Wonder if it Works Wednesday: The Middle School Student Edition

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.


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8 thoughts on “Wonder if it Works Wednesday: The Middle School Student Edition

  1. Elizabeth

    Very cool. And nice about the binder I wish my middle schooler was allowed to do that but they aren’t allowed to use trappers and every class demands it’s own 1″ to 2″ binder!! Which I think is ridiculous!
    Keep us up to date on how it keeps going. 🙂
    Elizabeth recently posted..Labor Day Vacation – Part 3My Profile

    1. Jean Post author

      A binder for each class? That has to be horrible to try and keep up on. I think they are maybe supposed to have a spiral notebook for each class here but the only teacher that made a point about it was the math teacher.

    1. Jean Post author

      Don’t worry, you have a while to get to this point and by the time it comes, it isn’t (that) overwhelming as much as a bit annoying and aggravating. I hope your daughter is enjoying preschool!

  2. Lisa

    We went through the exact same thing from 4th thru 7th. Losing papers, important stuff crunched at the bottom of the back pack, etc. 8th grade is starting out better already. Last year when all my efforts didn’t work, I said, “Okay, you come up with a system you like, and we’ll set it up.” He gave it a lot of thought, organized all his stuff on the living room floor, and we put together a (very simple) system he pretty much stuck with, and it worked well! He has abandoned that system this year, but seems to be doing well with his own way. And that’s what it’s all about in the end…helping them find their own ways in life. I also backed off a little in other areas with him, giving him more responsibility, and he’s responding positively. My good friend (with 13 children) says it’s usually a stage and boys usually grow out of it in 8th grade. She is wise.

    I check online grades and homework postings diligently, as mine will avoid looking at both. But now he does it with me (like yours) and that helps keep him focused. Also, he has suddenly developed a clear vision of his life path, and is now planning on HS AP classes, college and the career he wants. CLICK!

    1. Jean Post author

      Thanks so much for the encouragement! It is great to hear that the letting them find their own way system is working for you as well. I’m hoping 8th grade will be a good year (you know once we get through 7th over here). Wow, how great that your son has developed that vision and is making plans for his future 🙂

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