Once upon a time there was a naive mom who thought that her children’s education would pretty much proceed of it’s own accord and all things academic would work themselves out. A good school had been chosen, lunches were made, bedtimes were kept, she volunteered in the class. Marks were fine, and so the mom assumed that all was well.
Then one day, a backpack exploded into her living room. Literally. Quite literally. There was panic. There were tears. There was Wit’s End. Over several days, every single sheet of crumpled dismembered paper was individually extracted from the explosion, assessed for damages, straightened, taped, reinforced, and set aside. Then a home had to be found for each of these orphaned sheets. And there were no homes. Some hopeless duo-tangs and a too-small binder. There was panic. There were tears. There was Wit’s End.
The naive mom needed to start from scratch, but she was determined that this situation would never ever ever (channelling her inner Taylor Swift) happen again. So she prayed. Then she bought a book: The Organized Student. It was straightforward, harsh, perhaps extreme. But she needed to move past Wit’s End. She read the book cover to cover, went shopping for supplies (fun!) and began a do-over.
Fast forward to today. Yes, school-related things still sometimes get lost, misplaced and forgotten. But the students have had their stuff labelled, colour-coded, filed and cross-referenced, categorized and stored within an inch of their lives. They have enough skills and tools at their disposal to manage their own paperwork and homework time. Before each new school year I get out my book and help if necessary with purging the old and rounding up the new, but other than that they’re on their own.
Here is what the naive mom has learned. Buy the book. Read it from cover to cover. Keep it for reference for a long time. Assess your situation. Be realistic, not optimistic. Know how your student thinks and works and put systems into place that fit their style. (The white-board calendar/chalkboard/bulletin board grids from PBTeen are funky and cool, but come October 1st when that whiteboard calendar needs to be re-written...) Persevere, and over several seasons better patterns will emerge. Threaten with an all-out intervention if necessary. Believe me, when I come up the stairs with my label-maker they run for cover and have their stuff put away in no time. Maybe they’re just humouring me, but the exploding backpack has not happened again (at least not with the same student) and marks are still good. Amen.
So you may have followed me on Instagram through IKEA, Home Depot and kijiji this summer as I was planning to transition one Personally Teen from what the book calls a Travelling Homework System to a Desk-Based System. This required a desk. Which required space for a desk. It was a drawn-out process to be sure, but here you see the results of getting the desk, and The Organized Student’s system in place.
I was on the hunt for a desk with a large surface area, plus storage space that was NOT drawers. Drawers equal black holes in this room. Realistic, not optimistic. I found one that was perfect, cheap and ugly. Sold. Mr. Personally had that thing out of the van and taken apart for cleaning before I could get a Before shot. But imagine it in a typical school desk finish…fake wood-look veneer, and beige metal. Ugh. So I will refer you to the tutorial I used for refinishing it here. Well, sort of used. And it would have turned out better if I had really used it. Oh well. It’s a huge improvement anyway. It’s functioning beautifully and the finish is very durable. Kind of the beaten-up industrial look I was going for. I claim a small success in this department.
Yes, I am sitting under a desk taking pictures of a stapler. I go to great lengths to help you out.
Aside from implementing ideas from the book, I was inspired by a stylish friend to look for a large graphic element to fill up a now-empty wall space. I found this foam-backed world map through DeSerres online which looks great but can also have stuff pinned to it to keep it off the desk surface.
So what do you think? Are you in need of staging an organization intervention as well? Sing along with me…wee-ee are never ever ever…