Staying Organized Throughout the School Year
Staying organized can be hard, whether you’re an adult or a child. There are many distractions that make organization difficult at times. These distractions are even more prevalent in the virtual environment. At home, it can be very easy for students to be distracted by television, video games, siblings, pets, or even the outdoors. The best way to ensure that your student finds success in the virtual environment, and avoids distractions, is to help them get and stay organized.
Staying organized doesn’t have to be a chore. There are many great “hacks” to get organized easily and keep a routine that ensures success. Check out the tips and tricks below, to help you and your students stay organized while schooling from home.
Make a plan- Have your student help create a plan for each school day. Incorporate breaks and “free time” so they don’t become overwhelmed or burnt out. Many of our families find that using a chalk or dry erase board helps the most. Other families type up a schedule and print it out. You can even use a dry erase marker on a mirror. Putting notes on a mirror is the easiest way to remind students of the day's tasks.
Setup a space- It can be hard in a busy/full home to find a workspace. Help your student locate a space in your home where they can work, uninterrupted for an hour at a time. This could be an office, bedroom, living room (when no one else is watching TV), or even a kitchen. The key is to ensure that, at least some of the time, that the space can be quiet and well lit so your student can focus. It’s also important to have a clean and solid work surface. This can be a kitchen table, desk, folding table, or countertop. Working from a couch or bed causes back and eye strain. It can also lead to further distraction.
Take notes- To-do lists, lesson notes, reminders… write them down or type them into Google “tasks.” If we don’t write it or type it, we often forget it. Writing down the tasks for the day will help keep your student organized and focused. It also allows them to cross off completed work, helping to build a sense of accomplishment.
Use a backpack or box- Creating a school and life balance for students is vital. Just like with brick and mortar schools, students should have a designated backpack or space to house their schoolwork. This will also keep the laptop safe and dry. Students can stow away all of their school items until the next school-day. Putting school stuff away, when done, allows students to “walk away” from school to enjoy their hobbies or downtime.
Use a calendar- I regularly use my Google calendar. I block out time for daily tasks as well as meetings and personal appointments. This keeps my day organized and, the biggest benefit, my calendar reminds me when I have an appointment, meeting, etc. These reminders are huge and will ensure your student never misses a session or event. Google calendar is free and comes with our student Google suite.
Color Code- Color coding calendar events, notes, live sessions, etc. will help students learn time management. Color coding also makes finding information easier, at a glance.
Take breaks- This is the most important thing students and their families can do. We are most productive in the first 30 minutes of a task. Working for 2, 3, 4 hours straight actually makes us less productive and more irritable. We can become distant or distracted the longer we go without stepping away. Encourage your student to take breaks. They will be more successful with routine breaks.
Prepare in advance- Prepare meals, snacks and even the day's tasks the night before. This will help reduce stress and anxiety about schoolwork. It can also help students to stay productive and not feel overwhelmed.
Create a Routine- Schooling from home is still school. Students need a routine to ensure success. Talk with your student and include them in the development of their routine. Students should be starting school and taking breaks at the same time each day. There is certainly room for flexibility but without a typical routine students can become very distracted and frustrated. Students should be waking up at the same time each day and going to bed at relatively the same time each night. Routine is not only important for schooling but it’s important for their brain development. Part of this routine is showering, getting dressed and eating. These seem simple enough but people working and schooling from home can easily forget these steps and that creates a less productive mindset.
Create files- These can be digital or physical files depending on your preference. I use a digital folder, in Google Drive, for everything. Organize documents for each class into “class” folders. Create “tags” and folders for email messages to save important content. You can even create sub-folders within your folders to further organize information and assignments by class, unit, lesson, etc.
The biggest question we get, as virtual educators, is how parents can keep their students focused on school-work. The ten steps above are the way to go. Remember, your student is still in school. They need school structure, you’re just creating that structure at home. It is hard to implement in the beginning but after two weeks of using the hacks above, your student will be happier and finding academic success. The hardest part is sticking with the routine and organization in those first two weeks. After the first couple of weeks the routine will become a habit.