“Just so you know, mom I’ve got a test on Friday I’m gonna fail.” My sixth-grader is barely through the front door when this escapes his lips. Because he is an excellent student, my head is spinning.
Smiling, I remark “What do you mean? You’ve got three more days to study!” But he is already grinding his teeth, scowling as he announces “I can”t do it.”
Still calm, I attempt to appeal to his reason with no luck. Within seconds, I am shouting “Fine. YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR A MONTH!”
Disorganization and Success
What my son was probably communicating after school that day was “I feel distressed, Mom. I have no idea how to get organized for this test.
Unfortunately, like so many parents, I let myself grow overly emotional and failed to truly listen to his fear and concern.
Organizing the Disorganized Child (2009) by Martin Kutscher and Marcella Moran provides a helpful guide for explaining in plain English how disorganized habits interfere with school success and create chaos within the home. The following issues addressed in the book were ones in particular I believe are relevant to helping your child develop healthier habits and achieve more.
Understand Why They Procrastinate
According to Kutscher and Mora, kids often adopt an “I’ll get to it later” habit and put off school projects or studying for several reasons. Sometimes they simply have a poor concept of time. Other kids have poor memory for ways procrastinating has failed them in the past. Still others are too easily sidetracked and unable to resist temptation to do something more appealing.
The authors remind parents that most often these issues are “the fault of the undeveloped brain, not the child” and urge parents not to yell or punish. Instead, stay positive, offer support, and help them break larger tasks down into chunks. They offer these tips to get organized:
- Write down assignments in a planner.
- Ask the teacher or a buddy to double-check their planner to be sure it is correct.
- Place all materials touched that day into a take-home section of a folder.
- Mark a calendar with completion dates for step in preparing for a project.
- Put completed work in a Take to School section of a folder.
- Weekly purge the backpack and folders of papers no longer needed.
Teach Them to Question Everything
The authors of this guide believe in addition to good note-taking and study skills, the key to your child’s education is questioning everything. Teaching your child to ask the following questions will enhance your child’s learning:
1. WHAT DID THE TEACHER JUST SAY?
2. WHAT DID I JUST READ?
3. WHY IS THAT SO? IS IT TRUE?
4. WHERE HAVE I SEEN INFORMATION LIKE THIS BEFORE?
5. HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM MATERIAL I’VE PREVIOUSLY LEARNED?
6. HOW CAN I SUMMARIZE THIS IN AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE?
7. HOW CAN I VISUALIZE THIS IN PICTURES OR FLOWCHARTS?
8. WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO LEARN ABOUT THIS?
9. WHAT QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS ARE LIKELY TO BE ON THE TEST?
10. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO ME AND THE REST OF THE WORLD?
11. SO WHAT?
Test Taking Smarts
All students can use a refresher for how to best manage time on a test, and the following strategies are recommended by Kutscher and Moran:
- Turn over the sheet and jot down keywords, dates, formulas, and phrases you memorized.
- Look over the entire test quickly to anticipate what’s coming up.
- Read directions carefully. Underline keywords of the directions.
- Answer easy questions first.
- Place a question mark next to answers you guess on.
- Sometimes the answer to one question is contained somewhere on the test.
- Sometimes you may be able to get help or clues from the teacher i.e. “Can you rephrase the question.”
- If you have leftover time, check your answers and scan for careless mistakes. Only change an answer when you’re certain the new response is correct.
- If unsure, guess.
In terms of helping your child become a more organized student, the authors remind parents, “We can’t completely fix everything overnight. We can, though, expect continued progress over a mountainous terrain toward an ultimately successful future.”
Michele Ranard has a husband, two children, and a master’s in counseling.