Conquering Disorganized School

Some children are naturally organized while others struggle to maintain any semblance of neatness. There are ways parents can help a disorganized child — without standing over them night after night.

Establish A Homework Area.

Setting up a special area, dedicated for homework and relatively free of distractions helps all children. Younger children should have one or two potential study areas that are free and clear of clutter on the main level, such as the kitchen table, the dining room table or a home office. High school and responsible middle school students can work in any of the above areas or in their rooms, as long as they have a table or desk.

It is equally important to have school supplies in one central location.

Label a box with the child’s name or purchase a caddy to store materials. If the homework location must change temporarily, supplies are portable.

Create A Dedicated Homework Folder.

Research shows that when students have one homework folder for all subjects, they are more likely to turn in work. There is nothing more frustrating for a child then when he knows he finished his homework, but can’t find it the next day.

In a pocket folder, label the left pocket “To Be Completed” and the right pocket “Completed.” When an assignment is given in class, it should be placed in the left pocket, and when it’s finished, it goes in the right pocket. Repeat the mantra, “Homework isn’t done until it’s in your folder” until it is automatic.

Post A Checklist.

Set up a routine for organization, put it in writing, and post it in a conspicuous place as a visual reminder. For example, your child’s checklist might look like this:

Have I:

  • Placed my backpack in the study area when coming home from school?
  • Kept school papers in the study area?
  • Put completed assignments into my homework folder:
  • Put the homework folder into my backpack?
  • Placed my backpack by the front door?

Give A Bonus For Staying Organized.

Giving a bonus is a great incentive. For example, if you want your child to be packed up and ready for school before he goes to bed, and not at the last moment in the morning, give him a bonus for having all materials in his backpack by 8 pm. For improving organization, consider a bonus for keeping a tidy binder; putting completed work into the binder/folder and placing it in the backpack, and keeping the study area neat by cleaning up after homework is done.

Bonuses don’t have to be given daily. In fact, an unexpected bonus is sometimes more meaningful and motivating than expected rewards.

The Key.

Finally, the key to maintaining organization is to schedule a weekly 20 to 30 minute “Clean Sweep” session when your children will be responsible for organizing anything related to school, such as backpacks, binders, and homework areas. Write the meeting on the calendar, you’ll have less resistance as it becomes part of the family routine.

Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed. Her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, offers proven solutions to help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at


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