The ABCs of Organization

The ABCs of Organization

This fall, send your kids back to school armed not only with new notebooks but with well honed organizational skills. Fall is a season for fresh starts and while reading, writing and arithmetic may be the main curriculum, the back-to-school season provides an opportunity to teach your student another critical life skill: how to be organized.

Teach Your Children Well

While some kids are more naturally organized than others, parents should bear in mind that being organized is not an innate ability, rather it is a skill that needs to be taught or enhanced. Children of all ages can learn the rudiments of organization so whether you’re starting with a kindergartner or doing a refresher with an absent-minded teen, set up a simple system and modify as needed.

Set up a Study Space: Designate an area just for study; keep homework supplies handy in a box or bin. Younger children may do well to have their study space in a common area such as a kitchen or family room so an adult can keep tabs on progress and assist when needed. Older students may require more quiet; set up a study space in their room but be sure to monitor computer usage with parental controls. Out of sight should not mean unsupervised.

Crack the Color Code: Introduce the concept of color coding, buying folders, notebooks and binders in different colors for different subjects. Help older students keep track of computer files with similar sorting methods. Show them how to store files by category or date so that documents are easily retrievable. Encourage your students to design a sorting or filing system before school begins so they can hit the ground running.

Deposit Box: Children should have a designated crate or box near the front door for offloading backpacks and key school items. Make this area the spot for teens to store house keys and to recharge cell phones and PDAs. Keeping key items in a central location will help make the morning exodus less chaotic.

Calendar: Buy your child a portable calendar or planner; teens may use a PDA. Teach her how to write down assignments, test dates and other important happenings. Keep the to-do list in sync with your color coding or sorting system; students should be able to look at their planner and see an test date in orange and know in an instant that orange means math, etc. Empower her to keep track of classmates’ e-mails and phone information here.

Schedule Study Time: Teach your child that important tasks need to be scheduled into a calendar. Hoping your kids will study is a lot like hoping you’ll make it to the gym. Studying needs to be a commitment just like any other must-do but all-to-easy-to-ignore task. Introduce the concept of time-blocking and time management, then sit down and help your child plot out their schedule into time blocks. Show your child how your own weekly schedule is plotted out with a calendar.

Prepare for the Next Day: Avoid morning crunch time by organizing backpacks and outfits the night before. Weather set to be rainy? Take time to dig out umbrellas and boots and add extra time for commuting. Demonstrate how to anticipate and prepare for obstacles like weather, traffic, etc.

Lead by Example: Keep things neat and organized in your own life; children learn by observing. Show them how you make and use to-do lists. Demonstrate how you tackle chores such as bill paying before you reward yourself with a book or TV show. Model efficiency and productive work habits and you’ll soon see those traits in your children.

The ability to organize one’s time and tasks is a crucial life skill. Long after fractions no longer need to be converted to decimals and some of the more arcane facts from history class have been lost to memory, your school age children will benefit from their organizational know-how.