Helping Kids Conquer Schoolwork Chaos

Organizational Tips for Students — and Parents, Too

Credit: Courtesy

If there’s one thing I’ll remember from this pandemic, it’s the amount of time our family has spent together. At first, it was wonderful, and we saw it as a silver lining. We have two boys, ages 12 and 9, and while we are a love-fest type of family, we were quickly reminded that we all need our space! 

When the news hit in March that school would be pushed back two weeks, I broke out in a cold sweat. It was unfathomable that the week after spring break, they would not return to school. However, that became easy to swallow when their return date turned into May 1. Following that, the news that school was canceled for the remainder of the year brought sadness, frustration, and confusion.

It became clear that I was now a part-time consultant for my own business, Sara Caputo Consulting, and a part-time consultant for “Caputo Kids’ Online Learning.” This was a title I never would have asked for, yet here it was. 

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With school now an at-home learning adventure, parents are faced with having to be über-organized as they juggle more than ever between work and kids. Being a professional organizational coach, it has been interesting for me to watch my kids learn to get themselves organized. It’s one thing for them to do their work; it’s another for them to get organized around their work. 

This became apparent the very first week, when my 12-year-old became frantic on Sunday night that he had not yet done his homework for that week. When I asked him why, he replied, “I forgot I had to do anything.” Of course, this turned into a beautiful coachable moment. 

We talked through the purpose of getting things out of your head and onto paper or a whiteboard or whatever you want, and that out of sight is usually out of mind. Once we discussed how he organizes his work in his head, we talked about how to get it out and onto paper.

He chose a weekly pad, and off we went into an uninvited coaching session. I may have gone a little too deep into the weeds with him, as I noticed his eyes glazing over, but I was supporting him to find better ways to be organized. This will serve him well during this at-home online-learning period and inevitably throughout his life. Dare I say that this was another silver-lining moment? 

If any of this rings true for you, here are a few further ideas to help your kids — or you — get more organized and be more efficient during this time: 

1) Talk about the importance of finding their own way to get organized. There is no “one size fits all.” Help them figure out how they organize in their brain by asking questions like: “How do you think about your work?” “How do you put your work in order?” “How do you know what to work on first?” These are the same questions I ask adults that I coach.

2) Once you have an idea of how they think about their work, you can talk about tools to use. Examples include to-do lists, a whiteboard, a calendar system, and Post-It notes. Note: It is literally never too early to get a planner. Any of these tools will support efforts to get things out of their heads and front and center.

3) When it comes to time, talk about why being proactive is better than being reactive. Time is a weird construct for kids to comprehend, especially time that isn’t right in front of them. Depending on age, you can use simple examples of why it’s important to do the hard stuff first, then the fun stuff. I like the phrase “Eat your frogs first.” Help them identify what their frog is for that day or for that class, then have them put it on their list. 

These simple concepts cover a lot of ground and will help both kids and parents get through the current online-school situation. They are also guaranteed to be beneficial for whatever our new normal will look like.

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase productivity. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at

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