Keep Calm & Get the Kids A Planner
By Sandi Schwartz
Feeling overwhelmed by your children’s busy schedules? How do you keep track of it all? Many of us rely on our own planners, but have you ever considered pushing some of that responsibility onto your children?
In second grade, my son’s school started distributing school planners to each student to track their homework and upcoming exams. Having a planner has been incredibly helpful to my son (and me!) to make sure he does not miss any assignments and so he can schedule time throughout his week to study for quizzes and tests. In fact, planners offer so much more than just a place to write down homework.
Benefits Of School Planners
Keep track of all commitments. Kids have hectic schedules between homework, tests, extracurricular activities, social outings, and family time. By having one place to write down all of the moving parts, your kids will stay on track and not get overwhelmed by their to-do list. In addition, Dr. Maggie Wray, success skills coach and mentor for teens and young adults, explains how writing down assignments in real time as the teacher announces them makes it so much easier for students to remember their assignments. Plus, it takes the pressure off having to memorize what the teacher said because it is right there in black and white.
Manage time. Planners offer a visual reminder of tasks that can be crossed off when finished to help our kids stay on task and get things done in a more productive way than a long laundry list or trying to remember everything by heart. The daily, weekly, and monthly calendar features can be especially helpful so students can see an overview of a chunk of time to help them better plan and balance their commitments.
Be more mindful. Planners help free up space in our kids’ brains so they can focus on other important things like creativity or critical thinking skills. Having a written plan frees up working memory, which makes it easier for them to focus on the task at hand. When students jot down their assignments and activities in a planner, their brains can stop struggling to keep track of everything they have left to work on. Instead, they can be more mindful, pay closer attention, learn more effectively, and complete their work more efficiently.
Serves as a journal. Today, planners are so much more than just a calendar. Many include inspirational quotes and writing prompts so students can record their thoughts, feelings, and memories. I especially love journals that include a place to list what we are thankful for on a daily basis since gratitude is so critical to a happy, healthy lifestyle. Encourage your older children and teens to use their planners as a journal and to keep them so they can look back at them years from now.
Helps your child achieve goals. Planners can guide your children so they can easily set and achieve their goals throughout the year. From small goals like finishing their daily math homework to larger goals like making honor role, their planner will help bring their dreams to fruition. Set aside time each month with your children to review their goals using the SMART goal approach and help them track their steps for each goal by using their planner. With each milestone they check off their list, they will feel a major sense of accomplishment.
The acronym SMART represents goals that are:
- Specific: The more specific we are, the more focused we can be in reaching a goal. When your children say they want to do better in school, ask questions to guide them in identifying a more detailed goal. For example, which subject would they like to do better in? What grade are they hoping to achieve?
- Measurable: It is important that we help our children identify how they will know they reached their goal, so it is clear what they are working towards. Is it an award, a grade, a project, or a skill they are looking to end up with in the end?
- Achievable: Goals should be challenging within reason–not impossible. It is best to encourage our children to take one step at a time and not to make things too difficult for themselves. They will be happier if they reach a few easier goals than struggling to attain a really difficult one.
- Relevant: Goals need to mean something to the children. They need to be excited and passionate about what they are working towards. If we set the goals for them, they will not gain anything from the experience and may possibly fail and be stressed over what we expect from them.
- Timely: If we don’t identify when we hope to achieve a goal, we are unable to succeed. Ask your children to determine a realistic time frame for meeting the goal. Be sure to consider other obligations and interests when choosing the estimated finish line.
Tips For Using A School Planner Effectively
The teachers at my son’s school require parents to review and sign the school planner everyday so we are engaged in the process, which I think is a wonderful idea. Here are some other tips to make sure your kids are using their planner effectively:
- Ask them to keep their planner with them at all times, such as in their backpack.
- Create a habit of looking at their planner as soon as you and your children get home after school. It may also be helpful to look at it again in the morning before school to see what is coming up on the agenda.
- If your teachers do not require a planner, work with them to make sure they are on board with your efforts.
- Use a paperclip, bookmark, or other marker to keep the previous weeks’ pages of the planner together so it always opens to the current week. This will reduce confusion and frustration hunting for the right page.
- Always use positive reinforcement regarding our child’s organizational efforts. Be sure to point out progress when you see it.
- Teach your kids to check their calendar in the planner before agreeing to appointments or tasks.
Choosing The Best School Planner For Your Kids
It can be overwhelming trying to decide which school planner to buy for your kids. Look for ones that have a daily homework list, daily action or to-do list, tabs or bookmarks, monthly calendar pages, a place to write down long-term goals, and a place to track grades. Also, ADDitudeMag contributor Susan Kruger, M.Ed., suggests purchasing a simple, thin, spiral-bound planner that uses a weekly layout with a separate space for each day.
No matter which type of planner you choose for your kids, you will be on your way to improving your hectic afterschool time and minimizing the fights with your kids about forgetting to do their schoolwork. Plus, you will be teaching them organizational skills that will prepare them for the rest of their life.
Sandi Schwartz is an author, journalist, and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. As the founder and director of the Ecohappiness Project, her mission is to inspire and educate families to build a nature habit to feel happier and calmer. Both her parenting book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, and children’s book, Sky’s Search for Ecohappiness, are available now. Learn more at www.ecohappinessproject.com.
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