I woke up today and realized that it is the first Wednesday of September! That means it is time for another round of Wonder if it Works Wednesday around here where I revisit a previous organizing project and share how it is working (or not). Since schools are just now starting for some of you (we’ve been plugging away since August 14 over here), I thought I’d take a look back at my attempt to organize my middle school student last year.
Last year I shared this post about my attempts to get the child organized and then, this post about some strategies I was evaluating. So, what did I end up doing and it did it work? Has it made a difference this year?
Honestly, I didn’t end up doing very much. I think the small amount of organization with the binder helped quite a bit ( Pareto Principle in action). Did that mean we didn’t have any more lost papers or that I never had to remind him to do his homework or practice the clarinet for the rest of the year? Um, no. However, he made very good grades (A’s) last year.
One thing that I think made a big difference was when I backed off a little bit and let him find his own way. However, I did check his grades and assignments on Powerschool (If your school district offers some type of online grade tracking, I strongly encourage you to use it to check on things as well as contact the teachers if you need help or have questions.) to make sure his grades were up to par (i.e., he wasn’t flunking any classes due to missing assignments). He was usually checking it right along with me.
Here is our current after school routine for his 7th grade year:
He gets home from school and I try to jump in with some conversation before the X-box turns on and all the conversation is between him and his friends. I ask my son the following two questions every school day:
How was your day?
Sometimes I even get more than a grumbled “fine” like the day when they changed all the students’ schedules and teachers around because of a computer “scheduling issue”. He had lots to say that day.
What is your homework status?
He’ll usually give a reasonable answer like “math, band, and reading” So then I say, “What is your plan for getting it done?” He usually does have a plan. He doesn’t always follow it (sounds a bit too familiar!) but he does usually have a plan that I will sometimes need to remind him about putting into action. “I thought you said you were going to practice at 7:30? It’s 7:30.” That goes over about like you think it would with a 12-year-old but the books (or clarinet) usually come out. I’ve also found that a bit of humor helps. If I think to say “I thought I was going to be treated to a clarinet concert starting at 7:30” instead of “Why aren’t you practicing?”, it gets better results. The results still come with eye-rolling. Sorry, I have no solution for that aspect of the tween/teen personality.
So far the beginning of this year has been much calmer than last year even with his schedule and teachers changing all around. I think just having that element of the unknowns of middle school gone helps tremendously. We also sat down and organized his binder BEFORE school started this year and he opted to not carry a backpack/messenger bag at all. They aren’t allowed to carry their backpacks into the classrooms anyway. His binder has a strap and a couple of pockets but without the extra backpack, he has to decide on what to do with his papers rather than jam them into the bottom of a bag. I’m hopeful that there an avalanche of paper isn’t in his locker. I think this is close to the binder he uses (I should have thought to take a picture of it before he left for school). That doesn’t mean that we haven’t had a few issues here and there already with hey, you need to practice your instrument or what do you mean you are suddenly remembering you had social studies homework now that it is 9p.m.? No system is perfect 100% of the time but the routine of the above 2 questions does work pretty well for us MOST of the time.
I’m calling this organizing project a success although I have to give credit it where it is due and say this organizing success mainly belongs to my son.