Another attempt at getting the middle schooler organized

At 7:02am on the second morning of school, DC1 realized that although zie had filled out the bus form and the orchestra forms, and had done the language arts homework (which I’d found on the dining room table the previous night after DC2’s bedtime), zie hadn’t filled out the Spanish forms (which DH had found the previous night after asking if there was any other work that needed to be done and we both told DC1 to complete) or colored in the index card zie was supposed to color in for Algebra.  (DC1’s algebra teacher seems to be less into math than last year’s teacher and a lot more into everybody sharing personal information.  LA’s assignment was also about sharing personal information, but LA is such a joke around here that’s what we expected.  But that’s a rant for another day.)  Zie had also just stuffed the completed work into hir backpack instead of putting it into hir binder folders.  I discovered all of this while going through DC1’s schedule and asking if zie had everything for each class.

Not a great start to the school year.  Especially if there’s going to be homework in more classes than just math.

So I made a checklist and put it on the refrigerator.  (You can’t see it because I am too lazy to figure out how to get wordpress to show the borders, but there’s actually a grid with 5 boxes after each item so DC1 can check-off for each day of the school week.)  Because once the school year gets underway, I sure won’t have time to check through both kids’ work each day.  (DC2’s class is requiring us to look through hirs and sign every night.) We’ll see how well it works.

Pull assignments out of backpack
     Español: hw and 15 min
     Social Studies
     Algebra:  Do, check, and correct
     Orchestra:  Practice, Charms
Put assignments away in folders
Piano practicing

How do you and yours stay organized?

22 Responses to “Another attempt at getting the middle schooler organized”

  1. Susan Says:

    When I was in middle school I had a planner that I used in every class to write down homework. I would then check off at home that night. I have to say, that is a lot of moving pieces for a tweenager to manage. Good luck!!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Zie has such a planner and has had one since 5th grade– the school gives them out the first day of class. I think planners work for some people, but sadly not so far for DC1. (They didn’t work for me in middle school either! Luckily I finished most of my work at school.)

  2. Mary Says:

    My oldest was phenomenally well-organized in middle school. I never had do anything at all.

    However. The two younger ones are still in early elementary, but I can already see that a different approach may be needed, particularly for the youngest. I am following the suggestions attentively, hoping for guidance.

  3. grk Says:

    Homework time at family table with all home participating and sharing in getting out, doing, putting away properly. I know. Physically ‘impossible’ with reality of family life today. Second choice: allowing consequences of failure to be responsible. Right. I know this one too and it is unpleasant and does not always result in learning on child’s part. Third idea: Buy all adults lovely wine and partake in responsible fashion.
    MY VERY BEST WISHES TO ALL. Homework is really really really hard and I do not think schools are going to move to an 8-5 schedule where all current homework is done while in class under teacher supervision…… Which is how it ought to occur.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We had consequences last year and everyone would prefer to avoid them! Zie is motivated, but we all need better tools.

      • Rosa Says:

        Does zie try to use the planner? Because the thing that makes the planner (which the school requires) sort of work is if there is a step of looking in the planner and transferring planner items to either the family calendar (which is a wall calendar) or “do for tomorrow” list at the front of the binder.

        The thing about a planner is you have to remember to look at it and it’s all closed up and doesn’t let you see there’s a reason to look at it. Using a wall/desk calendar instead is an adults with ADD trick I didn’t learn til I was in my 20s.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Zie does.

        And you’re right that the big problem is actually looking at it. D.C. 1 assumes that zie remembers or that there’s nothing, but…

        The checklist is on the fridge!

      • Rosa Says:

        I am waiting for the magical tool where I have an iPad sized thingy to write notes on and tap 3 dots that make it sync with an online calendar and the one that’s giant and visible on my desktop/back door.

        When I had an office job that involved being at the same desktop 8 hours a day, Outlook was exellent for this. I have a friend who has her outlook synced to the family Google calendar. But since my family isn’t all on smartphones (only me, actually) and most of my schedulign is not work related, there’s no point. Someday.

      • chacha1 Says:

        Someday soon there will be an app that will project reminders in a hologram in midair in front of you, until you go to your device and mark a task complete. :-)

  4. Rosa Says:

    I need to make a similar checklist! Right now (2nd week of school) he’s remembering about half and I’m reminding about half. It’s about exactly that list, except that he’s also supposed to check the online school portal, check the family calendar, lay out clothes for tomorrow (this is mostly to make sure we *have* clean clothes for tomorrow), and pack his lunch every night. If he wants a lunch. He can choose to not do that and eat school lunch.

    having Monday off did not help! He woke up Tuesday morning early but lay in bed reading until after I was up because he forgot it was a school day.

  5. gwinne Says:

    We are living parallel lives :) We’re trying visible checklists, like on the fridge. My kid also does not open the planner.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      hopefully it will work!

    • Rosa Says:

      no one opens the planner! I was in such despair by the end of 5th grade because my kid was still not using the planner, then I asked the group of girls I volunteered with (the top spelling group, who were also mathletes and extracurricular champions of various sorts) and none of them were using it either and they said half the kids in the class had lost theirs.

  6. Cloud Says:

    There’s a reason I like a physical kanban board over online tools like Trello for my “things I’m doing now or soon” list. I don’t open the tool everyday, and I never will. The kanban board is in my face and I can’t ignore it.

    Which is to say… making the work visible is probably the best thing for a lot of people. And checklists rock! I use them all the time to make sure I don’t forget steps in even moderately complicated things. Even when I do them often.

    A friend of mine with older kids told me that it is common for even really organized kids to “go backwards” and get a bit spacey again once they’re about 11 or 12. I don’t know if that is a brain development leap or hormones or both. My oldest is 10 this year, so I’m keeping an eye on that.

  7. Anne M Says:

    A dedicated desk for schoolwork has helped Child a lot, rather than having school items in several places and having to use a shared table. It is in the living room, as that was the only place with enough room when we got it (at the start of last school year). I will probably keep it there, though, because I can glance over from where I’m doing my work to see if school if being done, or if Child is just goofing off.
    There is also a homework listing on the school webpage, and, perhaps more importantly, a secure site at which you (or your child) can see up-to-date grades.
    FWIW, DC is in middle school also.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We learned about the up-to-date grades website pretty late last year. They assumed we’d already known about it. I had looked for it since we’d had them at DC1’s other schools, but couldn’t find any information available online. It wasn’t until the third teacher DC1 was having problems getting work to mentioned it that we found out about it last spring.

  8. First Gen American Says:

    I swear something happens to kid brains when they hit 11. So far 12 year old is much much better than his 11 year old self. He actually is doing the things we nagged him over all year last year, like writing ALL his assignments in his planner and starting homework right away when he comes home from school.

    Let’s hope it continues. Everyone says it gets better a year or so after the flakiness starts. I’ve seen a lot of maturity emerge over the summer. Intellectual readiness and emotional maturity are two very different things I find. I don’t think it has anything to do with nature or nurture. It’s just a phase we all have to survive. Even my most Anal and organized friends had their children go through the same thing at around that age. It’ll get better but we did have to micromanage that whole school year to make sure stuff didn’t get missed.

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