Is your child's backpack ready to go and next to the front door every night? If so, she's on her way to an organized school year, experts say. If not, it's time to put that recommendation into practice.
What follows is a set of age-appropriate tips to help students have a super-organized academic year.
"As students gain control over organization and time management, their ability to accomplish things is limitless," says Ana Homayoun, author of "That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life" (Perigee Trade, $15.95). "For many students, becoming organized is both empowering and stress-relieving."
FOR ALL AGES
--Pack up the backpack every night, making sure all homework assignments are inside, several experts advocate. If it's a gym-class day, set out the sneakers as well, says Kathleen DeVine, staff development director for grades K to 5 in the Connetquot School District.
--Create a homework space free of distractions. "Some kids are more comfortable in the kitchen, others might prefer a quiet space in the dining room," Homayoun says.
--Set a time each Sunday to "regroup." Organize the paperwork from the previous week, make sure everything is ready for the week to come. "Things go astray during the week, and they pile up," Homayoun says.
IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
--Practice bedtime and morning routines now, says Gretchen Rodney, principal of the Bicycle Path Kindergarten Center in Selden, part of the Middle Country School District. Put your child to bed at the time she'll be going to sleep for school; wake her at the time she'll have to get ready. Suspend naptime now so she'll have the stamina to make it through the school day.
--Practice doing homework. Print out worksheets from the web and have your child sit down and do them. Multiply his age by two minutes and that's how long he should work, Rodney says. So a 5-year-old would sit for 10 minutes, an 8-year-old for 16 minutes.
--Have your child memorize emergency contact phone numbers. Put a card in his backpack with emergency contacts in case he gets lost or gets off at the wrong bus stop. Label everything with your child's name, DeVine recommends. That way if she loses a notebook, a staff member will get it back to her easily.
IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
--Color code folders and notebooks by subject, suggests DeVine. Blue for math, for instance, and red for science. Continue the practice of labeling everything.
--Create a "technology box" for homework time. Before kids begin studying, have them drop their iPods, cellphones and other electronics into it and don't give them back until homework is completed, Homayoun says. Middle school is when students begin to socialize electronically and the temptation can be too strong to resist. "They can't self-regulate yet," she says.
--Don't overschedule the kids. "Parents are so scared their kids aren't going to get into college that they create barriers for kids to figure out what they like," Homayoun says. "Allow them to change interests as appropriate and explore new things."
IN HIGH SCHOOL
--Insist that your child use his written agenda to track homework assignments and tests. "Kids are becoming overdependent on online," Homayoun says, which creates a situation where a teacher might not have updated the class e-board, the child has to text a friend to get the homework assignment, the friend is at sports practice, and hours of wasted time later the assignment still isn't done.
--That said, don't overlook the e-board as a general organizational tool. Teachers post future assignments, test dates, extra help resources and more, says Brenda Lentsch, public relations coordinator for the Commack School District.
--Designate a two-hour block each day for homework, including Saturdays and Sundays. If homework only takes 40 minutes one day, use the rest of the two hours to get ahead on the next day's assignments or studying. "You'll have fewer of those nights where you're up six hours," Homayoun says. "Those don't exist when you do this because you've gotten ahead so much." In addition, kids don't feel overwhelmed because they know once the block is complete they'll have free time.
--Don't allow students to use their laptop or PC until they finish all the homework they can do offline. That limits the temptation to toggle to Facebook when they're supposed to be working, Homayoun says.
--The Paper Mousepad doubles as a weekly calendar to let students keep track of their schedule right next to the PC. Each Mousepad has 60 sheets; available for $11 at knockknockstuff.com. For those with laptops, the Post-it Laptop Dispenser uses a magnet to keep Post-its right at hand. The one-pack retails for 99 cents to $1.45; the three-pack is available for $2.99 to $4.50. At office stores.
--Here's a way to clear the mind for school -- recharging electronics wirelessly by placing them on a Powermat, eliminating the need to find the right cords. The three-position mat retails for $79.99 at Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and powermat.com. A two-position mat is $59.99.
--Locker accessories make in-school organization a snap. LockerLookz offers items such as a magnetic white board in five colors and patterns so students can leave themselves notes and reminders; $9.99 each. Visit LockerLookz.com to find stores.