Now that your child is a tween, with increased academic demands bumping up against changing hormones, is disorganization inevitable? Will you be plagued with late-night study sessions, overdue assignments, and missed events? Not necessarily. With guidance, your middle schooler can learn to manage her time and set priorities. Your first step: get her to buy in. She won't respond well if she feels she's being babied, so have her weigh in. What are her big challenges? How might she resolve them? Offer up these strategies as good options:
A Time and a Place for All Things
On average, your middle schooler will need to set aside an hour or two each night for homework. Doing it at the same time and in the same spot each day is important. Associative abilities are fairly well developed by this age, so having a time and place reserved for work will help your child focus. And a regular pattern can mean fewer complaints when it's time to start. Choose a time slot that suits his personality. If he needs to burn off steam in the afternoon or is busy with extracurriculars, then he'll need to do homework after dinner. If he likes to chat online with friends after dinner, then homework time should come right after school.
At the beginning of the year (after back-to-school night is a good time), sit down together and discuss a homework plan. Ask him where he's most comfortable studying and when. Maybe he used to like to work at the kitchen table, but now needs the quiet of his own room — or vice versa. Your role: reality checker. Without dismissing his ideas, guide him toward a workable plan. Be open to further discussions once the school year is underway.
Most young teens will underestimate the amount of time needed to finish their work by about half. To help yours become a better guesser, have her note how long it takes to complete assignments in different subjects at the beginning of the year. Compare the actual amount of time to what she had anticipated. Then adjust homework time accordingly.
Today's middle-school student is under a great deal of scheduling pressure. He may have class blocks that change each day, days that change each week, and a significantly bigger homework load — and that's just the academics. He'll also encounter new clubs, sports, social events, and digital distractions. So help him learn to pace himself.
Visual reminders often work well. Using color codes or magnetic pictures, include all of each day's major activities — school, sports practice, dinner, homework, even TV and leisure time. As your child becomes accustomed to the schedule, slowly let him take more responsibility for filling in his own events. Make sure this includes planning for long-term assignments as well. Show him how to block out some time each day leading up to an exam or the due date for a big project or research paper.