television/etc, because that is just asking for them to rush through their homework. A good idea is to set aside a certain amount of time and tell your child that this is schoolwork time. Homework time should not be a race to get done. If they get done ahead of time they can read a little extra, or you may want to come up with another educational time-filler (word finds, crossword puzzles, etc). It is really a wonderful idea if you can sit down at the table with your child while they do their homework. Use this time block to do any paperwork that you need to get done as well. As odd as this may sound, my kids look forward to our homework time when we sit quietly together at the table and work on our own stuff.
Before bedtime is a great time to get prepared for the morning rush. Have your child lay out clothes the night before. Personally, I like to have all the clothes for the week picked out on the weekend, but I know that is not for everyone. Mornings are not the time to find out that Suzy can’t find the shirt that goes with the pants that she just NEEDS to wear today! Have your child not only lay out the clothes, but also their underwear, socks, accessories and shoes. If you have a younger child who wants to be able to pick out his/her own clothes I have a fun idea for you. Assemble an outfit including clothes, socks, shoes, etc. and take a picture. Do this with several other outfits. Using the pictures, allow your child to choose her ensemble and then she can get her clothes together fairly easily using the picture as a guide. Keep adding to the photo collection and soon you will have a full wardrobe of pictures.
In addition, prior to bedtime set the timer for fifteen minutes and have a big “fifteen-minute clean-up.” Have everyone run through the house with grocery-sized bags and collect items that don’t belong in certain rooms and put them away. Finally before sending your child to bed, make sure backpacks are filled and ready by the door. Once again, you can come up with a fun reward if these tasks are completed throughout the week!
Here are some great tools to help both you and your older students get organized for school:
Sticky Sets: sticky notes that help prioritize whatever they’re stuck to
PaperConnect Home Command Center: for holding all those school lists and such