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Help Your Child Get Organized For School!

By Susan Kruger

Disorganization is the greatest complaint made by teachers and ranks as a very close second complaint from parents (rivaling fights and arguments over homework). Every teacher can tell stories about bright and intelligent students who are failing classes because they lack the organizational skills to keep track of their assignments. School counselors and psychologists talk about the huge caseloads of students that are referred to them for suspected learning disabilities, only to discover that a large percentage of these students simply lack organizational skills. It is a growing epidemic.

There are two root causes of disorganization: too much “stuff” and no routine or system for managing the things students really need.

Let’s first address the issue of too much “stuff” by considering the number of folders and notebooks that students are required to maintain for school. In most cases, teachers require a student to have one folder and one notebook for each class. Students typically have 6-8 classes at one time; this can mean 12-16 different folders and notebooks to organize, maintain, and juggle around between home, their locker, and class. Not only do they have to carry 12-18 different folders and notebooks at various times throughout the day, they are expected to use, store, and retrieve papers from them regularly.

Let’s relate that to our lives, as adults…

Imagine if you had 12-16 different email accounts to maintain. Imagine if you were expected to log into each account several times each day, respond to emails, and retrieve old/sent emails at the snap of a finger. Would you be able to remember which account was housing the information you needed? Would you even be able to keep up with the tasks and correspondence that came into each inbox everyday?

Chances are that the thought of this scenario sounds absolutely absurd, pointless, and counterproductive.

So is the scenario of our students carrying and maintaining 12-16 different folders and notebooks daily, even though it is a practice that is beyond common! No wonder students have a hard time bringing the correct folders, notebooks, and papers home everyday!

The sheer volume of folders and notebooks (not to mention text-books and workbooks) then leads to the next set of problems… a messy book bag and lost assignments.

A messy book bag is the culprit behind many problems, but especially missing assignments. I cannot tell you how many times I have completely exasperated parents complain that they saw -or even helped- their child do an assignment, only to learn that the assignment was never turned in. Every single time I hear this complaint, I peek into the child’s book bag and wouldn’t you know… it looks like a dumpster. Their problem is that they cannot find their completed assignments in the depths of their book bag.

The first step in any organizing process is to eliminate the unnecessary items filling the book bag, including old papers, crusty lunches from two weeks ago, and anything else that is not strictly needed for school. Next, eliminate the volume of folders and notebooks. Yes, it is possible to condense students’ supplies… significantly! Try condensing folders and notebooks into one streamlined binder.

Then, develop a routine for maintaining order in the book bag. Consider offering a small incentive to your child for cleaning it out daily. Following this routine will help your child retain the organization skills that he needs to be a success in school and in life.

(c) 2009, Susan Kruger, All rights reserved. You are free to reprint/republish this article as long as the article and byline are kept intact and all links are made live.

Susan Kruger of SOAR(r) Study Skills is a Certified Teacher with a Master’s Degree and the author of the book SOAR(r) Study Skills. Her exclusive Homework Rx(r) Toolkit at includes “25 Ways to Make Homework Easier…Tonight!”, Homework Scorecard, Homework Inventory for Parents and a free subscription to the Homework Rx(r) eNewsletter to help you and your child get started on the path to success.

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