Back to School Basics – My Five Essentials

planner-150x150Just a quick reminder about some of the basics that  are important for students heading back to school.  It may not seem like much but it can make the difference between your child using or not using the systems and when that happens, not using it can mean not doing well. So here are my top five favorites:

  1. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you have surely seen that I am passionate about planners. It doesn’t matter to me if your child has the greatest memory ever, if they don’t have it written down somewhere then for many of them, it just conveniently slips their mind. It can be electronic or paper as long as it is used. Most schools supply an agenda or planner but fail to help the students learn to use it effectively.  Deadlines need to be where they can be seen, not just written in on the day that they were given. That is one great advantage of using a smartphone app; it will remind you about that project that is due or that upcoming test if you set it to.
  2. Binders that open with one hand or rather one finger. Fill it with notebook paper (not those spiral notebooks that always get stuck) and plastic pocket divider tabs. Some schools require separate notebooks but it is really difficult to put four or five binders into a backpack. Your teen could probably use one and just clean it out each term. I would suggest a 1.5 or 2 inch binder. Label the dividers and leave an empty pocket divider in front for a quick stash.
  3. Homework space that is ergonomic to their size and well lit. I learned that not having your feet on the floor actually raises your blood pressure. The key is to make sure your child’s arms are bent at almost a 90⁰ angle when writing with feet flat on floor or on a stool. Light the workspace rather than the room. Overhead lights often cast shadows on the work area.
  4. Pens and pencils – the good kind. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get one of those cheap pens to write when the teacher is spewing out the homework. Buy more than you think they will need and every week have them check to be sure they have two pens and two pencils in their backpack.
  5. Create a launch pad area near the door where the backpack will live as soon as it is filled up with the day’s completed homework. Other belongings that are needed for the next day should also be there. It is helpful for younger children to have a picture checklist of what they need or a “here’s what I look like when I am ready to go to school” picture showing everything needed. Putting all necessities in the launch pad the night before allows even walking “zombies” to show up at school prepared.

Family Calendars

How do I keep track of my kid’s schedule and my own? Having one main calendar for the entire family to use to post appointments, practices, project due dates, and special events helps avoid overbooking and/or missed appointments. Let each family member use a different color marker or post it note on the calendar. Place the calendar in an obvious place so that it is frequently seen. I recommend the refrigerator. Yes, it’s nice to have all those pictures on there, but not if you are missing appointments and forgetting things.

Pick one day a week to review and plan the upcoming week with the family. Sundays work well for many busy families. If you use an electronic or paper planner also, then be sure to input the new information so that you are up to date. For students, make sure they enter their information directly into their school agenda. Ordinarily I suggest one calendar, but if multiple people are involved then there needs to be something that is constantly visible to all. Click on the calendar link above to see various sizes of planet safe planners that are wet, dry and sticky note compatible. Or simply print out a month or a week at a time calendar from Microsoft Word or Publisher. For those that prefer an electronic version, try a shared Google calendar provided everyone has easy access to it.