Tag Archives: Parenting Advice

Admissions Tips: Pre School and Beyond

As school begins, for many parents so begins the process of looking for schools for our sons for next year. Whether you are enrolling your son in school for the first time, or looking to change schools, now is the time to get focused. In today’s post we will feature tidbits about admissions for each level of your son’s school journey. We will provide more in-depth analyses of the various admissions processes in posts to come.

Preschool: We at GCP can’t say enough about the importance of early childhood education for our children, especially our boys. So much brain development happens in those early years! Applications for private preschools in major cities are often scarce (in NYC you have to start calling the schools the day after Labor Day) and the road to public preschools can be tough to navigate as well so it is important to begin your research in the year before you will want to apply for your son. Trying to figure out whether it is worth it and if so how to get started? Take a look at “Do You Need to Pay for Preschool” found here and “Getting into PreSchool: Advice from an Admissions Coach” found here.

K-12: Whether you are interested in an independent school education for your son, or a specialized, magnet, or local public school, taking the time to look at a variety of schools and understand the admissions processes is key to finding the best school for your son. If independent schools are on your list for your son, be sure to check out 4RIISE.org. RIISE, which stands for Resources In Independent School Education, was founded by Gina Parker Collins in 2009 to help parents and students of color as they navigate the landscape of an independent school education. During this admission season RIISE is featuring admission tips from parents, admissions directors and consultants to help you manage the process of applying to private, independent schools. Check out the first admissions post here and be sure to read them all.

For public schools be sure to start early researching schools and their admissions policies that interest you and your son. While in some communities living in the proper school district is the only criterion for admission, other schools have more complicated procedures, and all schools have strict deadlines which must be heeded. For a general overview take a look at “School Enrollment Requirements”, found here. As importantly however, check with your local school district and/or department of education to make sure you have information on requirements and deadlines.

College: If you have a high school junior, now is the time to help him focus on the standardized testing he will need to pursue to apply to college. There are subject matter tests he should consider taking, and he should start preparing for the SAT or ACT if he hasn’t already. If possible you should plan to visit colleges in the spring of junior year, and continue to do so over the summer. If you have a high school senior, he is likely to be already focused on making a list of schools which interest him, and if additional school visits are needed, now is the time to plan them. For many colleges with Early Action or Early decision options, the deadline is November 1, so your son needs to be very focused on the application requirements these days if he is applying early. We hope that your son has good guidance counselors who have told him (and you) all of this many times already, but we want you both to be prepared and on top of your game even if your son’s counselors are not. This can be quite a stressful time in many families. Knowing that you and your son are doing all that you can to be prepared will make this road slightly less bumpy.

Stay tuned for more in-depth info on each of these admissions processes from GCP.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Parenting Lessons from Ellis Marsalis

Last night I had the incredible pleasure of sitting at a friend’s small dinner party for Jazz at Lincoln Center and listening to Wynton Marsalis jam with his quintet in her living room(!). As Wynton introduced their final piece, “Take the A Train”, he mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet Duke Ellington back in 1971, when he was 10. Ellington was in New Orleans performing and Wynton’s father, jazz great Ellis Marsalis, offered to take him to meet the world famous musician and hear him play. “I had the opportunity”, Wynton explained ruefully, “but I decided to stay home instead to watch the Oakland Raiders game on TV.” His father did not pressure Wynton, who at 10 was already an accomplished musician, and went on to hang with Ellington without his son.

While bobbing my head and tapping my feet to the wonderful music, I couldn’t stop thinking about Wynton’s intro. What a great parenting story! Marsalis in all likelihood was surprised and disappointed that his son was choosing to watch a football game over the chance to meet and hear a musical legend. But he didn’t force him to go, or try to make him feel badly about not wanting to go. He allowed Wynton to make the decision and accept the consequences of his actions. A pretty good lesson, since Wynton is still telling the story some 40 years later.

Many parents, myself included, would have cajoled or forced our sons to go, frustrated that we had to do so, but determined that they would not miss this opportunity. But truth be told, wouldn’t that effort be as much for ourselves as for our sons, so that we could feel good about giving them every opportunity we can? Marsalis the father recognized that for Wynton the opportunity would only be valuable if Wynton wanted it. He gave Wynton the freedom to make a decision and resisted the temptation to tell him it was not a great one. Very impressive.

There is another lesson in this story: have patience and faith when your son is not interested in your efforts to help him pursue his passions or when he makes a decision you understand and can accept but don’t agree with. After all, who would have thought that a boy who chose to watch the Oakland Raiders on television over meeting the legendary Duke Ellington and hearing him play would grow up to be a Pulitzer Prize and National Medal of Arts winning, globally heralded and revered jazz musician, composer, bandleader, and our international ambassador of American culture?

Patience and faith. Words to parent and live by!

Comments Off on Parenting Lessons from Ellis Marsalis

Filed under Experts, Guest Bloggers, Parents

How To Choose the Best School for Your Son

Today’s post comes from Anne Williams-Isom and Jennifer Jones Austin. Anne Williams-Isom, author of the GCP post “Words of Wisdom from a Montessori Mom” (October 4, 2011) is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone. She and her husband are raising their three children in Harlem. Jennifer Jones Austin is the Senior Vice President of the United Way of NYC. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn where they are raising a daughter, 14 and a son, 10. Anne and Jennifer consider themselves child advocates and have been friends and colleagues for over 15 years.

As mothers of African American boys concerned about every single aspect of their development, we want to share our thoughts on one of the most important decisions a parent must make: choosing the right school. On countless occasions we’ve asked ourselves, “What is the right environment for my son? Are his teachers nurturing and caring? Who will protect his self esteem and give him space to grow so he can become all he can be academically, socially and emotionally?” Tough questions, for sure, and it is no simple task for parents to find the answers.

Here, with what we hope is a bit of wisdom born of our experiences, are some of our tips for selecting a school for your son. Of course, many of our thoughts are applicable for all parents when selecting schools for their children, but we believe that because issues of race, class and culture so underlie our society even today, there is an added layer of complexity for parents of children of color, and African American boys, in particular.

Academic Rigor That Meets Your and Your Child’s Aspirations

We are going to begin with an assumption that very little needs to be said about academic rigor. We assume that as a concerned parent, you will look first at the available data for your son and the schools to ensure that the schools you are considering provide the academic rigor you believe most appropriate for his educational success and future.

Social and Emotional Stimulation is Important

Next, the task is to figure out whether the school environment is socially and emotionally stimulating. When choosing a school in your son’s early years, factors including proximity to home, diversity, class size, school curriculum and school culture are key in social and emotional development. As your son grows older, each of these factors takes on greater or lesser significance depending on his interests, maturity and development.

Diversity is Key

For boys of color, the racial and ethnic diversity of the school should be a strong consideration. For a child trying to develop his sense of self, being the “only one” can be brutal. It is important that children of color see that all members of the school community — other students, faculty, administrators and other key personnel — reflect positive images of people of color. The curriculum should reflect the experience of students of color as well. A school committed to diversity and children’s social and emotional well being will have formal mechanisms in place, such as support groups, to help parents of color navigate the inevitable bumps that come up.

Note that school and class size may affect diversity. If you’re looking at a small school you want to make sure your son will not be the “only one” in his grade, and if it is a big school you want to make sure your son does not get lost. If your child is entering at a later grade in a larger school you want to make sure that the students of color in his grade are friendly and open to new students. Most importantly, you want to make sure that there is a critical mass of students of color in the school to help provide your son with a sense of belonging.

The “Right Fit” is Paramount

In the final analysis, what’s most important is that your son is in a school that is the “right fit”. There’s no easier way to turn a boy off from school than to put him or keep him in a school environment that doesn’t nurture his interests and talents while meeting his academic needs and aspirations. What does it mean to find the “right fit”? Well, it’s not a one size fits all definition, and it may not be constant in your child’s life. The right fit is relative to your son and it may change as your son grows and develops.

The best way to define the “right fit” is with examples. If athletics play a key role in your child’s maturation and development, enrolling him in a school that doesn’t have an organized athletics program may prove challenging to keeping him engaged. If your son comes alive in a learning environment that emphasizes the humanities and world languages, and you insist that he goes to a school that caters to students interested in math and science, his grades and social life may reflect his unhappiness. Putting your child in a school that offers little in arts and culture, even though your child is artistically inclined, will limit his ability to further develop his talents.

Finding the “right fit” does not mean enrolling your child in a school that emphasizes your child’s interests over other key subjects and learning activities critical to his development. It simply means making sure that the school environment you choose provides the right balance of academics and other developmental programs that will ensure your child receives the educational experience that helps him to flourish in many areas, including those important to him.

Finding the Fit

How do you go about finding all of this information about the schools you are considering for your son? Talk to as many people as you can while you are looking at schools, and listen carefully to their answers. Be actively engaged during the touring process and ask questions at every opportunity. Speak with an assortment of parents who have children in the schools, don’t just rely on one family’s impressions. Know what your son needs, and as you visit each school, ask yourself if you can see him being happy in this environment. Push aside any anxiety about the process and focus on your mission, which is finding the best school for your son.


More posts from Anne and Jennifer are coming soon. Stay tuned for their next post: “What To Do When The Road Gets Rocky for Your Son at School (And it Will)”.

Comments Off on How To Choose the Best School for Your Son

Filed under Academics, Admissions, Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12

Words of Wisdom from a Montessori Mom

Back in August, GCP posted a piece called “Waiting For Superman? Superwoman Was Already Here” in which Daniel Petter-Lipstein extolled the virtues of a Montessori education. As a follow-up to that post, we asked Anne Williams-Isom, mother of three Montessori trained children ages 18, 15 and 9, for her perspective on Daniel’s piece and the Montessori experience. She began her response by noting: “I thought Daniel’s points were exactly right and well made. I also found it fascinating that Daniel’s Jewish heritage was an important part of the equation he used to select a school, because as African-American parents my husband and I carefully considered issues related to race, class and culture when we made our decisions about our childrens’ early education”. The rest of her insightful comments are below.

As my husband and I began the dreaded search for the right Manhattan school for our eldest daughter, we had no idea what was ahead for us. We knew we wanted a school that was academically rigorous but we also wanted one that was diverse from both a socio-economic and racial perspective. It was important for us to ensure that our children would have a strong early childhood educational experience because we knew that they would probably attend another school for middle and high school (most Montessori school are only for preschool and elementary school aged children). We also wanted a school that would support some of the values that we were teaching our children at home; integrity, a sense of empathy for others and a drive to discover and fulfill their purpose (a lot to ask for a three year old, I know, but I am a Manhattan mom).

The more I learned about the Montessori Method, the more I knew that this would be the right fit. I was immediately attracted to the idea that children would be looked at as individuals who learned and developed at their own pace – the teachers’ role being to gently guide them through a series of different activities with carefully assigned materials. From what I understand, much of the lesson plans come from what is developmentally appropriate for the child. But they also are developed from classroom observations and carefully assessed cues taken from the children themselves which signal what each child is ready for next.

The importance of the triangular alliance among child, parent and teacher was also a draw for me and apparent from the beginning. The mixed aged group model cannot really be appreciated until you see a six year old helping a three year old put on his coat or teaching him his numbers. Your heart will skip a beat when you see this mini, yet enthusiastic six year old teacher and his eager three year old student interact on the playground. The sense of pride on the face of the three year old when he confidently waves at the six-year-old in the play ground and knowing that he will get a wave back is priceless. Academics have written pages and pages about the importance of a child’s social/emotional development and Maria Montessori has seemed to have gotten it right with the simple recognition that when children learn from other children there are countless ways for both to shine. The feelings that come along with teaching and learning from other children almost immediately build the deposits in their self-esteem bank.

When you walk into a Montessori classroom you sometimes feel like you have walked into the Twilight Zone – but in a good way. There are usually a lot of kids but not a lot of chaos. You will ask yourself “where is all of the noise?” As you look closer you will probably see one teacher in one corner giving a lesson to a child, another teacher giving a math lesson to a group of children and then a couple of children happily and independently doing their “work” around the classroom. Somehow Maria Montessori understood differential learning long before it became a fancy term. Daniel is right. Maria Montessori was indeed a Superwoman.

I agree that the Montessori Method could have many positive implications for the education of children who grow up in economically disadvantaged families and underserved communities. This is true for all of the reasons listed above. Additionally, as Daniel has described, there are also countless benefits to having a calm and peaceful environment – especially for children who live in stressful situations. For those children who may to be growing up in chaotic circumstances, calm and order can actually have a profound and healing effect. Being able to freely explore without someone telling you to sit down or sit still, and being allowed to be curious while having your good choices supported are all things that all kids need but that children that come from challenging backgrounds need even more.

We all know that too many black boys are receiving “Special Ed” services and are labeled as having “behavior problems”. I have often wondered what Maria Montessori would say about the labels and how she would handle one of these so-called “at risk” boys. My gut says she would hand the young man some materials and calmly ask him to complete a task that she knew he would have success with, to build his confidence at first, and then continue to increase his challenges until the boy was accomplishing things he never imagined was possible. I imagine that soon his desire to achieve would distract him enough from any mischief that he might want to get into and the result would be a child who learns.

I have been really happy with my children’s education thus far and know that my husband and I made the right decision for them. While I am still collecting the data I do have some preliminary results. My kids are bright, compassionate, citizens of the world, and most importantly, I am convinced that they will be lifelong learners with that balance of curiosity and confidence that one needs to solve problems. That is the curiosity that Daniel talked about. Just the other day I was talking to my nine year old daughter about a set of tasks she had to get done in our house before she could go on to the activity she wanted to do. I was amazed at how confidently she organized her thoughts and approached her tasks. I realized that she really does not think there is a problem or an issue that she cannot solve, whether it is a math problem (her favorite), or an issue on the playground. Somehow, she, at nine, intrinsically understands that she has the power to solve any problem she puts her mind to solving. And I see that quality to different degrees in each of my two other children; one that just started her first year at the University of Pennsylvania and is balancing her academics with membership on the track team and adjusting to a whole new social environment, and the other, who just started the 10th grade where he is both a leader on the basketball court and as the 10th grade class president.

As far as I am concerned what we really need in the world are more people who are confident about their abilities yet still curious enough to learn about new people or new things; people who want to solve problems together and know how to do so. That is why this mom thinks Maria Montessori with all of her brilliance and simplicity has a winning formula. Thanks Daniel! I strongly concur!

In addition to being a proud Montessori mom, Anne Williams-Isom is the Chief Operating Officer of The Harlem Children’s Zone. She and her husband are raising their three children in Harlem.


Filed under Academics, Guest Bloggers, Parents

Tips to Combat Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a huge issue for children and parents in this digital age. Common Sense Media, a non profit organization devoted to helping families navigate the world of media and technology, has developed a “Cyberbullying Tool Kit” to help educators and parents deal with this problem. The toolkit, which can be found here, includes parent tip sheets on cyberbullying and other informative articles on this subject. Once you are on their site, check out their advice for parents on other media issues, and don’t miss their helpful child-focused reviews of websites, movies and television programs.

Comments Off on Tips to Combat Cyberbullying

Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Resources, Saving Our Sons

Parents’ Guide to Social Networking

Eighty-two percent of children between the ages of 14 and 17 use social networks, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  A generation ago, parents could monitor their children’s’ social activity much more easily.  Today, with the proliferation of social networks such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace and Formspring and the ubiquity of computers and smartphones, your kids could be sitting right in the room with you having completely inappropriate conversations with their friends or with people you don’t even know.  Moreover, these social networks intrude on time that would otherwise be spent on homework or studying.

So, what’s a parent to do?  We don’t have to be hapless Luddites in the face of this technological onslaught. GCP has gathered a few tips and tools to help you stay on top of your child’s digital presence.

Computer Access

While it may not be practical or effective to insist that your children do all of their work on a computer in a common area, you can insist that they use their devices in the open (not behind closed bedroom doors) and allow you access at any time.

Social Networking Sites

Despite the fact that Facebook and other social networking sites have a minimum user age of 13, many kids flout this by lying about their age, and many parents permit them to. Don’t give in to that temptation.  That age requirement is a direct response to federal laws that exist to protect children from inappropriate web content.  Additionally, parents send a dangerously mixed message to their children about honesty if they tell them that it is okay to pose online as being older than they are.

Before your child sets up an account on a social network, have a conversation with him about privacy and his digital footprint. Explain that once something is online it never goes away.  Their digital information can (and is likely to) be accessed by school admissions officers, employers, and their friends’ parents.  Strongly suggest that they only “friend” people that they know personally, rather than friends of friends or people who initiate friend requests.  Stress that they should not post personal information such as their address or bank account numbers.  Insist that they “friend” you AND give you their password, so that you can have complete access to their account.  Most importantly, monitor their web presence regularly.

Cyberbullying and Predators

We have all seen how adults can lose their inhibitions due to the anonymity of the Web. People will say things online that they would never have the courage or cruelty to say to someone in person.  That tendency is exacerbated by adolescence and social networks are an ideal forum for ganging up on another child away from adult supervision.  There have been countless stories in the news of children being tormented and even driven to suicide by cyberbullying.   As a parent, you have the responsibility to ensure that your child is neither the victim nor the perpetrator of such attacks. Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Tell them to come to you immediately if they are the object of any online taunts or teasing.  Advise them not to post insults, foul language or anything in their posts, including videos, that they wouldn’t want their grandmother to read or see. Let them know that they could be prosecuted for doing these things. It sounds extreme, but schools and parents are regularly involving the police in cases of extreme cyberbullying. If they have any doubts, just share this article with them.

In addition, adults posing as teenagers can establish online relationships with kids and lure them into meeting in person. This is why it is essential to regularly monitor your children’s online activity. Check your children’s social media sites and review their texts on a weekly basis. Randomly change the day so that your children don’t delete or bury information in an attempt to outsmart you.  When you’re monitoring, it’s critical to understand the shorthand that kids use online and in texting.  A list of common abbreviations used online or in texts can be found here: 20 Internet Acronyms Every Parent Should Know.  There are also a variety of tools that will filter and monitor your child’s computer surreptitiously.  The website, www.getnetwise.org has a tool that will help parents find the best monitoring programs based on the information that they’d like to filter and the applicable operating system.

Like it or not, we’re in a brave new world of technology which can be difficult to keep up with.  However, our parental responsibilities are the same in the virtual world as in the real world, to guide and protect our children and help them make responsible choices.

1 Comment

Filed under Parents, Resources

Great Board Games

Here’s an idea for family fun this Spring Break season or on any rainy weekend: board games.  Sounds corny, perhaps, but you can have a great time playing board games with your children.  It is a golden opportunity to spend time together without any screens, and a good way to build skills, confidence and good sportsmanship (which you must demonstrate when your little one kicks your boo-boo).  My family has played a lot of games over the years, on the road and at home, and we have fond memories of some marathon sessions.  Here are some of our favorite games:


Monopoly (2-8 players, ages 8 and up):  You can get a zillion specialized versions, but we like the original the best.  This game brings out the competitor in everyone.

Life (2-6 players, ages 9 and up): Your older children will get a kick out of this game, which simulates a person’s travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and children along the way.

Uno (2-10 players, ages 7 and up): This classic card game involves getting rid of cards until you are down to one, at which point you must shout “UNO”.  Best with four or more players.

Boggle (2 or more players, ages 8 and up): This is a game using lettered dice in a grid, which players use to form words.

Connect Four (2 players, ages 6 and up) is a good choice when there are just two players available.  They take turns dropping colored disks into a grid, each trying to be the first to get four in a row vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

Perfection (ages 5 and up):  Players take turns rushing to fit 25 differently shaped pieces into their matching holes on a board before the board pops up and the pieces fly out.  Kids love to try to beat the clock, and don’t mind “losing” when it means they can watch the pieces fly.  Great for helping younger children with shape recognition and building concentration skills.

Trouble (2-4 players, ages 5-9):  Be the first to get all four of your peg pieces around the board.  Why kids love it:  the die is encased in a bubble in the middle of the board (the “Pop-O-Matic”), which makes a cool popping sound each time you push it.  Plus, if you land on another player’s piece, you get to send him all the way back to square one.

Sorry! (2-4 players, ages 6 and up): Players race their four game pieces from Start around the board to Home, following instructions on cards they draw from a center pile.  As they move around the board they can switch places with players, and knock opponents’ pieces off the track and back to Start.

Newer games (not really board games, but a lot of fun to play):

Apples to Apples (4-10 players, ages 12 and up for regular version, 9 and up for Junior version, although kids 6 and up can handle the junior version): One of our favorites!  This card game is best played with a large group for lots of laughs.

Bananagrams (2-8 players, ages 7 and up): This is a quick-paced game where you build your own crossword puzzle using letter tiles. Everyone plays at once, so there is no waiting.  Sharpens word skills, and is portable—the tiles zip into a banana shaped case.

Scrambled States of America (2-4 players, ages 8 and up): this card game is based upon the very popular book of the same name.  Players use their reading and geography skills to collect state cards, and the one who has the most state cards at the end of the game wins.

Electronic Catch Phrase (4-16 players, ages 12 and up): Players are given a word or phrase from an electronic disk, and then speedily run through as many clues as they can until their team guesses it. Then they pass the disk before it buzzes or the other team gets the point. The more players, the more fun.  Children 8 and up can enjoy it; although the younger ones may have to skip a few phrases they might not understand.

Bop-It (ages 8 and up): Players take turns trying to follow the directions (which are heard from a speaker in the Bop-it device) at a faster and faster pace until time runs out.  A fun mental and physical challenge.

What are your favorite games?  Let us know!

Comments Off on Great Board Games

Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 5-7, Parents, Resources

Helping Your Middle School Son Get Organized

It’s 9pm, and my middle schooler suddenly remembers that he has a history quiz tomorrow.  Where is that study sheet?   Crumpled up at the bottom of his backpack, or left in his locker?  At 9:30 we find it, buried under one of the many piles of papers on my desk, where it has been for the last two days. My son shakes his head as he walks back to his desk.   Houston, we have a problem.

It is no secret that being organized is one of the keys to and great challenges of middle school.  And unless your son is wired for neatness and efficiency (in which case you can stop reading right now), odds are he will need help at home establishing and sticking to an organizational system.  Here are some ways that you can help your son to get on the right track, even if you are not the most organized person yourself.  While this information is good to have at the beginning of the school year, organizational issues often appear later in the year, as the paper flow and assignments increase.  It is never too late to get organized.

Helping your son become an organized student involves focusing on four things at home and at school: space, supplies, planner, and follow-up.

Space:  At home, work with your son to create a consistent and comfortable study space, and designate a regular time each day for him to sit there to do his work.  Consider a place away from his bedroom, where many distractions loom.  His study space needs to stay neat and organized. To minimize the stacks of paper that can pile up, he should go through his backpack at least once a week to decide what he needs to keep in it and what can be left at home.  Encourage him to date every paper as soon as he gets or creates it, as this will help him determine what he needs and doesn’t need to carry around.  Pick a regular day to sort through the papers in his backpack and on his desk with him each week.  The papers to be left at home should be separated by subject, and kept in files. At school, designate one day a week (optimally the same day) for him to clear all papers from his locker and bring them home for sorting and filing.

Supplies:  Most schools have recommendations for what supplies students will need.  In addition to the school supplies, make sure you get supplies for a home filing system (file folders, file box) so he has a place to put his older work, which should be separated by subject and placed in chronological order.

Planner:  A daily academic planner is a critical component of your son’s organizational plan.  If his school doesn’t require a planner, make sure you buy one for him.  Insist that each day he writes down all homework assigned that day and all tests/quizzes announced in class for all academic classes. This can be tougher to do when teachers don’t write assignments on the board, or if they hand out assignment sheets that list multiple weeks of homework at a time.  Let your son know that it is his job to find out what the teacher wants and record it for that day. At he end of the day, before he leaves school, he should stop and look at the planner to make sure he has all the books, handouts and folders he needs for that night’s work.

Follow up:  For all students learning these systems, consistency is key.  This is where parents can be very helpful.  Check in with your son when he gets home, or ask whomever is with him at home to do so, to make sure he has written his assignments in the planner, brought home all necessary books/papers and has a plan for tackling his homework.  Remind him to pack his backpack at night and take the time then to make sure that he has everything he’ll need for the next day.

A few additional tips for parents:

Resist the temptation to organize his schoolwork for him.  If you do all of the work for him, it might get done more quickly, and eliminate some nagging (you) and sulking (him), but ultimately you are not helping him learn how to do it himself.

Have patience.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  It takes some time to develop new habits, particularly ones he is not necessarily interested in developing.  You may want to set up a reward system for his consistent completion of several of the key daily rituals of getting organized.  Be forewarned: despite his (and your) best efforts, things will slip and mistakes will be made. Take deep breaths and persevere.

This is not about you.  This is about helping your son build skills, not about your lack (or abundance) of them.  Middle school has changed a lot since you were there.  The curricula today includes teaching children metacognitive strategies, which teaches them how to think about what they are thinking; not only the skills and results, but the processes used to get these results.  This has led to a greater focus on helping children build the scaffolding (i.e., the study and organizational skills) for learning.  For most parents, organizational skills were something you learned (or didn’t learn) on your own, and were not generally taught in school.  So forgive yourself if you are a mess, and focus on what your son needs to do to make sure he doesn’t follow in your footsteps.

Since we have implemented these tools, my son is now keeping better track of his work, and my (still) paper piled desk is no longer a hiding place for his papers.  The process of getting and staying organized requires quite a bit of time and focus for your son and for you as well.  But the rewards of less stress (for you both), and more confidence in the learning process are well worth the effort.


Peters, Ruth A.  “ How To Get Kids Organized for Middle School.”  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/20425248/ns/today-parenting/

Williams, Julie.  “Organizing for Boys: Getting Your Guy Through Middle School.”   www.education.com/magazine/article/Organizing_for_Boys/

Williams, Julie.  “Organizing for Boys: What Parents Need to Know.” www.education.com/magazine/article/Organizing-goals-middle-school-boys/

Conversation with Learning Specialist, NYC Independent School, March 10, 2011.

1 Comment

Filed under Ages 8-12, Parents