Getting Middle-Schooler Organized

Help your middle-schooler to be more responsible and more organized.
My son's seventh-grade year was one of academic challenges, and he became frustrated very easily. He had a difficult time accepting responsibility for getting assignments done on time, studying regularly, and not waiting until the last minute. Consequently, we met head-to-head on many occasions. How can I change my approach to make eighth grade a better, more productive year?
Your son is the one who needs to change. Homework is his job, not yours. By the time children are in eighth grade, they should be handling their homework with very little parental help. To avoid arguments with your son, try using our homework contract.

It sounds like your son needs help getting organized. An assignment notebook with a calendar will help so that he is able to write down his short- and long-term assignments. By looking at a calendar, he will be able to budget his weekend and after-school activities, and still have enough time to complete his assignments.

Have your son take the study skills quiz below to see how much he actually knows about studying. Then suggest that he work on one area at a time wherever he responded "No."

  • Do you use an assignment notebook?
  • Do you bring home the books and materials you need to do your homework?
  • Do you have a scheduled time to study?
  • Do you spend enough time studying?
  • Do you use your study time efficiently?
  • Do you take notes in class about your homework?
  • Do you study for a test before the last day?
  • Do you listen critically to everything that the teacher says?
  • Do you sit near the front of the room?
  • Do you ask questions when you don't understand?
  • Do you remain focused on a task until it is completed?
  • Do you know how to study for different kind of tests?
  • Do you spend time reviewing a subject even when you have no homework?
  • Do you read ahead in your textbooks to understand what will be discussed in class?

If your son answered "No" to most of these questions, you should consider signing him up now for a study-skills class before school starts.

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

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