Launch Your Child for School Success
by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed.
Michael is a freckle-faced fourth grader always on the move. He loves to read, write and do well in class, so his mom was surprised when Michael's teacher reported that he was not handing in his daily homework. She certainly checked every night to make sure it was done.
A visit to the family's home after school one day revealed the source of Michael's problem. School papers from all three of her high-energy children were strewn randomly throughout the house. One backpack was in the hallway, another was on the dining room table and a third was on the kitchen floor. Mom said getting all three kids out the door on time with everything they needed for the school was a challenge. It was apparent that no matter how many times she reminded Michael to pick up his things and get ready for school, he was leaving home without his homework in his backpack.
I suggested Mom try a simple yet powerful solution: the “launching pad”, an approach that helps ensure that children go to school equipped with all their things -- backpack, lunch box, library books, etc. A “launching pad” can be a box, large basket, dishpan or any container big enough to house your child's school items. Put it in a well-traveled area, preferably near the door your child exits and enters going to and from school.
All school-related items should be expected to stay in the “launching pad” when not otherwise in use. Stray school papers or notebooks should be placed it in the bin by other family members who find them lying around. Permission slips and weekly folders signed by a parent should also be placed there. Michael also agreed to place his homework that needed to be in his backpack in the “launching pad” by a certain time, such as 8 p.m., each evening. By instituting this routine, Michael would have his completed work and all necessary materials to take back to school each day. Mornings will become less stressful and school-related clutter will be greatly reduced.
Mom followed my suggestion and put a “launching pad” near the side door that Michael uses. She later reported that it worked so well that all three children now have labeled bins side-by-side.
The “launching pad” is one of several simple strategies parents can use to help their children study better at home. Setting up a designated area for each child for homework is also important. Try and make sure it is relatively free of distractions. Agree with your child on one or two potential study areas.
It’s also crucial to gather school supplies into one central location so that time is not wasted searching here, there and everywhere for pens, pencils, or paper. Label a shoebox with the child's name, or better yet, purchase a shower caddy or tackle box. If the homework location must change for a night or two, this ensures that supplies are portable. Each student will have supplies specific to his grade level, but basics include: lined paper, a calculator, pencils, erasable pens, highlighters and a ruler. Many students also like having a hand-held electronic spell checker at their fingertips. The Franklin Ace is a great tool to help kids check their own work without having to ask you the correct spelling of each word.
The best routines and systems are neither complex nor arduous. By implementing simple easy-to-use strategies you'll help your child along the road to academic success.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her new book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at anndolin.com or ectutoring.com.