Monday, March 19, 2012

Today's Dilemma: Is it Possible to Have an Organized 7th-Grade Boy?

So, you're driving along the parenting highway and things are going pretty smoothly. You've got a full tank of gas and the tires are in good shape. The road is clear and level. Then, all of a sudden, boom!

You hit a pothole. Or a speed bump. Or whatever makes you slow down and realize you've been on autopilot with one of your kids and it's not working anymore.

You know the kid I'm talking about? He's the one that rarely gives you trouble. He's agreeable, helpful and the reason you've patted yourself on the back now and again thinking you've got this parenting thing figured out, at least for this kid. He gets good grades without effort. He seems to succeed at most things he tries and, if he doesn't, he picks himself up, dusts himself off and gets on with life without any drama.

Didn't get chosen to be on the modified soccer team? That's okay, mom. Now I can spend more time practicing drums.

That's been his attitude about most everything.

Let's put it in reverse here for a minute. Gets good grades without effort? Yup. That's been him. Always. He's got a memory like a steel trap. That is, he did until the work load got a little heavier, the extra-curricular schedule got a little busier and the locker got quite a bit messier. Now, he's missing homework assignments and losing things in his locker. It's become vividly apparent that the kid, who used to remember every minute detail, is sadly disorganized.  As his science teacher says, "his disorganization has caught up with him".

Before I turned myself in for careless driving parenting, I did some Google searching. It seems, seventh grade is the year boys, especially those boys who've been able to coast through school with little effort, fall apart in the organization department. In her article Organizing for Boys: What Parents Need to Know, Julie Williams reports that boys need special help getting organized. Williams interviewed Ana Homayoun, M.A., author of That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life. I've requested this book from interlibrary loan and can't wait to read it.

In the meantime, I'm putting some tips from Williams into practice. Here's what we're doing:
  • I had my son find his agenda. He hasn't written one word in it for the whole school year. As of last week, he's using it daily to keep track of assignments and his activity schedule. 
  • Once a week, the locker will be cleaned. One of his teachers is going to help him sort and organize his papers.
  • Every Sunday, my husband, my son and I will sit down at the kitchen table and review the upcoming weekly schedule, including school assignments for the week. 
  • My son is going to set one or two easily attainable goals for the week. This week's goals are to turn all assignments in on time and practice more for band. 
  • Every night, he's to give me a run down of what was done in each class that day and what the next day's assignments are.
Organizing skills are crucial for kids in school today. Unfortunately, they don't come easily for many boys. I really think they can be taught, though. With some encouragement and a little more self-discipline, I think my son will be back on track and I'll be past the rough pavement, cruising along the parenting highway again.


  1. Is this his first year in middle school, or was he in middle school in 6th grade rotating from class to class? Some schools actually let you peek at his grades on line.

    Great strategy from you and your husband.

    Retired teacher who substitutes often,

  2. He's been rotating classes since 5th grade. We can check grades on-line. I've been slack about it, partly because I couldn't access it with my netbook and partly because he was usually on top of everything, so I never worried. Now I know I have to check it at least weekly. For now, I'll probably check it every couple of days. I bet you could write a great post on organizing students. If you're ever up for writing a guest post here, let me know. :)

  3. I lived through exactly what you wrote with my older son, but what happens to the already UNorganized boy...? It's a work in progress. I'll let you know!

  4. Lisa - We should chat! I'm sure you'd have some advice for me! We're getting it straightened out, but I'm starting to feel like a nag in the process. I don't want to go there. Sigh.