Organizing Blog

Make Your Home Work for Homework


Organization is a critical life skill. As children get older, schools, teachers and we, their parents, expect more from them in terms of organization and responsibility. Teaching children to manage their homework – managing a calendar, reassembling notes, preparing for tests – is a life skill that will serve them long after they stop needing you to sign their permission forms and check their math. In order to help children learn how to organize and maintain a system, let’s apply the Major Mom Method to your student’s home office – the homework station.

Picture It: Call a family meeting. Choose a time when everyone is rested and well-fed, and distractions are minimal. Explain that you are interested in getting everyone’s input into creating systems and routines that will make the school year easier, including a system for sorting and storing school papers, and a system for completing homework and longer-term projects.

Plan It: With your family’s input, create a space plan for your child’s homework area. Work together to gather materials or supplies you need in order to organize the space.

When choosing a homework station, consider the following items:

  • Is there enough light? Try sitting at the desk at your child’s height.
  • Will the glare from the window or lamp reflect on the computer monitor?
  • Is the monitor at the child’s eye level, and far enough away from their face?
  • Is the work surface big enough to accommodate the types of projects your child will be completing?
  • Does your student need to work in a high-traffic area where he can ask for help or is an isolated corner ideal for concentration?
  • Is the desk chair at the right height for your student to be able to write neatly?

Proceeding with STEPS:

Sort: Begin by collecting and sorting your student’s supplies for the homework station. Use your child’s school supply shopping list if needed. Sort art supplies, writing supplies, electronics/computer supplies and filing. Additional useful items may include assorted highlighters, index cards, post-it notes, poster board, a file box for organizing/storing graded homework and tests, a flash drive to back up homework, and trash can for garbage such as pencil shavings and scratch paper. For older students, a dictionary, atlas and thesaurus are useful reference tools.

Treasure: What are the necessary materials for your child’s grade level? Keep the space simple but functional. The less back and forth your student needs to do to collect items, the more efficient and successful she will be in her study time. Any extra supplies may be kept nearby in a storage bin to replenish the station as needed.

When treasuring schoolwork, keep only papers that are actively useful for upcoming tests or special achievements that your student wishes to save. All other old papers may be recycled or archived.

Establish homes/systems: Knowing your child’s organizing preferences will help guide the systems you create. Visual students may wish to have color-coded files and notebooks, and may be motivated by a bulletin board displaying good grades and special projects. Students who work best without visual distraction may wish to use a rolling file cart to store supplies and store under the desk and out of sight.

To store treasured homework, keep a simple filing system or accordion file for student reference.

Plan your containers – Each person has their own interpretation of what ‘organized’ means. What the system looks like is less important than whether or not your student actively uses it. Allow your student to choose their folders, their desk accessories. Encourage and guide them to choose a system that will translate easily into their backpack and locker (again, consistent color coding or labeling of folders will make keeping your traveling papers organized easier). 

Start new habits – Routines help reinforce the actions until they become habit. Make a habit of emptying your student’s backpack daily. Set a timer – A consistent study routine of 30 minutes of downtime before studying, following by 45 minutes of focused work and a 5 minute break helps a student to use their time wisely. Save screen time, recreation or social visits until homework is done. Encourage your child to date each sheet of homework and notes for easy reference for future projects and tests. Note any test or project deadlines in your student’s planner and your family’s calendar.

Remember that creating a space that works for your child requires your child’s input. You may guide and assist, but allow your student the freedom to make decisions based on his learning styles and preferences. Remind your student (and yourself) that it takes experimentation and time to fine-tune and internalize new habits. Organization and routines are about getting more out of life, not causing more stress or setting unachievable goals. Your system does not have to be picture perfect, it only has to work consistently for you and your student.