Organisation is the key to homework success

I was a chaotic, unorganised child — as most children with full schedules are. I had things to do, places to be, and the last thing I wanted think about was that stray paper from math class, the packet from social studies, let alone the list of items to do from all of my classes at the same time. I had dance recitals, martial arts competitions, piano lessons, social outings, and more to do after class — homework was the last thing on my mind. At least, that is, until it was time to turn it in.

When I was younger this was balanced by my guardian reminding me to do my homework in the evening. Diligently he would ask, “What homework do you have?” When I was younger I’d have the homework with me, and I’d produce it proudly. As I got older and more responsibility fell on my shoulders, I’d stare blankly for a few moments, then the memories of stuffing my math homework into the book slowly played back like an old, worn movie. Was that today? Or was that last week?

As the cobwebs cleared, panic set in. I’d left that packet for social studies in my locker buried between two books used for the book report… that book report that’s due tomorrow morning! As I’d sit there in silence and panic, I’d eventually stammer out some really lame, half-hearted lie about finishing it this or that in study hall while simultaneously formulating a plan to do it while in the class before so I could get a good grade.

Except, I didn’t get good grades as I learnt the hard realities of being growing up and being more and more self-reliant. I knew I’d never proof to my guardian that I was ready to stay out later or go out with friends if I couldn’t prove that I could do my homework. I wanted to experience it all, be a kid, and yet perform well.

This, sadly, is the commonality that all kids face today.

They want to experience all, be a kid, and yet they are under a pressure to perform well. I feel their pain and anxiety because I was once there too. Let’s face it; we all were there at one point in time. We all have our passions, and it’s guaranteed not to be sitting around doing homework every spare second of the day.

But that is exactly what happens during school when kids try to excel in their studies. They have to think about what to take home every day, how to fit the assignments into the schedule, followed by doing it and actually turning it in on time. It’s a lot of work, and keeping track of each assignment, when they are due, and if they have been turned in on time or not can take a toll.

It doesn’t have to.

Click for more tips from The Child Study Center on helping your kid organise their life, activities, and obligations.

Seriously, all these little steps shouldn’t have to be thought about much at all. A bit of organisation does the trick. Try as they might, my teachers and other adults in my life couldn’t teach me this trick — not that they didn’t try. It is just that their lessons fell on relatively deaf ears until I was fed up with my process to actually hear their nagging encouragement to get my act straight. When I was ready, I finally started remembering snippets of this or that rant, some tip that actually stuck in the cobwebs of my youthful brain to inspire me to find my organisation method that worked for me.

The key to a kid getting organised and keeping organised is that it has to be all theirs. They have to decide to do it, then they have to create it. Yes, you can help, you can give them all the tools, and you can even nag them. Eventually they will find a combination of things that works for them so well that it keeps working for them.

When they find this magical combo unique to each kid, suddenly all those years of nagging, handing us fancy folders, 3-ring binders in audacious colours, and piles of useless junk accumulated over the years of the adults trying will suddenly find new life as the kids find their own way. It might be that they work better by stuffing the homework in the book, while others might need coloured labels that subdivide even the most mundane things. The point is, each one of us organises differently. Each one of us finds our own unique path for getting that homework home, done, and then back in without the dog eating it.

That doesn’t mean you can’t work together to inspire this change.

Back when I was in school I developed a way to challenge myself. I wanted to bring home every assignment, get it done, and turn it in. However, I needed to play a game with myself, otherwise it would never happen. So, I created a homework tracker, which I laminated then punched to put in the front of my audaciously lemon yellow coloured binder. This homework tracker kept track of the homework assignments doled out in classes, when they were due, and if I turned it in or not.

Homework Progress Tracker

Click to download. You can either get it for free, treat me to a cup of coffee, or any other price you think it’s worth.

All I had to do was be honest with myself. OK, well, I often had to team up with a friend or someone to help keep me honest, but it worked. After I got used to the checklist, I upped the ante by adding a reward to it as well. For example, if my homework was all brought home and finished on a particular week, I gave myself a reward like going to town with friends to the ice cream parlour. And rewards, as we know, can be highly motivating.

The challenge box I added not long after the rewards box. It was to set forth the week’s challenge so that I could get my reward. This became a game based on what the week was like. Was I ill? Getting all my homework done was challenge in and of itself! On a normal week, though, I wanted to complete my homework by a certain time or get a big project done so I could have my evenings and weekends freed for more fun things, like going out with friends to a movie.

This tool helped me, and now I’m hoping it can help others. You can download it here for free, treat me to a cup of coffee, or any other price you think it’s worth to you and yours.

Would you like it in a different colour scheme? If so, just leave a message in the comments. I’ll whip one up for you to inspire your kids with.