With back to school  just around the corner (sorry kids), it’s time to get organized and ready for that first day of class.

Getting your child organized starts at the family level. It’s that old, “monkey see, monkey do” philosophy. Demonstrating the importance of staying organized, and helping your child to do the same, will help them master this valuable skill.

Family Calendar

A great start to family back to school organization is to create a family calendar—a place to hold everything from Grandma’s birthday to Susie’s biology test. If you’re a technology savvy bunch and tired of swimming in paper and clutter, an online calendar, my personal favorite is Google’s calendar, is simple to use and easy to follow.

For Google’s calendar, create a Gmail account for every family member old enough to have an email account. Each person can start filling out their own calendar and share it with the other family members at back to school time. Every account will appear as a different color so it’s simple to see who has what and when. The separate accounts also allow you to view one person’s schedule at a time if you’d like.

If you don’t feel comfortable with creating email accounts for everyone, simply create a family calendar and add events for the kiddos and differentiate with color coding. Thus, as kids bring home practice and exam schedules and dad mentions business trips, you can add them.

back to school Designate time for homework, outdoor playtime, television and bed.

As you start back to school time, these organization tips are critical to your child’s success.

Make these reoccurring events so that everyone knows what to expect. After following the calendar for some time, the arguments over television and bedtime and the need to force children do their homework will taper off as these things will be commonplace…hello, peace and harmony.

The key to success here is to review your handiwork. Every Sunday night after dinner, sit down with the clan to look at the week ahead.  This is one of the best back to school tips.

If Bobby Joe’s science fair project is due at the end of the week, he needs to identify what needs to be done and his plan of attack. If that means scheduling in project time in addition to normal homework time, than put it on the calendar so he can be held accountable.

This is also a great time to figure out who’s in charge of drop-off and pick-up from school or practices, and to add that important info to the schedule. Plus, you can easily pull the calendar up on your mobile phone when you’re out and about to see where you need to be next. How I wish Google calendars had been around when I was growing up to prevent the traumatic instances when I was forgotten at one practice or another.

If you still prefer the pen and paper calendar, than by all means, use that. Just have some sort of system for housing everyone’s busy schedules at back to school.

Give Them Some Space

Now that everyone knows what’s going on, the next step is to create a workspace for each child to call their own. Start back to school off right with personal space.

Work with each child to design their space so that they’re more apt to use it. I’m not advocating knocking down walls and building a library, but perhaps pick out a new desk and chair together. Stock up the desk with their favorite notebooks, pens and pencils. Be sure to limit distractions in their work station—no TV or video games, and limited computer access if any—and check the cellphones at the door when it’s homework time.

If the workstation is the kitchen table, dedicate a time for each child to have the area to themselves (mom get out). Again, make sure they have the necessary supplies handy. Label a container with each child’s name and to store their notebooks and writing utensils so they can get their respective container out it’s time to work. Believe me this limits ‘wander time’. Read: searching for that one sparkly, blue pencil and its matching eraser that they just can’t work without.

Check-In

Now as much as I’d love to say, create a schedule, give the kids room to work and poof, they’re organized and the homework will do itself, we all know that’s not going to happen. It’s important to check-in with each child daily. For older children, this will give insight into what they’re working on and is a chance for you to offer to help if they need.  For the young-ins, this is the time to identify where they need the help.

For this younger set, I suggest making a habit of looking over their homework at the end of the allotted homework time each night. Creating checklists for everything from chores to homework is another helpful tip. For instance, if they repeatedly forget to bring home a necessary book, put a folder in their backpack that they must check before leaving school each afternoon (and let the teacher know).

In the folder, include a place for them to put papers that need to go home to parents and a checklist that details each subject and/or project.  If there’s no work for that subject that evening, they can place a check in the checkbox. If there is work, than this forces them to remember what they might need to get the work done, enter, the forgotten book.

Remember organization is a skill, and some people are born with more of the skill than others. But practicing organizational strategies from a young age can lead to developing lifelong organizational and time management skills.

Maggie Voelker As the oldest of four children, author Maggie Voelker is no stranger to chaos and the desperate need for organization. A recent college graduate, Maggie’s now flown the coop and is working as a content writer in Indianapolis. Her most recent work was a sun safety resource. Outside of work she enjoys concerts, reading the beach, sunglasses, traveling, and attempting to cook.

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Posted by +Pat Wyman, author and founder of HowToLearn.com