"My Dog Ate My Homework"

by Jennifer Bryerton MA Ed.

It’s Back-to-School time and lots of parents are worried about their kids who often forget where they put things like homework assignments (or their baseball glove, N’Snyc CD & lucky socks). Here are 5 simple strategies to help your child "pull it all together".

1. Establish routine. Designate a special time and a special (quiet) place for doing homework. Whatever your schedule or style, let the kids know that studying is important by giving it a part of the day just like meals and bedtime routines.

2. Build the "Super Binder". A large 3-ring binder that holds all materials for all classes (ask teachers for input) can be key. Your child and the super binder need never part! Take your child on a special shopping trip for organizational tools like color-coordinated folders, notebooks, pencil bags, extra paper, calendar, etc. to fill the binder. It should be obvious where everything goes – even to a disorganized fourth grader. Make it part of your routine to clean out the folder every Friday, or Wednesday, or…

3. Create a homework record system. Most teachers will be willing to double check and sign an assignment list if you are doing likewise at home. Use a calendar or create your own record sheets. Encourage your child to prioritize the assignments by due date. She should start with one that's not too long or difficult, but avoid saving the longest or hardest assignments for last. The whole family can play along and keep a master calendar to post big assignments like Science Fair projects along with outings and sports games.

4. Use checklists. Help your child get into the habit of keeping a "to-do" list in a small notebook dedicated to assignments. The times they are most likely to forget things is when they are hurrying so plan ahead for the dash to the school bus by posting a list of "must haves" in a convenient place like the foyer at home and their locker or cubby at school.

5. Plan before bed for the next day. If mornings are hectic at your house, place a basket for each child by the door and have them "pack" it the night before with whatever is needed for school the next day, including backpacks and athletic uniforms. This will cut down on hunting for a missing gym shoe or overdue library books before you’ve had your second cup of java.

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