There is nothing so pleasing to me as a freshly organized drawer or space. I love the feeling of order, a great to-do list, and a calendar that visually shows me what is coming up and what is next.

So I find it kind of interesting that my children are not quite so inclined. I guess somehow I thought that growing up in an orderly, tidy home would naturally rub off on them and they would crave the same sense of order.  Let me just say that this is not so!

I “blame” myself. I (strangely enough) always enjoyed making sure that their backpacks were hung at the ready and their sport bags were filled with the essentials (right down to the snacks) so now that they are at the age that I am expecting more from them, they are probably wondering why the shift.

The big “aha” moment was when I realized that being organized does not look the same for each of them.  I am heartened to see that my kids can successfully arrange an outing or an event with their friends and plan the details from beginning to end. (The skills do exist!) They look different when applying them to the school setting though.

So I am looking at this school year and realizing that there is great opportunity to celebrate these differences in a way that recognizes that what sets each up for success is very different.

Here are some things to consider.

Knapsack – While many pockets and places for items may work for some children, for others it can mean all the more places to lose items. Sometimes a simple, larger single pocket version will be preferable.

Binders – Those all in one binders with tabs for each subject can work really well for the child that neatly puts papers away after each class, but if you have one or some that bring home crumpled paper, one binder per subject may be the way to go. And for others, a hanging folder system on or under the desk or somewhere in the classroom that requires nothing more than to put the paper into the right colored folder will be the best choice. Color can be a great organizing tool, but too colorful and some kids may find it distracting so choose well.

Agenda – While I use the term agenda, these days it can be digital or paper based. The key here is a process that works for your child to bring assignments and important papers home and have important papers make it back to school.  This can be anything from a small book that fits into a pocket, a full size daily agenda or diary style book,a double-sided folder,  a series of sticky notes that then gets placed on a calendar at home, or a photo of the homework board that gets taken every day….you get the idea – there are many ways to make it happen, but you can help your child get organized by supporting and enforcing the process that works for your child.

Homework Zone

And finally, the homework area.  The typical desk is a set of drawers and workspace but for some, items hidden in a drawer may as well be miles away (out of sight out of mind)  and they will need items out and available. Some children really need a quiet work environment away from the action of the household and others will do better at a large table where they can spread things out and get some help as needed.  The key is to make sure that they have ample space to write or use the computer, and all they will need (paper, pens, markers, whole punch, computer) at easy access. (For all of mine, a co-located snack is part of the essentials!)

I am not trying to define the right solution here – it would be impossible to do so. I am encouraging you to think about the solution that is right for your child(ren) and how they would like to work – in this case Function over Form. Listening to their opinions and getting them involved in the decisions will be key. What they need and will use will change from year to year based on each teacher’s in class process as well so be flexible.

Take heart. The best fit will be the one your child will use and trust yourself, you really do know them best.  Your job is to guide them there.  There are many resources on the subject, but I really enjoyed reading a book titled “Organizing the Disorganized Child – Simple Strategies to Succeed in School” by Martin Kutscher and Marcella Moran. I found it very practical and helpful.

Here’s to a more organized year ahead for all of us!