Monthly Archives: March 2010

Tackling Academic Challenges: Tip#1–Identify the Problem

The school is starting to wind down and in a few months students will begin their summer break.  Your child may have had a shaky foundation through the school year.  Though you may have done all the right stuff and put all the tools in place for success, your child may still be facing academic challenges. 


Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll touch on a few areas for you to focus on that can help your child finish up the year more equipped and with greater confidence. The first one is:



1.  Identify the problem  Though this may seem simple enough, it may not be as easy to identify the true root of your child’s academic challenges. There may be struggles with motivation that get interpreted as laziness. There may peer issues that lead to feeling pressured all day. Or it may be that your child is truly struggling with comprehension or concentration issues. Do they need glasses? Are they unorganized? There are many reasons that they may not be doing well.  Be a Sherlock and find out. Keep watch for things that may indicate a learning issue, peer pressure or physical problem.


A few years ago, my son’s grades plummeted. He kept telling us he was tired and we urged him to get more sleep and work harder.  Teachers thought he was just slacking off as well. Later we found out he had mono so he needed tons of rest and it explained why he was not doing well.


So let’s keep digging until we truly come to the reason why our kids are struggling. There may be issues that need our attention and we need to be prepared to unearth the root of the problem so that they can get on top of things and finish well.

Organization–Mom, where’s my stuff?

“Mom, where’s my…?”  If I (Donna) had just one dollar for every time my three kids have asked me this question, I’d been set!  They think that I’m their personal GPS for all of their stuff and too often I actually know where things are–not because I put them there but because as a mom with eyes in the back of my head, I just know where they are!! I have a funny feeling that I’m among friends!


ENOUGH!!! I’m not doing them any favors. They need to keep track of their own stuff.  Sadly, I’ve been an enabler as I assist them in depending on me to snuff out their stuff!!


My favorite book on this subject is perfect for kids!  It’s called “Where’s My Stuff?” And can be found with the other great Organizational Books for Students in our bookstore by just clicking the link!


Here are a few things I’m learning about keeping track of my own stuff as I help them learn to keep track of theirs:

1.  Do you love it?  When my family was preparing to move back from the Middle East eight years ago, I was slightly overwhelmed by the thought of having to pack up 18 years worth of stuff.  My mother gave me great advice.  She told me to look at each thing I was sure of and ask myself if I loved it.  If the answer was yes, pack it.  If no, let it go!  That’s the best advice I’ve heard to help me jettison the junk!


Help your kids decide what they really love and what is just cluttering their environment and taking up space.


2.  Where does it live? While we’re tapping the sage advice of my mother, Rita, let me tell you that we had six kids in our house and you wouldn’t have known it.  Go to put down a book, a backpack, your shoes, whatever and you’d hear, “That doesn’t live there!”  Now I’ll admit I don’t run my ship as tightly as my mom did but the fact still remains that when you know where something lives and you put it back there EVERY time, then guess what happens?  You got it! Its right there when you need it next time.


Help your kids find the best place for things to live; where they’re sure to find what they’re looking for next time.


3.  Corral it?  As a right brained person, I have never been one to neatly organize my paper into files, to only touch paper once, to alphabetize and organize things immediately.  No!  I am a pile person not a file person.  And there are probably more people out there like me than I realize.  But I know where everything is because it’s corralled in bins or baskets and I can put my hand on things readily by knowing which bin they live in.


Help your kids to keep things corralled and it can help them when they have to retrieve important papers, assignments, forms and permission slips. Having an in/out system may be useful so that they will always know where to find what they’re looking for.


4.  Categories–such as…  School stuff: things like books, backpack, locker, lunch money, and homework, projects, and gym/sports clothes.  Personal stuff: clothes, toys and toiletries depending on the age and the gender.  Computer stuff: files, assignments, games, email. The list goes on and on.


Breaking areas of our lives into categories or domains helps a ton when trying to keep things organized.  Think of your home and the various categories you have to keep track of.  Now imagine your child trying to keep track of their categories/domains.  What are they?  


Help your kids get their stuff organized into domains and it will help streamline thinking and save time. 


5.  POST-ITS!  I am notorious for using sticky notes upside-down across the top of my papers. And the brighter the sticky note the better. Then when I’m routing through papers, I can see the post-it sticking out from the top of the paper and find what I’m looking for in a flash!  I just use the same wording per subject on each note and then I can corral all of the papers together under that subject or domain.


Help your kids use color to identify papers that will help them as they learn to think in categories and domains.  They will be able to find things more quickly as they develop a system for how they organize their own stuff.


Kids need to learn how to keep track of their own belongings and to organize them into manageable categories.  This is a life skill that will help your child for years to come.


You might want to get a copy of “Where’s My Stuff?”  Just click on the link to see that and other Organizational Books for Students  And give us a call if we can help to get your child organized!!

Organization–Time is on your side!

Time management–is there really such a thing?  Can we manage time or do we need to manage ourselves with the time that we have? 

Understanding time and our ability to make the most of our best hours is still something we struggle with as adults.  It should comes as no surprise to us then that kids might find it challenging as well.

Check out these great Organizational Books for Students! They are packed with excellent strategies and ideas for helping kids get organized.

In the meantime, here are a just few tips to help your kids make better use of their time:  

1.  Have a plan and routine that works for them not just you.

  • Understanding your child’s learning style and best hours of the day will help you as you think through a plan and make the most of the hours between afterschool and bedtime.   

2.  Help them see the big picture and then break things down into manageable chunks.

  • Whether doing homework, working on a project or cleaning their rooms, kids can feel overwhelmed by the size of the project and the time left on the clock to complete it.
  • Breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks makes it seem like something it’s something they can accomplish.   

3.  Encourage them to make a checklist and cross things off as they go so they can see the progress being made.

  • Teaching kids to make lists is an essential tool they’ll use throughout life.  
  •  Teaching them to prioritize the list is even better so that they can get the tough stuff out of the way first!  

4.  Use a timer. 

  • I have to admit that I find this to be one of my most helpful little tools.  I set the timer for 30 minutes and then do my best to beat the clock!  
  • I have found this to be so helpful for kids to see that they can actually get things done before the timer goes off.

 5.  Make them a part of a solution.

  • Even young children love when their opinion counts.  “What do you think?”  It’s a great question to ask kids because then they can come up with the how and the why and learn to decide on a plan of action and a strategy.


They say that time stand still for no one.  I think that’s fairly accurate, at least the last time I checked my watch.  Teaching our kids the value of time–their time–and how they use it will help them to make the most of it while at school and later when they have to make those choices on their own–time.

Remember to take a look at these Organizational Books for Students?  And don’t hesitate to give us a call if we can be of assistance.

Organization–Can’t get it out of my head!

  • Does your child study for hours and then go blank and forgot everything needed for the test?
  • Does your child stare at a blank piece of paper not knowing where to start or what to write?
  • Does your child hear the teacher tell the class the assignment during the day but then forgets what the homework is for tonight?
  • Does your child take homework to school (you saw it go into the backpack!) but somehow it disappears into a black hole between the house, the bus and the classroom?
  • Does your child sit and seemingly absorb what’s being said or read but when asked for the recap finds it difficult to tell you what was just heard or read?


Did you answer yes to one, some or all of these questions above?  Then your child may be having trouble with organizing thoughts when it’s time to repeat and recount what should have been learned.


Here are a few ideas that can help keep kids on track as they need to organize their thoughts for homework, tests, projects, oral reports and presentations—


  • Take notes—Jotting down thoughts will act as place holders to jog your child’s memory later.
  • Use a day planner or agenda–Everything in the same place everyday makes sure assignments aren’t lost in space.
  • Use a central calendar—Helps you keep track of what’s coming up so you can remind your child of upcoming deadlines and due dates.
  • Chunk out what needs to be done— How do you eat and elephant?  One bite at a time!
  • Use graphic organizers, checklists and to-do lists–These tools are invaluable for helping keep thoughts and ideas in their rightful place.
  • Use colorful sticky notes and folders to keep track of assignments—Color can help identify subjects and assignments as well as urgency and importance.
  • Let them tell you their organizational strategy—Let your child show you the best way for them to keep track of what they need to remember and if they can’t do it, help them figure out a strategy and approach that fits their learning style and preference.
  • Cut the clutter—Help them streamline things by clearing out the clutter that may be taking up residence in their backpack, folders or head.
  • Get moving–Sometimes it helps for students to walk around while they’re thinking and memorizing.
  • Say it out loud–It also can be helpful for them to talk out what they’re thinking.  A tape recorder or voice recorder may also be helpful to capture their thoughts and then they hit rewind and write them down. 

The same sense of overwhelm when taking information IN can happen when students need to get information OUT.  It may be garbled up in their heads and they have a hard time deciding which thing they need to do first, how to keep track of everything and still stay connected to their friends while getting good grades.  The word PRESSURE comes to mind and it’s not hard to imagine why sometimes kids just can’t pull it all together.

Need a hand helping get your child organized?  Check out these great Organizational Books for Students that are packed with excellent ideas and strategies to help get your child on track.