Tag Archives: School Tips

School Tips

3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Beat the Back to School Blues

3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Beat the Back to School BluesHas your child got the back to school blues?

It’s happened to every parent. Your preschooler or kindergartner waited with baited breath the entire summer until school started. They spent hours debating the merits of various book bags, and whether or not a pencil case could do the same job as a pencil box.

That first day of school went beautifully, and then- reality hit. Suddenly the child who couldn’t wait for school to start is not only blasé, but downright uninterested in school. Asked what happened, they might answer, “That was yesterday. Not today.”

What happened? Was it something you or (gasp!) the teacher did wrong?

Probably not. There are a couple of reasons why kids often react this way to school – even if this isn’t their first year.

There are several reasons why children react negatively to school in the beginning of the year.

One reason is simply that the excitement of something new has worn off. It’s not so much different than getting gifts during holiday season: it’s hard for real life to stand up to your child’s often unrealistic expectations.

Another reason why your child’s enthusiasm wanes is because now the work part of school has hit. For some children with learning disabilities or other issues, hope springs eternal.

Although the evidence might seem to point otherwise, they’re hoping for a better year (can you blame them?), and it can be pretty disappointing when school is just as hard as it always was.

The third reason is practical: your child still needs to adjust physically and emotionally to being in school. If you’ve prepared your child for the new school year, then this is hopefully less of an issue.

Still, change is naturally harder for kids with special needs. They may be faced with situations that call on coping skills they just don’t have. Sometimes, even though it may not seem a major deal to grown-ups, even the most minor issues can leave a child worried and stressed.

Use these 3 tips to help your child feel good about school again.

Here are 3 tips you can follow to help your child make the adjustment:

1) Talk with your child about how he feels.

Some children will have a hard time doing this outright. Instead, you can read a book or make up your own story about a character in your child’s situation who was having a hard time in school.

Don’t worry about making the story resemble your child’s situation exactly; it’s unnecessary and would only make your child suspicious. Instead, change things around a little bit. When you tell the story, you can add in comments like, “Wow, I would be really embarrassed if that happened to me! Would that embarrass you?”

2) Use play to help your child problem-solve.

Very young children, children with weak language development, or children with special needs in general, are often unable to verbally problem-solve. They have a hard time finding a solution to what’s going on just by talking about it.

On the other hand, play offers an excellent opportunity to help your child learn to think logically and work on critical problem-solving skills. Floor time is an excellent tool for doing this, but if you’re not familiar with floor time (keep an eye out because I’ll be introducing some videos soon on how to do floor time properly), keep the following principle in mind: interact with your child as if you yourself were a same-aged playmate.

That means instead of commenting about your child’s play, you get involved. You gently challenge your child, just as a playmate would. By looking out for strong feelings during your child’s play, you can help them acknowledge those powerful feelings, leading the way for later problem solving.

3) Expect a certain amount of attention seeking or babyish behavior.

When a child is under stress, they often respond by acting out or behaving immaturely. That can often be annoying and frustrating for parents, who expect their “big” boy or girl to behave more maturely now that they’re in school.

Give your child attention before he acts out.

While you should not tolerate misbehavior, you can greatly minimize it by giving your child attention before he acts out. Cuddle him, play a special game together, or share a treat. For babyish behavior, it’s generally okay to baby your child a bit. They’ll get over it quick enough if you begin to praise them or a sibling when they display “big girl” behavior.

For example, you could call out “I need a big girl to help me make lunch. Is there a big girl around today?” Most children find it impossible to resist, but if your child is one of those that does resist, simply look for opportunities when they behave maturely, and give them specific praise, “Thanks for helping me with that Ethan. I saw how you figured out how to help me right away. It must be because you’re getting so big; last year you couldn’t have done that.”

Spend extra time together to help your child recharge her coping batteries.

Most importantly, don’t forget to make time to spend together doing something your child enjoys. It not only builds wonderful memories, but will give your child the emotional energy she needs to help her face the myriad difficulties that make up life – even for the pint-sized crowd.




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School Tips

School Tips: 5 Tips to Ending Homework Wars

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Trying to encourage, cajole, and eventually threaten your child into doing their homework can be a trying experience. It can be frustrating that something that seems as basic as homework has to be contested night after night. However, there are some practices you can put in place in your house that will help finally obtain a peace treaty with the beleaguered other party- your child.

1. Make sure you have a consistent time and place where your child is expected to do his homework. This might seem obvious, but it's amazing how many parents know they should do this-but don't. Doing so sets the expectation that homework is important enough to require a designated space.

Make sure it is a place relatively free from distraction. Keep in mind, however, that some extroverts need to be around people in order to get work done.

Other children insist they need to hear music in order to concentrate. If in doubt, you can always give your child a trial period, where you allow her to work under certain conditions as long as the quantity and quality of her homework make the grade. Be very clear at the start how long that trial period will last, and be specific what sort of grades you expect to see.

2. Keep a separate set of supplies near the homework area. This is another obvious one, but some parents for some reason resist on principle. Believe me, it will save you a lot of time if you make sure your child has that extra set of materials. Not only is it more convenient, but it also decreases the chance of things getting lost or forgotten at home due to being pulled out of their accustomed places.

3. Help your child anticipate how much time she thinks each assignment will take. Often children will resist homework because they imagine it will take hours and hours. Briefly scan the assignment with your child, asking her to guess how much time she thinks it will take. When she completes each assignment, have her write down the time it actually took to complete, next to her estimate. Usually it is much less than the child imagined.

If it took more time than your child estimated, help them to analyze  the situation in order to get a handle on why it took longer. Were there concepts that she didn't understand? Did she follow the directions  exactly? Did she get distracted? All of factors can be taken into account in the future.

4. Set a timer. If your child finds it hard to sit for long stretches, set a timer to go off after a set period of time, such a 15-20 minutes. Then give your child a break. The key to this working is not to let the child leave the homework area, because then you'll be spending the next half-hour trying to round them up again.

If your child would like to choose this option (and stress that it is a choice), then they can have the break in their homework area. It' s also preferable to make it a cardio break: encourage your child to do a  bit of intense exercise, enough to get them breathing a little bit faster. This can be a great help in getting rid of the tension that sometimes builds up when we have to do something we don't like to do.

5. Make sure your child is actually capable of doing the homework. Sometimes a child will resist homework in a particular class because the homework is really not a review; the material is new, and the teacher expects the parent to teach the child concepts barely covered in class.

If this seems like it might be the case with your child, speak with the other parents in the class in order to confirm your suspicion. If you  are correct, you can try bringing it up to the teacher in a non- confrontational manner. It could be she is being pressured to cover a lot of ground. If this is the case, however, this is due to administrative policy, and you may need to get together with other parents in order to tackle the issue.

The other possibility is that your child might have unrevealed learning differences. Don't assume that just because your child has done well in the pastmeans that he can't be having difficulty now . As your child passes through school, the skills required deepen or change. New vocabulary, an ability to synthesize new information, increased memory demands-all can be the downfall of a previously successful child.

If in sitting down with your child you see that your child really cannot   understand or finds it difficult to remember the material, then an evaluation might be the key to helping your child.

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School Tips

5 Tips to Help Your Child Start School Off On the Right Foot

The first day of school is just around the corner. After an entire summer of first day of schoollazy days and endless nights, how can you help your LD child - who hates change- get back into the swing of things?

Here is a list of practical step you can take to make sure the first day of school goes off smoothly:

1. Get your child back on a normal schedule about a week before school starts. It's natural to let things slide a bit during vacation-heck, that's part of the fun. But if you want your child to be functional during the first few days back, then you'll need to make sure that they go to sleep on time, and wake up on time.

In order to do this as painlessly as possible, try pushing back your child's bedtime to about 15 minutes earlier, every evening for one week. By the second day you can also start pushing back morning wake-ups by about the same amount of time. Your child will be more rested and you will feel less stressed, (hopefully) not having to wake up exhausted kids.

2. Buy everything they need BEFORE school starts. Okay, this one seems obvious, but how many of you have pushed off getting an item from the school supply list, either because didn't have time to buy it, thought it wasn't so important, or had no clue what the teacher really wanted?

Not only is this stressful to children, but unfortunately some teachers get really annoyed at your child because they are not prepared. Do yourself and your child, do whatever it takes, but get everything your child needs, and put it away until school starts. Your child and his teacher will thank you for it.

3. Talk to your child about what the new year will be like. Every child has concerns and fears about what the new year will bring. Sometimes children might not speak directly about how they are feeling, but you might notice your child becomes more hyper, moody, or quiet as the first school day approaches.

Try and find a peaceful venue alone with your child, and try and bring up the subject.Your child may or may not admit to having worries. That's okay; you can still make this a "bonding moment" by sharing some of your best or worst first day of school experiences.

4. Talk to your child about what your expectations are for the year. You probably remember getting this talk from your parents - uggh! But there are ways to present this that are positive, hopeful, and not preachy.

Why not focus first on specific goals that you know your child wants to work on? For example, if this is the year your daughter gets to try out for the soccer team, you can show your support and interest in this new step. At the same time, you can bring up your expectation that she maintain good grades, and continue to help out at home.

5. Send something small but special with them for the first day. In this case, smaller is better. A short note on a napkin in his lunchbox, a cute drawing on a stick-um on the first page of one of her notebooks; these are easy to do, and a prime example of actions speaking louder than words.

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School Tips

Problems in School: What to do when your child starts misbehaving in school

Well, the honeymoon is over, and the real work begins.

I spoke to N. 's first grade teacher today, and found out that she's already started misbehaving in school. Apparently yesterday was the day from hell: N. was completely wild, talking out of turn, getting up in the middle of the lesson without permission, and even going so far as to push the child sitting next to her.

Fortunately the teacher qualified her complaints, explaining that yesterday was unusually bad. However, there are problems that need to be addressed, and of course yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Of course I'm not surprised - I knew N. would take time to adjust to first grade, and knew that it would take time for her to adjust to the new rules and expectations that first grade - which is when school officially starts here- involves.

Of course I was hoping I wouldn't have to hear bad news quite so early - it is the day before my daughter's wedding -but I suppose it could be worse. I will admit that for the first 10 minutes or so I felt a bit panicky.

I wanted to sit down and write out a plan immediately, but of course that wasn't happening. So as I ran around and did wedding errands, I broke down the main problems that needed to be addressed.

For those of you dealing with behavior problems in school, this is a good look at the process you should take when figuring out a solution:

Listen carefully to how problems are described.

In my daughter's case, the teacher had several complaints, but it was the first one that struck me the most. She stated that generally N. was fine for everything but the first hour. After that, she calmed down.

This is a key point, and tells me that her failure to settle down could be due to several things:

1) Check out medication problems.

From experience this is more of a common problem than parents realize. Some parents give meds as soon as their child wakes up, because they are so difficult to handle. This can cause a problem towards the end of the school day, when the medicine wears off much sooner than it should.

Other parents are inconsistent about giving medication - sometimes forgetting it as much as two or three times a week. Even though you can see a change immediately with Ritalin, it works better if it's taken regularly and at the same time each day (BTW that's true for all medications).

Although I'm pretty careful about giving her medication, I had switched the time that I give her Ritalin to a slightly different time, so it was possible that I completely forgot to give it to her on that fateful day. Oops.

In general, though, I knew that I'm pretty regular about giving her medicine, and I wasn't giving it too early. Since I wanted to make sure it would last for as much of the day as it could, I was giving it to her at 8:00. She starts school at 8:30, so I figured that would carry her through most of the day, since school finishes at 1:00.

Then I got the idea that maybe her body takes longer to process Ritalin. I remembered the times I'd given her Ritalin on school holidays (to check her reaction to the medication), where I noticed seeing that glazed donut look in her eyes about 3 hours after giving it.

Since she's on the regular 4 hour formula, that's a little too late to start seeing an effect. The level of meds in her system should be at its highest about 2 hours after she's given it. So that meant that it takes about an hour longer for the Ritalin to kick in.

In other words, her medication wasn't kicking in until- you guessed it- the second hour of the day.

This is an easy fix: I just started giving her medication about 7:00, so that by 8:30 or 9:00 everything should be in place.

Take a close look at classroom routines.

Many times, the kids who have problems act like a "mine canary." For anyone whose not familiar with the term, in the old days, miners used to use canaries to tell them when the air in the mine was too dangerous to breathe. When the canaries died- it was time to get out.

Kids with behavioral and learning issues are the same way. They are the ones who are the most sensitive to lack of clear routines, rules, failure to build in transition properly, and other classroom no-no's.

Now I'm not saying of course that these conditions are caused by poor teaching, but I've found that the really good teachers have significantly less problems with "problem children" than the mediocre ones.

In N.'s case, her teacher is experienced, but probably didn't spend enough time in the beginning of the year making sure her class is well trained in routines and procedures.

Some teachers (and parents) don't realize how critical procedures are to a child's success. That's because they teach children how they are expected to work and behave in a classroom (or home) environment.

From experience I've seen that often teachers complain to me about a child's disruptive behavior, when in reality it would be eliminated if the teacher had spent the time at the beginning of the year making sure the kids learn how they're expected to behave in class.

Take a look at this list of common teacher complaints:

  • Doesn't sit down when class starts
  • Uses free time inappropriately
  • Can't work independently
  • Talks out of turn
  • Doesn't settle down when the teacher comes in
  • Never seems to know what the homework is
  • Gets up to leave the room before class is over
  • Doesn't give in completed homework

Now if we change the wording around we see that this is a child who needs to be taught procedures:

  • what to do when the bell rings
  • what to do when you finish your work early
  • what to do when a pencil breaks
  • what to do if you have a question
  • what to do when they enter the classroom
  • where to find an assignment
  • what to do when class is dismissed
  • how to ask a question
  • how to turn in homework

So, I knew the next step I had to take was make a plan to make sure N. knows and carries through on classroom procedures - that may or may not exist. But since this is getting to be a long post, you'll have to tune in tomorrow to the details of the plan.

BTW- why not share below a problem your child has in their classroom? If you get it in soon enough, I'll address it in my next post.


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School Tips

Parenting Children: 3 Tips On How to Help Your Special Needs Child Get Ready for School (Painlessly)

Are you ready yet for the first day of school?

You may have already invested in half of the school supplies in Walmart, picked out an entire wardrobe of back-to-school clothing, and be waiting with baited breath for the sound of the school bus, but is your child ready?

Often we forget in the rush of buying school supplies that our children need time to prepare for school as well. Remember those days as a kid when the summer seemed to stretch on forever? Imagine how your child feels when he's suddenly hit with long rides on the school bus, homework, and lots of new faces.

In fact, some of the difficulty I see from parents who are panicking because their child seems to be drowning the first week of school, is often because they failed to take the time to help their transition from free spirit to school slave.

Here are some tips you can use to help your child make a smooth transition from summer to the first day of school:

1) Help your child get used to waking up on time.

If you're like most parents, your child has spent numerous nights jamming on the couch, and more mornings than you'd care to admit buried deep under the covers well past 8 o'clock.

While I'll be the first to admit that's the whole point of vacation, it does nothing to help your child when he suddenly has to readjust his body clockwork and get up at some previously unheard of hour.

Overtired children make for grumpy, uncooperative offspring, and unpleasant -but avoidable - morning fights. This period is especially difficult for children with special needs, who often have a desperate need for sameness, and avoid change like the plague.

You can avoid all of that by helping your child to reset their internal clock.

Your child's internal clock will need at least a week to adjust to a new schedule. Help your child get into the groove by slowly moving her bedtime back about 15 minutes, and pushing up the time she wakes up by 15 minutes.

For example, if your child has been going to bed at 9:30 p.m., the first night you need to set bedtime at 9:15. If your child has been waking up around 9 in the morning, then wake them up at 8:45 a.m.

Your child should arrive at the appropriate bedtime in a few days.

2) Get your child used to doing homework again.

Ahh, homework. It's definitely the bane of many parents. I personally can't tell you how many times I wished the teacher would die a thousand homework deaths for giving homework that took hours, or just couldn't be done. (Okay, maybe I didn't wish they were actually dead - just temporarily incapacitated).

But since most of the time homework has to be done, you need to get your child back in the habit of giving up his precious  free time to sit at the table and do boring, useless, homework. (You do know homework has been proven absolutely useless, don't you? Take a look at what Alfie Kohn says about the matter).

Forget about all the speeches about how doing homework prepares you for life and good citizenship. They weren't very convincing when your boss asked you to take some work home, now were they?

Instead, simply tell your child exactly what your plan is. Then set aside 10 minutes or so of table time where he needs to do some sort of work that you assign him.

You can find plenty of stuff online of course, and there's no need to go out of your way to make things especially boring. And while you're at it, take a look at this post on the 7 Effective Study Habits for Children with LD.

You could spend some time doing some hands on learning, or you could simply take that time to read or write a story with your child. Either way, make it clear to your child how long the session will last.

Build in a minor reward, like choosing an extra story at bedtime, or getting to use the bubbles for her bath. You can gradually wean her off of the incentive after a few days.

3) Make sure your child's backpack and notebooks are set up for success.

First of all, make sure you have exactly what you need. Parents sometimes have this habit of assuming it won't really matter if the crayons are the 32 pack instead of the 16 color.

But it really does. Sometimes there actually are some really good reasons why teachers say exactly those materials, in that quantity, from X company.

School is already hard enough without your child having to worry if the teacher will be mad at him because he didn't bring exactly what's on the list. So just do your child a favor: if you can afford it, just swallow and put it in the cart.

It's also important to make sure your child's notebooks, workbooks, and textbooks are easily locatable, and organized so that your child doesn't leave critical material at school. Here's a practical post on how to do that: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack.

Have a question or a comment? Love to hear from you below!



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School Tips

School Tips: 3 Signs Your Child Might Be Failing In School

The hustle and bustle of the new school year are over now, and your child has finally settled down at school. He knows who all of his teachers are, which teacher gives easy A's, and has finally found a group to sit with at lunch. Give or take a few minor issues, everything, you think, is okay. Or is it?

During this time of year, it's easy for parents to be  less vigilant when it comes to how their children are doing in school. After all, it' s not quite time for parent-teacher conferences, and just enough time has passed to assume that most children have adjusted to the back and forth of school life.

Actually, now is the time you should take a close look at how your child is doing in school. There are many reasons why your child could be struggling in school, without you being aware of it. Your child may be having trouble adjusting to a new grade or a new middle school, but feels too shy to bring it up with you.

Or, the son who made dean's list all through elementary school may be overwhelmed with the sudden complexity and depth of the material, but be worried about being thought of as "stupid." Your daughter could be struggling with finding her place in a social landscape that shifts more rapidly than the San Andres fault line.

Early intervention in all of these cases is the key to success for your child. Dealing with these problems now- while they are relatively small- gives you the time and resources to tackle them head on, before they become tsunamis.

Here are 5 warning signs to look out for:

1) Avoiding homework. By now your child should have gotten the idea that she has to do homework, even if she doesn't enjoy it. But if you find your child lying about whether or not she has homework, insisting that you help her through every step, or flat-out refusing to do homework, then this may be sign something more serious may be at work.

There are several reasons why this may be occurring. It could be that the teacher is assigning new material for homework, in an attempt to cover more ground; a group of parents may need to approach the school administration.

Or perhaps your child has difficulty following or remembering instructions, and so doesn't know exactly what they are supposed to do; she may need help learning how to use a planner.

Don't rule out learning difficulties; even a child who has done well up until now can still have difficulty. As Dr. Mel Levine, a top pediatrician and learning specialist explains, the demands upon children as they progress through the system change, and new neurodevelopmental skills may be required. A child who until now relied on is strong memory might find himself at a loss when deeper analytical skills are required.

Of course if your child has always had problems doing homework, then now is the time to address that issue. Homework is important not only because it gives children a chance to review material, but also because it helps them develop discipline, as well as learn how to sustain effort even when there is no immediate reward.

Your first step should be to ask your child why this is happening. If if this is too volatile a subject, then a close family member might have better luck uncovering the reason for your child's intransigence.

After you've identified a possible reason, work together with school staff to implement a solution. Most importantly, don't forget to evaluate how things are going after a week or two. If it isn't working as expected, reevaluate the situation. This is a critical step, but one most often overlooked.

2) Over or Under Involvement with friends. If your child has just started a new school, then you probably already have your eye out for this. But did you know that even well-adjusted kids can experience occasional, but serious, problems in this area?

There are two ages when this may occur: around nine, and later as teenagers. In the former case, children shift from being family-centered to peer-centered. Up until now your child probably looked to you as the most important figure in his life. It was your opinions he valued, and your thoughts he was interested in hearing.

Now, however, his friends have become the all powerful force that rule his life, for better or for worse. No longer will you be able to soothe him with a "don't worry about what they say, it doesn't matter." Your child will look to his peers first, and to you second.

This is true even if you have a good relationship with your child. A natural part of your child learning how to find his place in society is his seemingly blind dependence to what his friends think. Though frustrating at times, he is using his peers to experiment with different aspects of himself. He may even rely on his friends to viscerally share experiences he might not otherwise have had the courage or creativity to try out on his own.

Especially common at this age is the GROUP. Children between 9-11 are very into forming clubs, teams, gangs, and cliques. Part of the attraction is not only who is in the group, but also who is not.

Some children have trouble fitting in to a particular group. They may have always been at the edge, not ignored but not actively recruited as a friend. Other children may be what is called "controversial,"  meaning children either love them or hate them, with very little in-between. These children may shift rapidly from group to group as their popularity waxes or wanes.

Beware too of the "popular" child. She may find her place easily, but you'll want to know if she has decided she is the Queen of fourth grade. At home she may be the bees' knees, but watch out for power plays, backstabbing, and courtesan shopping. You will need to help her learn how to use her leadership skills in a positive way.

Teenagers experience many of the same ups and downs as the earlier age, often for the same reasons. However, while previously the groups were much more fluid, with membership changing from week to week, as teenagers the groups are fairly fixed, and the stakes much higher.

Furthermore, teenagers are faced with decisions that involve real responsibility, with far-reaching consequences. All of this is complicated by rapid physical and hormonal changes.

3)Your child suddenly develops an over interest- or conversely, complete lack of interest, in her body. It's normal for pre-teens and older to be interested in how they look. These days, even children as young as nine are quite aware of how they look, and make a concerted effort to look "with it."

However, if you notice that your child spends too much time talking about food or losing weight,  knows how many calories are in everything she eats, wears baggy clothing to hide their shape, or avoids eating with the family, they may be developing an eating disorder. If you have any doubt about whether your child has an eating disorder, talk with your child, or consult a specialist if necessary.

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School Tips

School Tips: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack

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The first day of school is on the horizon. How about a few school tips to make those first days go a little bit easier? One of the most challenging things about school is helping your child keep his bookbag organized. Here are several parent and child tested tips for helping your ADHD child:

1. Color-code. Tired of hearing your child say, "I can't find my science notebook and I looked all over for it!" followed by a half-hour dig through the wilds of your child's backpack? Try using color to help your child stay organized. Every notebook, folder, workbook, or textbook that pertains to a particular subject should be the same color.

For textbooks and workbooks, you can use contact paper, plain wrapping paper, or large colored stickers (depending on your child's preference and school rules). When you or your child's teacher tell her to take out her science homework, she has a visual clue that will help her find what she needs easily and quickly.

2. Take only what you need. Some children have a tendency to take everything they own to school. This means they will drag along with them the entire pack of pencils, four erasers, eight pens, three sharpeners... I think you get the idea.

A better idea is to allow your child to take the minimum: two pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, and two pens are usually sufficient. Include markers and crayons if they need them. Store the overflow in a marked box out of eyesight, which discourages raiding when someone can't find that elusive eraser.

3. Create a homework caddy. How many times has your child left their pencil case at home, because they forgot to put it back in their backpack after they finished their homework, or borrowed a pen to write down a friend's phone number?

Instead, use a caddy (a plastic basket or cardboard box are also fine) to store all the supplies your child might need, such as a ruler, a compass, a protractor, colored pencils, markers ,etc. When your child does his homework, he leaves his pencil case in his backpack, and uses the caddy instead. The caddy should not be stored in his room; it should be kept in whatever room your child does his homework, and can be available to anyone who does their homework in that room.

4. Teach your child to use a homework planner/calendar. Being organized in school include knowing how to organize your time. There are many different types of homework planners on the market, so you should easily be able to find one that suits both you and your child's needs.

You will need to train your child to use it, initially. Start out by helping your child fill out a school schedule. Color-code each subject. Then, every night when she prepares her bag for the next day, she simply looks at her schedule, and sees, for example, geography (green). She then makes sure that anything with a green wrapper or label ends up in her bookbag.

If you want to get even more organized, you can put a little number in parenthesis next to each subject; this number will indicate the number of materials that correspond to that subject. So if geography includes a notebook, a textbook, a workbook, and a handout folder, she will put the number four in parenthesis next to the word geography in her planner.

Next, you will have to help your child get into the habit of using the planner properly. Don’t try to do everything at once. Teach her a little bit each day. When you have taught her everything (and you will probably have to make a list in order to make sure you don’t forget anything), then you can slowly hand over the reins.

Plan to spread out the process over a month, since it takes about 30 days to develop a habit. In the first week, you will teach her how to use the planner, and you will supervise her while she uses it. This is full supervision, meaning she fills in the blanks or checks off work completed, but you stand next to her while she does it.

Don’t try to take short cuts, and don’t try to supervise while cleaning the room or doing the dishes, because then the following conversation will take place: “Why didn’t you finish the second half of your homework? What do you mean you forgot? Didn’t you write it in your planner? But I told you to write it in!”

During the second and third weeks you will gradually decrease the amount of assistance you give your child. You will do this from back to front, meaning the last steps you undertake when preparing with the planner will be the first ones you hand over to your child.

For example, if there are 6 steps involved in using the planner, days 1 and 2 your child will do step 6 unassisted. Days 3 and 4 he will do steps 5 and 6 on his own. Days 5 and 6 he will do steps 4, 5, and 6 on his own, and so on.

5. Set a regular weekly time to help your child de-clutter his bookbag. It may be tempting to schedule a cleaning on a Sunday night, in preparation for the upcoming week. However, this leaves open the possibility of “homework surprises,” - when your child suddenly realizes they have a big test or major paper due the next day.

This should happen less frequently if using the above methods, but unless you’ve implemented a system that insures your child knows he is responsible for getting all his homework in his planner (be on the lookout for a future post!) then it could still happen more often than you would like.

A better choice would be to set a time for the beginning of the weekend. That way if any surprises are awaiting you, they can be dealt with at the beginning of the weekend, instead of at the end. And of course, this also encourages your child to make sure everything is taken care of, since they know that otherwise they will have to spend their free time completing all that work.

Think of this time as a little bit of private time with your child. Avoid recriminations, and just focus on getting the job done pleasantly. Put some music on, set out a plate of healthy snacks. After all, if you have to do the job anyway, why not have fun while you’re at it?

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