The beginning of the school year can be a stressful time for both parents and students. Between back-to-school shopping and adapting to new schedules, it’s easy to feel like you are trying to catch up more than prepare for the new school year. Organization is key to starting the school year on the right foot.
Jessica Lahey of the New York Times posted an article earlier this month, “Simple Solutions for Back-to-School Organization (Sorry, No Trapper Keeper),” that details some quick and easy ways to help your student prepare for the start of the school year.
The following are a few important tips that Lahey shares:
1. Binders are essential to an organized backpack
Have you ever opened your child’s backpack only to find crumpled, loose papers and no organization system? Binders are essential to imposing order on this chaos, especially if a different binder is used for each school subject. Lahey interviewed student organization expert Ana Homayoun, who recommends “hardback, one-inch to one-and-a-half-inch binders without a lot of bells and whistles.” In addition, Homayoun suggests using multiple tabs to separate notes, homework, handouts, tests and quizzes, and a week’s supply of paper.
She also recommends parents buy a portable hole punch and “donut” reinforcement stickers, so papers don’t easily rip in the binder. Regular cleanout of materials is also suggested; papers that are no longer needed can be filed at home to keep the binder light. On the other hand, lightweight alternatives to binders—such as accordion folders—can be helpful if your child doesn’t have a locker to lighten his backpack load during the day.
2. Planners are lifesavers for staying on track
When it comes to keeping track of homework assignments, test dates, field trips, soccer games, and any other important deadlines, a planner is the best tool for keeping all of this information handy and in one place. If your child’s school doesn’t provide planners, you’ll find buying one is a worthwhile investment. Work with your student to get in the habit of writing down every assignment, quiz or test date, practice or rehearsal time, and the like.
3. Prepare the night before
The morning rush adds a lot of stress to your daily routine, so getting organized the night before is a good habit to instill in your child. If your son has homework due the next day, make sure he places it in his binder the night before. He should also double-check that he has enough paper and supplies for the next day. A little bit of preparation the night before not only results in less frantic mornings, but also reduces the chance that something is left at home.
Though many schools are pushing for a transition from paper to digital documents, “it’s important to remember that devices do not magically solve students’ organizational problems. On the contrary; they create new opportunities for un-synced and disappearing files that kids will need help managing, at least at first,” Lahey says. Despite the trend toward digital, your child should still have a filing system for handwritten notes and handouts and use a planner or calendar for recording assignments and important dates. Whether your student prefers digital or paper, it is very important to encourage him to adopt organizational techniques that are simple and easy to maintain. Doing so will help your student turn organization into a simple daily habit rather than a dreaded monumental chore. For more organizational tips and tricks, here are some useful articles: