How to Stay Organized Through the End of the Year

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

Study Skills

Here it is December, the year is winding down and the holidays are upon us. At this time of year, school events, family gatherings, shopping and the excitement of the season all take place.


As if kids need more distractions!


What can you do to ensure your children are staying organized and focused on their schoolwork? Those end-of-semester book reports, science projects and math tests don’t take a holiday, you know. Here are some tips on how to stay organized through the end of the year that can keep the holiday peace in your family without turning you into Ebenezer Scrooge.


1. Maintain your random check-ups. Everyone knows random inspections are more effective than easily predictable ones. Every once in a while, check homework – is it complete, neat, on time? Check notebooks – are they logically organized, up-to-date, and readable? Check backpacks – you’d be surprised at the homework that was never turned in, the field trip permission slips never shared with you and the days-old half-eaten lunches you can find. Check work areas – are they relatively tidy, with supplies within easy reach?


2. Stick to routines. Routines are kids’ safe spots. Routines, more than anything else, help kids stay on track, know what’s expected of them, and let them know what comes next. You don’t have to be a tyrant but a gentle firmness about homework, study and family routines will go a long way in keeping kids organized.


3. Keep a family calendar. I prefer a big one that is posted on the refrigerator where everyone can see it. When you put important school information – due dates, test times, big events – in front of the whole family, you all know your responsibilities. Theirs is to complete everything; yours is to remind, support, and encourage them. One of your greatest gifts to them is to show how to break up big, scary tasks into small, piece-of-cake ones. Some day in the distant future, they’ll thank you.


4. Have rewards and consequences. Small but meaningful rewards (my favorite is special alone time with you), along with your encouragement and interest, will go a long way in keeping your children focused and organized. Consequences for missing a due date or homework assignment should be just enough to remind them not to repeat it. For example, an earlier curfew, the loss of a treat and extra household chores are all fair options.


5. Show constant support. Show your interest in their schoolwork, their grades and their progress. Ask questions. Listen to their responses. And when all else fails, you have my permission to use the tactic of last resort, one that loses its effectiveness if used too often, so be frugal with it: nagging.


How are you keeping your family organized through the end of the year? Tell us in the comments!