No tears homework time! 5 Tips for Organizing Homework Time

back to school homework time

Homework does not have to be a nightmare!  Kids crying, mom crying and still no homework done can be a thing of the past with these 5 tips for getting homework done.

1. To do homework,  you must know what homework needs to be done.  Be sure your child writes in his/her planner every day. It takes coaching your child about when to write down homework and to write it down each time it is assigned.  This step is the most important because it saves hours.

2. Assign a spot for homework to be completed. Your child’s room is NOT the spot.  A location just off the main hub of life in  your home works well.  Your child can ask for help if needed and you can gently supervise from not too far away too.  Set up this station with a small caddy containing all the essential supplies.

3.Set a time for homework to begin.  Homework time requires a time to be set.  Your child needs a little time off and time to decompress. Having a start time that is non-negotiable helps everyone avoid procrastination. If your child has lots of after school activities, talk through the process and when homework will start.  With both of you on the same page about start times, homework proceeds more smoothly and quickly.

4.  Decide on your paper system for homework. Have a folder marked for homework, where the papers come home and return to school.  Completed homework that is not turned in can be a major frustration.   Be sure  to check with your child to see completed homework in his folder before bedtime.

5.  Use a timer if homework is dragging on and on.  Some times distractions prolong homework. Set a small timer with a clock face at the work table.  Have your child work for 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break and then repeat the process.   This way real work is being completed.

What are your tips for getting homework organized?

 

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Student success: Apps and more

student success apps and more

 

Student success depends on organization.  That organization includes recording, planning and executing assignments.  It requires attention and focus during school and after school. In the 21st century, education has moved beyond paper and pencil to technology in and out of the classroom.  Apps are a great way to add organization to your student’s work.

 

 Get social

When I was in school, we huddled around the television on snowy mornings, eager for a closing announcement. Today, many school districts share this information via the web and social media. Get yourself in the loop this school year and visit your district’s website to find the following information:

  • Your school’s and/or district’s Twitter feed
  • Any associated Facebook accounts
  • Classroom-specific websites
  • Classroom Blackboard accounts and mobile applications
  • Teacher blogs

Check these weekly to be sure you are up to date.

 

Student apps

Getting your homework done is a matter of consolidating information.  Students have to look on the board, check the teacher’s website and often look at other online spots.   Using a homework app can help you capture it all in one spot.

  • MyHomework  syncs across devices so you can easily access your classes and assignments anytime and anywhere.
  • Skoach has an integrated task-list and calendar for student’s to coordinate classes, tasks and extracurricular activities.
  • Just taking a photo with your smart phone of the assignments listed on the board and then recapping these on your paper planner can work too!

 

Paperless in school

Schools are starting to use technology primarily for assignments.  In a recent Time article, textbooks and worksheets are stored in the cloud.  Your student should be familiar with these apps to use at home and school to consolidate where they store their work.

  • In Dropbox, students have access to documents on their computers, phones, or tablets. They can edit docs, automatically add photos, and work with videos.
  • Evernote: Take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders and makes notes searchable.

Study apps

Studying has taken on new options with apps.  These apps are outstanding ways for students to use their learning styles.  With not only visual, auditory and kinesthetic cues, apps make studying more focused, collaborative and interesting.

  • StudyBlue is a collaborative tool for learning vocabulary and concepts.
  • Quizlet helps students learn vocabulary.
  • Essentials by AccelaStudy helps students learn a language.
  • KhanAcademy has math and science tutorials.

Have an app that has worked well for your student?

 

More ideas for successful student strategies here.

 

 

 

 

3 Tips from Tidying Up

3 Tips for Tidying Up Konmari ++

 

Is it surprising that a tiny book about the art of decluttering and organizing is on the New York Times best seller list for weeks?  Vogue, Good Housekeeping and the Today Show have tested Ms. Marie Kondo’s Konmari method.  It’s a topic and technique that has merit.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo.  Three tips stand out for me in this tiny “how to” guide.

 

Organize by category

 

It’s hard to know where to start your organizing.  Using the Konmari method, start your work by category.  A category can be a group of items  that are alike or used together.  In a disorganized space, it’s often the case that most categories are not grouped together.   There may be more than one spot for school supplies, clothes, gift wrap or any group.  You may have purchased items and these did not get put away or placed with similar items. Organizing by category works well.  When you see all your items together, it’s easier to make decisions on what to discard.  You know what you have and how many  you have of an item.  Once your category is organized,  you must find a specific spot to place it as a group.

“Tidying by category works like magic.”

 

Finish discarding first

Decluttering is always the first step in organizing.   Once an item has lost value or function, it’s time to let it go.  Often we think if we have better storage, if items were rearranged to fit better in a space, or we had more containers, we would be more organized.  With the Konmari method, you are assessing and processing in order to release items.  Ms Kondo asserts that this processing and dialogue is an inner conversation that focuses on what is important to you rather than others.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.” 

 

Keep what sparks joy

The Konmari method helps us choose what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.  Ms Kondo’s question is “does this spark joy?”  The essence of each item in your home should bring a smile.  Many items in your home are good, but are they good for you? It’s a lot to ask to have every item in your home bring you joy, but all your clothes and shoes certainly should.  By releasing the items that we associate with guilt, shame or obligation, we are freeing ourselves to live our best life.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart.”

 

The Konmari method helps you live your best life after putting your house in order.  It’s simple effective strategies can transform your home and your life like magic!

 

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3 Back to School Tips for Busy Parents

back to school tips for busy parents

 

The school year starts off in a few weeks. It’s a mad dash from August to June with dates, activities, homework, dinner and more.  As parents we are striving for a level of organization and sanity.  These three back to school tips will make your year more organized and less chaotic.

Weekly planning time

Most of your kids invitations and information comes in through email and websites.  It’s hard to consolidate it.  Weekly planning time gives you the opportunity to search through email, school sites, teacher sites and other spots where that information is shared.  Gather up your family calendar and task list, as well as a beverage of choice, and spend an  hour gleaning information. It’s also helpful to sit with your middle and early high school students and make a weekly grid of their homework and after school activities.

 

Choose your calendar that works best for you.  If  you love paper planners, use a paper planner. You can always shoot a photo and share it with your family.  Cozi and Google calendar offer online real time access for everyone in your family.  If you like auditory reminders, set your online calendar and “invite” your family for them to receive alerts too.  Use what works best for you!

 

 

Family meeting

There may be some eye rolling, especially from your spouse, when you mention a family meeting. You can call it the family huddle, gathering time or whatever you prefer.  Hosting a time when everyone shares calendar events and family activities makes family efforts run smoother.   There are always last minute things like baking cupcakes and purchasing poster board. But there will be fewer emergencies when you share during a family time.

 

It’s hard to find a good time to meet after you are back to school. It’s in finding what works for your family that will make hosting your family meeting happen.  Some families sit together after church on Sunday. Some families meet at 5 pm each Sunday.  Decide when you can consistently meet and get started. It’s good to make this pay day for allowances too.

 

Family dinner

Family time together can never be undervalued.  A shared meal is the time for us to share our thoughts and feelings.  But how to overcome all those distractions?   Be realistic about your options.  Even if there is only one time a week, set that expectation.  Dinner time should be a no tech time for everyone, including parents.

 

family dinner conversations

Try something new this year for family dinner conversations. This  dinner conversation jar is filled conversation starters.  It’s a fresh take on that same old conversation.

 

Wishing you and your family the best start to the best back to school ever!

 

More tips for back to school here.

 

Technology and Online School Access

technology and online school access

 

Schools are updating technology and requiring all families to have online access.  It’s quite a transition for both the schools and for families.  It takes just a little bit to be more tech savvy but it’s here to stay.  Get up to speed this fall with online school access technology.

 

Technology for online access

Now is the time for you to get started. It takes about 30 minutes.  Log onto your school district website and you will find the information you need.  Most of the school districts have a video on their website to help you get started.  It will require for you to be the guardian and have an email address.  Once you create the account, you must register through the home access account with your home address.  Just like other accounts, you will have a password and security questions.  (If this does not go smoothly, there is a Frequently Asked Questions section.  Also, it may be because you need to use a different internet browser. )

 

Technology tools and Your Weekly Update

Having all this information is amazing, but often it takes work to bring it all together.   Your school offers an online newsletter. Your child’s classroom teacher sends out a weekly update.  These are sent on different dates.  What’s a parent to do? It requires weekly planning time.  Setting aside a time once a week to review all the information sent and then consolidated on your personal planner.

 

If your kids are online, create access for them to a family google or cozi calendar.  They can update from their computer or smartphone as they learn about new activities.  They can set reminders and alarms for themselves too.  Having everyone online together helps share the responsibility of activities.

 

 

More ideas on weekly planning, family calendars and tech tools! Join my newsletter here.

 

Teaching your Teen Time Management

teen time management

 

 

Your kids have known how to tell time since elementary school.  But as teens they are late, don’t get chores complete or other things done on time, and they may even turn in papers late to school.  Time management is more than just knowing how to read a clock.  It’s a struggle for teens to know what to do and how to get things done with time management.

 

According to Psychology Today, time management is just one of the four most critical areas for teens today.  With the level of brain development, teens are not fully equipped for time management.  Because brain development continues into our twenties, teens benefit from our coaching them with time management through high school and college.  Teens are unsure of what to do first, how long it will take to complete and how to get started.  Teen time management includes coaching in prioritizing, duration, and initiation/procrastination.

 

Prioritizing

What’s important and should be done first? That’s a question not only teens struggle with.  Parents don’t always agree on this between themselves.  How do we know what’s most important? It can be a matter of focus for all of us.  However,  you can help your child make these decisions by helping them process what needs to be done.

  • Model your priorities and talk about them with your kids.
  • Encourage your teen to write down their priorities or create a vision board to see their priorities.
  • Grid out with your kids the time available and where their priorities fit on the grid.
  • Take time to plan. Have plan A, B and Z.  It’s important to set tasks into motion, but not be rigid.

 

 

Duration

We don’t know how long it takes to get a specific task done. But we do know that we can guess and set a time on our calendar to get a task done.

  • Help your teen create routines that take just 5 minutes. Make their bed, place laundry in the basket and put trash away are 3 small tasks that take less than 5 minutes all together.
  • Create more time awareness with more analog clocks.  Clocks should be in all your spaces to be sure you are gauging your time.
  • Use the 3 minute rule. If it takes less than 3 minutes, just do it.
  • Break big projects or tasks into baby steps.  Map out small sections of a project, assign a time and date to accomplish them.  Nothing seems as overwhelming when it’s broken into smaller chunks.

 

 

Initiation and Procrastination

  • Make it fun to get started.  Find an innovative way to start a project.  You can add in technology or a gadget, work with a partner, or create a new perspective on the project.
  • Schedule the time to start a project. At that time, use a timer, set for 15 minutes, to help you get started.
  • Brain storm the costs of procrastination. What’s at stake? What’s will happen? Is there is compelling reason to do this?
  • Set up a compelling, organized environment.  A clear work space, quiet or white noise, and easy to access school supplies makes it easier to get started.

 

Tools for time management

Planners

 

Focusing apps

 

On your smartphone

  • Clock with timer for getting started and timing how long a task takes
  • Pandora play list for organizing or homework
  • Notes for making lists
  • Reminders and more tech

 

It takes practice, practice, and practice to learn the skills of time management. Don’t get impatient with  your teen on how long it takes.  Every experience is a learning opportunity here.

 

 

 

Back to School and Back to Routines for Everyone

 

back to school and back to routines

Classes have already started in many places and around Houston.  Football season is around the corner.  Knowing its time to get back to routines is part of the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall.  Our routines may have faltered during the hot Summer, but these tried and true routines make a difference in easing our stress.   Back to school means back to routines for moms, dads and everyone!

Your Bedtime

It’s easy to get to bed later and later during the Summer.  It stays light late and it is hard to wind down. Get started getting ready for bed earlier so you can get a great night’s rest. Most of us truly need 8 hours of sleep a night to do our best.

 

Your Lists

There seems to be much more on our plate during this time of year. Make it easy with making lists. It takes a lot to keep remembering all that we need to do.  Your list can be digital or paper.  Write stuff down and then prioritize for the day.

 

Organize and take stock

Stuff may get a little chaotic during the Summer.  All of a sudden your closet, your supplies and your pantry are disorganized.  Take a little time during August to get them back to their regular order.  If you have clothes you have not worn all Summer, it’s time to donate them.  Gather your office supplies together.  Do you have  a good routine for putting back your supplies? Simplify your access to items if you have trouble. Straighten items and review what is in your pantry. Create a checklist on paper or with an app to make shopping easier. Just giving each of these areas a little attention will make each day easier.

 

Your Planner

Summer fun is often spontaneous, but Fall has lots and lots of activities coming up.  Get back to the routine of entering dates in your planner as soon as you know them.  Enter all dates from the school calendar, sports calendars, church calendars and any other activities onto your planner so these are all consolidated.  Having all the dates in one spot makes it easy to see and know what is coming up.

 

Check out my Back to School board on pinterest for other Back to School ideas.

Teaching Your Kids Time Management

kids time management kids

 

Telling time is part of our school curriculum in second grade.  Our kids learn about analog clocks, what time it is and how to tell time. They see digital clocks everywhere in our homes. Telling time is just the first part of time management.  More than just telling time, time management is about prioritizing what to do when, how long a task takes, and breaking a task into smaller steps for completion.   Teaching your kids time management skills takes time, practice and patience.

 

Time management basics

Time management is about prioritizing, duration, and chunking.

  • We prioritize what tasks need to be done when we have a date or deadline.  How do we know what’s important when there is neither of these?  Tasks become a priority when we have a clear value for ourselves personally.  We have parents shaped those values with our family.
  • We know the duration of a task, or how long it takes, from experiences we have.  Each of us can do the same task but have it take different amounts of time depending on many parts.  Allowing ourselves extra time to complete a task makes it easier.
  • Chunking is breaking a task into manageable chunks.  We can’t always complete a task in a certain amount of time, but if we break it into smaller bits we can be assured of completion.

 

Time Management for elementary age kids

As parents are a “talking the talk and walking the walk” of our priorities for our kids.  In elementary school most kids have a variety of academics and extracurricular activities.  We have set up extracurricular activities for our kids to have varied experiences.  Our priorities for their experiences shape their activities.

  • If your family values wellness, choose one activity that includes exercise such as baseball, dance or gymnastics for each child.
  • If your family values spirituality, attend weekly at church or synagogue or bible study.
  • If your family values academic success, establish a daily homework time starting at an early hour.

Keep mindful of how many priorities your family has.  Weigh the value of over committing to an abundance of extracurricular activities.  All activities are good, but which is best for your family.  Your kids can be over scheduled in elementary school and feel stressed by being rushed between activities.

 

Help your kids learn how long a task takes by establishing time for them to work on a chore or a project.  We often are unaware or unsure of how long it takes to unload the dishwasher, look up information on a computer or complete a worksheet as homework.

  • Keep a time log and see how long an activity takes.
  • Set a timer and see how long an activity takes.
  • Use a time timer and see how long an activity takes.

 

Breaking tasks into management pieces takes practice too.  It could be a school related project or organizing your space, but every project can be broken down into smaller units to complete.

  • Use the pomodoro method with a timer, segmenting your work into 20 minutes time slots.
  • Use a mind map and map out a plan for each step of a project.
  • Make a list of the steps in a project.

 

Each of these tools helps you model time management and engage with them in the process. We always need improved processes ourselves.  Teaching our kids will make us use these tools more effectively too.

 

Check out more on time management here.

 

Time is on my side, yes it is!

3 Surprising Tips for Keeping Your Kids Organized

 

organizing your kids

 

 

Keeping our kids organized can be a challenge! We know it’s an important teachable moment for the long term, but it’s also vital for our family sanity.  An organized family feels more cohesive and positive. Even the most organized families can struggle with daily maintenance.

 

  • Set up systems that are kid friendly as a start. The first step is to set  up organizing systems that work for them. Create a system that works with their individual styles.  A simple system is best for their clothes, media and toys.  Give them a good baseline to stay organized.

 

  • Do some decluttering with them twice a year to keep pared down.  Without a time line, there is more coming in for our kids than going out.  Working alongside them in their spaces, your kids will learn that decluttering is an important life skill.  Rather than being overwhelmed, they will welcome the time working alongside you too.

 

Check out these surprising ways to get your kids into organizing each week.

 

Think gadgets

Kids stay better organized when there is an innovative tool to use.  Swiffers, cleaning wipes, and gadgets keep your kids engaged in organizing.  Have a dust buster? Have them break it out under their beds to clear out dust and get organized in their rooms.

 

Get goofy and make it fun

There’s lots of ways preschool teachers make organizing fun. They use the clean up song or set a timer.  It’s easy to incorporate these same tools at home.  Have a designated time each day for “resetting” your home.  Use a timer on your smart phone or create a Pandora playlist for this time.  For just 5 minutes each evening, get everything back to it’s spot.  Make it goofy and get in the act too!  Not a spot for everything?  Have your kids use the label maker (another gadget!) to set up a spot.

 

Change things up and rearrange their rooms

Just when you think your kids’ rooms could not get any more disorganized, it’s time to rearrange their space.  Surprisingly by changing up the arrangement of the dresser, bed and books, your kids are more organized than ever.  It could be the positivity of a new space.  It could be the arrangement better suits their current needs.  It could be that there’s new energy in the room.  Kids will keep their rooms better organized once it is rearranged and they have a new room.

 

When it’s more fun to be organized than not, our kids love to be organized!

 

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Decluttering with your kids

decluttering with your kids

Summer is the best time to partner with your kids in decluttering your home.  You have a little more time during the week without the pace of school.  Your kids need a little something more to do around the house.  Most especially we all need an annual time to declutter what has built up throughout the year.  There are many philosophies on decluttering with your kids.  All have merit.  It’s time to think about what works best in your family.

Working alongside your kids

 

Many of us as kids were just sent to our room to “clean up.”  It might have been a frustrating experience. Where do we start? What does our room need to look like in the end?  What do we do with all our stuff?  Work alongside your kids to get their rooms organized.  Start with trash.  There’s a lot of it!  Trash includes anything broken, stained or unusable.  Coach your child through categories.  It can be general, like toys, clothes and media.  Then work through sub categories, like XBox and Wii, Barbies and Barbie clothes, or vehicles and animals.  Start to pare down once everything is grouped together. It’s much easier to let go of stuff if you know what you have.  Keep working steadily with your kids until they start disengaging.  It’s good for you to continue without then at this point and work until the space is complete.  By working together, your kids will learn the organizing process, learn to simplify and learn that less is more!

 

Working without your kids

 

Sometimes kids’ spaces are too overwhelming for them to be a part of the organizing process. As the parent,  you know there need to be changes.  Go ahead and organize their space without them.  It will be a blessing to them that you are working at organizing.  You can delete toys and place  these in black garbage bags in the garage to be sure you have not eliminated a precious item.  Start by grouping items together, then deleting what is excessive.  Create spots to store the items so that your kids can easily access them and label each spot.  Your kids will need a “tour” of the space and some reminders on how to stay organized.

 

 Kid keepsakes

 

Most kids have school and other papers in their space. It’s best to have a keepsake box for them. It’s a place to stash what they think is precious for their keepsakes.  If your child is an artist, think of a display area for their work.  Many parents are using clothespin lines for art display.  If your child creates lego structures, think of adding ledge shelving for display.  Honoring your kids’ keepsakes is another way of connecting with them.

 

Other decluttering tips:

 

  • Your children can share their blessings by decluttering before a birthday or holiday. Encourage your children to donate to local philanthropies that are important to your family, such as a women’s shelter or relief fund.
  • Sell the items online or at consignment and have them also learn about money.  Go through your children’s clothes at summer and winter intervals to be sure only what fits is in the drawers or closet.
  • If you store clothes for the next sibling, keep these in uniform, labeled containers with the size, season and gender on the outside of the container.
  • If your children are not ready to part with certain toys, the toys can “go on vacation” on an upper shelf or other storage area to be brought out later.  Expect to work together for 30 minutes, and then finish up.

 

Great kid storage options

 

IKEA small bins

IKEA small bins

 

 

Kids keepsake boxes

Kids keepsake boxes

 

 

toy organizing

Container Store busy boxes

 

 

More organizing ideas for busy parents here!

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