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Manage the morning mayhem this school year

Children do not spring from the womb knowing how to be organized creatures.  Some of us never learn to manage our surplus of stuff.  Just ask my husband how often I lose my cell phone, car keys, and reading glasses!   One of my goals in life is to have a place for everything and for everything to be in its place.  So, parents, I am asking you to do as I say, not as I do.  Or, at least, help your child become adept at materials management to make your mornings as pleasant as possible. Think about it. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Your child’s first school is your home. Research has proven over and over that students are more likely to be successful in school if their parents or guardians take an active part in their education.  One reason parents say they don’t know how to help their children with schoolwork is because things have changed so much since they were students.  The subject matter and teaching methods are confusing to parents.  Fair enough, but that’s not a completely rational excuse.  Parents may not always know how to help with that “new math,” but there are lots of other ways to rally round your kid – namely help said kid develop an organized system.

Be honest.  Are you one of those parents who turns into your kid’s school on two wheels at 8:00.  Is your child going to school an “ill pill” because he forgot to ask you to sign his permission slip until you got in the car, and now you can’t find an ink pen? Does he ever “forget” to ask you to sign a discipline note until he’s getting out of the car in the morning, and, consequently, a massive argument ensues? Does he complete homework but then forget it at home?  Does the proverbial “black hole” exist in your kid’s backpack? Are the “morning crazies” driving your entire family crazy? The solution is simple. Help your child get organized.  Do it now – before school actually starts. Create a study area for homework.  Where your child does homework is a function of space and inclination – yours and his.  If the kitchen table is convenient, fantastic!  For younger ones, it’s best if mom or dad is close by.  Wherever it is, it should be free of distractions.  I know you’ve seen the all-too-familiar zombie stare when your child is mesmerized by the antics of Sponge Bob and Patrick.  Some students need background noise, such as music, and all students need to be comfortable.  Support your child’s learning style.  You must find what works for him, and go with it. 

Every student needs materials.  Pencils are cheap.  There is no excuse for not having a plethora of pencils every day of the year.  Also, dull and broken pencils are as useless as a bucket without a bottom. Pencil sharpeners are also cheap. Buy some. Let’s go ahead and add notebook paper, erasers, pens, crayons or markers, and a ruler. 

Have a place where you keep all school related materials. Most communication from school will be sent home on paper.  Manage the mess by keeping papers in a basket, box, or plastic bin.  This will save the day when your kiddo can’t remember when the field trip is or what day he can wear “free dress.” 

Finally, establish a system about where your child will put his backpack when he first gets home from school and after homework is complete.  I could write a book on the excuses I’ve heard during the past 31 years.  One recurrent one is, “My mother took my homework out of my back pack, and she didn’t put it back.” My response is, “Seriously? What does your mother have against you?” Everything should be packed up at night.  Don’t let homework lie around for the baby brother or sister to tear up. Periodically have your child empty his backpack and throw away any junk that has accumulated.  Don’t be afraid.  Most of it is not too disgusting. 

Finally, remember that improving organization takes time and practice.  Bad habits are hard to break.  So, if one morning is full of pandemonium and crying and gnashing of teeth, don’t give up.  Your child is worth the extra effort it takes to conquer the chaos.  

By: Susan Spiers