Tips to make school easier
School life is much easier - and more enjoyable for all - when kids are organised and stay on top of their homework and assignments. Teacher and mum Katherine Bricknell has already helped several of her kids navigate primary, high school and tertiary education, and has some great, practical advice for other parents.
- Print this year's homework planner and show your child how to plan their workload around other activities.
- Stock up on the things your child is most likely to run out of during the year.
- How can you help your child organise their space?
- How can you help your child organise their time?
- Use 'back-to-school' sales to stock-up on stationery items and keep them hidden until needed.
- Use a large calendar to keep track of all the family's schedules.
When your child's going into high school – into any year in high school, one of the things you need to think about is how you're going to be organised. How are you going to be organised with their gear, how are you going to be organised with their space, and how are you going to be organised with their time?
First step is to get to the ‘back to school' sales. Work out what gear they need, and what gear they're going to run out of.
Usually, on a Sunday night before the assessment task is due and after the shops have shut and that's the time that they'll remember they need cardboard or glue or if they need textas. Or they need a new printer cartridge –that's the time to remember, is Sunday night.
So, what things will your child need and where are you going to keep them so that they're not used up all of the time?
Make sure you've got the gear. It doesn't have to be expensive, it doesn't have to be the top of the line, but it does have to be replenished.So on my grocery list I top up – I top up glue sticks, I top up pens. Lead pencils, sharpeners.
The other one that we find can cause all types of grief is when the exercise book is full on Friday and we have to have a new one on Monday, but we forget that until we're packing our bag on Monday morning. And so I also keep a stack of exercise books and paper ready to go.Then having your back-up plans.
What's your back up plan for the day the printer doesn't work? Because, inevitably, the printer won't work on the day before the assessment task is due. Have you got spare ink, have you got extra paper - somewhere that's not out for public access in your home?
What are your plans about computer access? If you have three children and all three of them have an assignment due tomorrow, who has the priority? How do you manage that without yelling, screaming and blood on the carpet?
The next thing to think about is how much stuff a child is going to have. Because when they start Year 7, you get this lovely book pack,
and it looks really neat and tidy, and you feel like that might be all you're going to have to worry about, but it's not.
And what you get in Year 7, you need to keep it together until Year 10. Because the learning from what happens in Year 7 adds to Year 8, adds to Year 9, adds to Year 10 adds to Year 11, adds to Year 12. So keeping that gear organised is really important.
If you organise it yourself at the beginning of Year 7, they're not going to take any ownership of it.
As challenging as it was, I left my Year 7 son get in a mess, a big mess, with his paperwork. And then, sat down with him and said, "Now mate, this isn't going to work for you. This isn't going to be useful for you;you're going to have to remember this stuff."
And showed him how his Year 7 maths was going to be needed as he
moved through Year 8, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11.
So we sat down and we put all his work into folders.
We just bought cheap Marbig folders, because they're not being carried anywhere, they're not going anywhere and he has all of his folders in a box.
One of his sisters has a book case, and all her folders are on a bookcase and they're very neat, and tidy and ordered and structured, because that's the sort of child she is. Another one of his sisters has her work beautifully lined up on her desk, all in coloured folders, all labelled, just lovely, that's who she is.
Another one of his sisters has it in bundles and folders with writing and pictures and things all over them, and it's all different again. The thing is that all of them are organised in their own way. And one of the challenges as a parent is to work out which child needs which form of organisation because they have to be comfortable with it.
And then you've got time. And time is a very precious resource.
Our kids are into sport, so there's a lot of organising with times for training and who's picking up, who's dropping off, who's going to be where AND how's the homework going to fit into that?
One of the hardest things to show, particularly our son, Is if you have football on Friday, your assignment is actually due on Thursday. Not the Monday after, the day before. And if you've got football on Friday, and you've got training on Thursday night, and you've got training on Wednesday night and you're going to be away the whole weekend before, when are you going to do the assignment?
And that's why we've gone to a big wall calendar, so that he can see where' he's got time. Because by writing down the dates he can't see where he's got time. So putting it on the big calendar means he can see.
Then we had another complexity. In this house at the moment we've got a university student, TAFE student, Stage 5 student, Stage 4 student, Stage 3 student. Everybody's assignments need proofreading on the same night. There is only one mother, and I can't proofread everyone assignment on the same night.
So instead of having the kids on different calendars, we started putting everybody onto one, so they could see how to share the resources in the house. It cuts down on the carnage just a little bit.
So it's about that communication, it's about knowing who's got what due when. It's not fair to say the HSC student or the Year 10 student's work is a priority all the time, because the other ones have got the right to the time and the computer and the DVD player as well.
So how do you balance that, how do you set that up?
And a lot of it comes down to talking it through and being organised – being organised before hand and thinking what causes stress and getting in ahead – being proactive about that stuff.
So we need as a family to think about what gear is needed, what equipment, what space and how you're going to use space, how you're going to manage resources in the family and how you're going to manage time.
If as a family you can work those things out, the family and the student can happily survive from Year 7 to Year 12.
It's about getting in early and knowing how those things are going to be organised.
And you'll find more information about high school study, including a printable homework planner, at School A to Z.