Help your child choose winning school strategies this year

It's back to school time and stores are abuzz with the latest must-haves in fashion, technology, and school supplies. Parents strive to answer the call and make sure their children have everything they need for school success. But there's another kind of preparation that goes beyond shopping, and that is getting your child organized for school.

In my experience as an educator, I've seen too many kids wearing the latest in fashion and are completely disorganized in their school habits. Children that are organized come to class prepared, have solid work habits, complete school projects in a timely fashion and are focused.

Children need stability and consistency. An organizational plan provides these while building lifelong work habits. In celebration of another great school year, here are some ideas to build your child's organizational skills for greater success.

Spare a folder?

First, find out what kinds of notebooks your child's teachers require. Teachers usually have this information available at the front office if they are not available during late summer. Along with notebooks, buy some inexpensive deep pocket file folders and color code these by subject.

Or, as an art project, have children design and make their own using construction paper and poster board. Decide with your child on a plan for organization within their folder. For example, in my community college study skills classes we teach students that folders are organized with the most recent work on the top.

Have your child reason the organizational task out and respect their wishes as much as possible. After all, it has to work for them, not you. You wouldn't want someone organizing your desk at work, would you?

Next, along with folders, start getting your youngster in the habit of dating everything and labeling papers by subject. When work has a date on it, it becomes a paper trail of school records. You can model this in the home by having your child help you file bills and other household papers by subject and date. So many teachers complain to me that students lose papers or 'forget' to hand in homework. Or worse, the parent reports that the child has done the homework but the child 'loses' the assignment in their desk or backpack and their grade suffers.

Computer equals friend

Another great way to develop record- keeping skills is via the software program Excel. Set up an Excel spreadsheet for each subject to keep track of assignments. It's also a way to keep tabs on grades . Students and parents alike can see how final grades are computed in a course, so there are no surprises at report-card time.

Right place, right time

At home, carve out a designated homework spot. Ideally, have this in a place you can easily supervise. Have supplies nearby so precious time isn't lost looking for pens, paper, etc.

Speaking of time, create a schedule with your child for when homework needs to be done. Many kids are involved with after-school activities while others come directly home from school. Allow a bit of unwind time when your child first gets home and then establish a definite time for homework.

Post the schedule on the refrigerator and have the child initial when it's completed. Remind your child that doing homework and attending school is their job, their contribution to the family.

Be sure to talk about the purpose of homework and how it is meant to be a way to practice what was learned in school. If your schedule allows you to supervise your child's homework as it is being completed, be sure to ask them how it relates to what they learned in school that day.

Help, I need somebody!

When it comes to homework, help is often much appreciated. Here are some great homework helper web sites:,,,,,,,, and

The last site features professional librarians who will provide answers within 20 minutes. The site requires a King county library card but Seattle residents are eligible for one. See the website for details.

Keeping track

Another way to keep track of homework is to use the parent homework checker. This computerized service is starting in several Seattle Public Schools middle and high schools this fall.

The idea behind the site is that parents can view their child's actual grades and discover gaps or missing assignments. The program is a boon to parents and teachers alike since communication is improved for all parties.

Some teachers have set up a computerized grade sheet connected to their classroom website, allowing parents to access only their child's grades. If your child's teacher doesn't have a similar system, and if you are a parent with expertise in this area, offer to set one up.

Southeast Seattle resident Mary Sanford may be reached via

Next week - school preparation part 2: how parents can work with teachers to benefit their children.[[In-content Ad]]