What goes in a middle school homework toolkit?

An open pencil case with multi-colored pencils next to a backpack

We hope our kids are pretty independent by middle school. Ideally, we’d like them to come home, fix a snack, and dive into their middle school homework. 

In reality, lots of kids still need parent help to get organized, plan projects, and remember deadlines. But planning ahead on the “get organized” part, you can make sure that your child’s middle school homework doesn’t become your homework! 

Planning ahead beats problem solving

A place for homework 

Ideally, homework should be done in a quiet environment. Some kids strongly prefer to listen to music or have TV on while doing homework. Try to get them to do a scientific experiment – try one day’s homework without background noise and another day’s with. Measure how long it takes and how completely it gets done. For some kids it works, and for others it distracts them in ways they aren’t aware of.

I liked to study by spreading all the materials I needed around me on the table or couch. Other people like to have one thing out at a time. Talk with your child to come up with a consistent place to do homework where they can work comfortably. If they commit to working in one place, they are less likely to lose materials or run around looking for tools they need.

Tools to have on hand

Writing tools: pens, pencils, a sharpener, highlighters

Writing tools: notebook paper, graph paper, blank computer paper, sticky notes, index cards

Other tools: ruler, protractor, calculator, scissors, little stapler, tape

Technology: charger and a convenient outlet so they can keep working while they charge

Communication and accountability 

Your middle schooler should be keeping track of their own homework using a planner or calendar of some kind. Some middle schools have all kids use the same planner. Others post assignments to their websites or Google Classroom. Regardless of the school’s policy, I recommend some kind of simple planner or list tool for all middle school students. 

Writing down the assignment helps your child pay attention to the details and gives them an opportunity to ask questions about the assignment and make a mental note of how long the work will take. If kids have access to a homework list online, they might want to just list upcoming assignments on a whiteboard in their room, or a list app in their cell phone, to keep track of what’s due.

You may need to help your child navigate teacher’s websites or Classroom links. Unfortunately, many middle schools don’t seem to have a consistent policy about this. Teachers often do what works best for them rather than what easiest for the students to manage. Even if your child is successfully checking for and completing their assignments, you should still plan to check in with them regularly about upcoming deadlines and tests. This helps you keep them accountable for finishing their work and you can back them up by reminding them about tests or due dates.

Expectations vs. reality

Babies usually start to walk sometime between the age of 12 and 15 months. At 15 months and 3 days, you wouldn’t put your baby down and tell them to fend for themselves, would you? No, you’d keep guiding and supporting them until they could do it on their own. And if they were walking somewhere tricky, like on gravel or in traffic, you’d hold their hand or carry them, right?

Middle school homework is the same deal. Most kids can independently manage most middle school homework expectations. But some kids, at some schools, in some classes, for some busy seasons, will still need your help getting organized and managing their time. And if you help them do it in a systematic way, instead of dealing with late nights and bad test scores, you are giving them the tools to do a better job when they take it all over on their own!

If reading fluency or comprehension are holding your middle schooler back, contact us to see if online literacy tutoring is the right fit.

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