Dear Ilana and Jess: My daughters are both in middle school; one in 6th grade and one in 8th grade. They each get so much homework. The assignments pile up and we can never get ahead of it. How can I avoid the school year chaos and homework overload? -- Michelle
Dear Michelle: You’re right on track with our theme for August and September: preparation. As you probably know, most kids begin the school year with a renewed sense of gusto; and that’s a good thing. But this always comes with a little bit of magical thinking: that last year’s challenges will be gone this year. For the most part, that’s not true. More often, it’s the opposite: the workload gets heavier and the work gets harder. Fortunately, these challenges can be conquered.
Even if your children don’t have educational difficulties, it’s important to be proactive in helping them manage their responsibilities. Remember that you’re laying the foundations now for how they will organize their extracurriculars, work schedules, and even their own family life, years down the road.
In every capacity, stay a step ahead. Avoid the 10 p.m. dollar store scramble for poster board by making that trip now. Last week, we suggested having your kids email their teachers to introduce themselves. Once they’ve done that, have your kids reach out to ask about the materials they’ll need and get the first few assignments in advance. Often, teachers will use standardized curriculum and have a well-developed set of lesson plans. As your children are preparing for the school year, their teachers are preparing, too. That commonly includes outlining the first set of assignments, which they may be able to provide before the school year begins.
Once you have those assignments, create a plan of attack. Don’t just note what the assignment is, think about the amount of time it will realistically take to complete. For example, if you know that your daughter needs to read a 116-page biography for the first week of October, divide those pages up and have her read a few each night. Not only is this a practical approach, it’ll teach your daughter how to take something that seems unmanageable, break it down, and tackle it piece by piece.
Time management is all about budget and balance. Just as we balance grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, etc., we want our children to learn how to manage multiple responsibilities.
So, when you’re helping your kids to build a schedule, make sure they’re incorporating all aspects of their lives -- from personal to academic and social. If you don’t note that soccer practice takes place on Tuesdays from 4-7, then you also won’t consider that time constraint. Create a color coded visual schedule or calendar that outlines family events, homework assignments, and other activities. Using a planner with time markers is a great way to help your daughters visualize their days and physically see where there’s room (and where there’s none).
The bottom line?
Say This: Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get a planner and write out your upcoming events and extracurriculars. Then, we’re going to email your teachers for the first assignments, so you can get a jump start. At the beginning of the week, we’ll pencil your assignments in your planner; we’ll break up the longer ones into smaller chunks. After a few weeks, you can create the schedule on your own. I’ll be here to help, if you need it.
Not That: You’ll get it done, just keep working on it.
Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, “Say This, Not That (To Your Teenage Daughter)” Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: https://cognitionbuilders.com. To purchase Say This, Not That (To Your Teenage Daughter) visit: http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/books/detail?sku=9781449488055.
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