How can I Help my Children Organize Their Schoolwork?

J. Beam

Organizing the incoming and outgoing school-related paperwork that inundates a parent’s life each school year can be a challenge. More importantly than organizing this aspect of your home, however, is teaching your child to organize their schoolwork. Many children suffer from an inability to keep their schoolwork organized, which in turn can affect their grades. You can help your child become responsible for their schoolwork by emphasizing the importance of organization and providing them with tools that work for them.

Teaching a child to separate schoolwork based on different criteria can help him become more organized.
Teaching a child to separate schoolwork based on different criteria can help him become more organized.

Introduce your child to paperwork organization early in their academic career. Even in kindergarten a child can begin to hone organizational skills that will help them later. For young children, provide a designated space in the house, whether a basket or a cubby, where their schoolwork and other school related items can be kept. Items that are frequently transported between school and home, such as library books, lunch boxes, schoolwork, and other objects, should be given a designated spot near coats, shoes, and book bags.

Having a notebook for each class may help organize a child's schoolwork.
Having a notebook for each class may help organize a child's schoolwork.

Schoolwork should be separated into two categories: Papers that need to be completed at home and are expected to be returned to school, and papers that can be left at home. Papers that need to be returned to school should be separated until they are completed, and then need to be placed into their designated folder or notebook and returned to the child’s book bag.

A teacher migh offer some insight into a child's organizational practices.
A teacher migh offer some insight into a child's organizational practices.

Papers that can be left at home should be further separated into papers that are no longer needed and those that are to be kept. For artwork and other special papers, devise a separate, long-term storage method. Papers that might need to be referenced short term, such as study guides and rubrics, can be kept on a clipboard or in an at-home folder until they are no longer needed. The rest can be thrown out or recycled.

Disorganized children may do poorly in class work.
Disorganized children may do poorly in class work.

When shopping for school supplies for the school year, remember that the majority of school supplies are to be kept for use at school, so you will also need to provide your child with supplies that will be used at home. Make sure your child has a specific way, such as in a folder, to carry schoolwork back and forth from school.

For older children, especially those that are suffering from disorganization, ask them how their typical school day unfolds. Maybe they have binders for every class and schoolwork is being left in their locker because of time restraints at school. Helping your child identify the typical course of their day will help identify the best organizational tool or supply for them to use.

Some children respond very well to the structure of organization and others may never grasp the concept. For the severely organizationally challenged, lost schoolwork turns into homework that is never turned in. These students need to be encouraged to keep a day planner or assignment book with them at all times. Teach your child how to use a daily planner to keep track of assignments and provide them with a method of organizing their schoolwork both at home and at school.

If your child continually runs into problems keeping track of schoolwork, talk to their teacher or teachers. Ask about your child’s preparedness for class and any organizational problems they might be having. There are many students who earn poor grades, not because of the work they do, but because the work never makes it back to class. By encouraging and participating with your child to come up with a workable plan for organizing their schoolwork, you will be enabling them to be more successful at school and be teaching them a lifelong skill.

Taking a hands on approach with children's schoolwork can help them with organization.
Taking a hands on approach with children's schoolwork can help them with organization.

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Discussion Comments


@turtlez - Younger kids' schoolwork can get so messy since it's mostly projects that are coming home. It really annoys me that so much paper can be wasted, but we pretty much do the same thing you do to organize schoolwork for my kindergartner and third grader. Once a week we go through and choose what project papers they would like to keep. During the holidays we use them for wrapping paper, which is really cute... even the ones with the "bad" grades.


We actually have bins at my home right by the door. My 5 year old is the only one in school right now, but my two year old likes to make pictures and pretend she's in school too. Once my 5 year old gets home, we go through her folder and take out any important notices or information fliers and the like and read them together. Any pictures go in the "done" bin. Any information that needs to be attended to is in the "help" bin. It works a lot like the "in" and "out" box you see in so many movies on the office assistant's desk.


@bbpuff - That is a great idea... I might have to steal it since I just can seem to meet any of my deadlines at school this year. I can't wait to catch up over the holidays (that's supposed to be sarcastic). I have some online schoolwork that I do in addition to schoolwork from actual on campus classes... so I'm not sure how that would all work, but I'm definitely going to try it out. Thanks for the great information and the idea!


@Kamchatka - I am a college student and my schoolwork can get pretty intense and sometimes extensive research is needed. I actually have somewhat of a filing system on my wall in the way of slim bill bins to keep papers in organized by subject rather than carry around every sheet of paper from class to class. I like this system because I can go straight to the box I need. I also have a calendar that I carry in my bag from class to class to mark down deadlines and such. Then when I get back to my dorm I transfer them into one larger calendar on the wall with my bins. It works great!


We actually believe in having visuals in our home when it comes to things like bills and homework or schoolwork. We also are "those parents" who have a reward chart for our children, which helps them to remember things a lot better than they used to - believe it or not!

I think that having a reward chart helps them to remember things they might otherwise forget and helps them to realize that when you do good things or remember things, that everything will fall into place for you and turn out okay with minimal worry.

I think things like schoolwork should be included in the "tasks" portion of the list in order for children to better remember not to leave things behind or in order to finish a paper or project on time. It helps to be able to adjust the tasks from week to week as well.

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