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Homework folders: Organizational dream or huge parental headache?
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Homework folders: Organizational dream or huge parental headache?

To improve communication between parents and teachers, many schools use homework folders to relay important information and keep everyone on the same page. However, for parents with young learners, these folders are just one more thing to keep track of — another daily obligation. Instead of getting overwhelmed, use the homework folder to your advantage. Make it into a tool for teaching your child organizational skills early on.

Here are some tips for taking control of your kids' homework folders before they begin to control you.

Designate a spot

The worst thing you can do with homework is lose it. Many teachers create a weekly or monthly calendar that must go back with your student each day. To keep it from going missing, pick a spot for the folder and make sure it ends up in its home each night.

Many families keep their kids' folders in their backpacks, which is an easy way to keep everyone's work straight in larger families. However, you'll then need to make sure that the backpack itself has a home. You can hang hooks by the front door, in a mud room or inside a coat closet, but whatever you choose, train your kids to always place their backpacks in designated spots the second they walk through the door.

Work homework into the routine

Now that you've designated a spot for the homework folder, it's time to designate a time to actually do the homework. Traditionally, many families do homework right after school so that it's over and done early in the day. Other families keep the kids around the table after dinner to work on homework supervised. You might also think about doing homework in the morning for early risers in younger grades.

Your particular time will depend on your work and extracurricular schedule, but know that it's important to be consistent. Treat homework time as a standing appointment, just as you would a trip to the doctor or dentist. Turn off the digital distractions, and teach your kids to buckle down and do their work thoroughly.

Keep an eye out for warning signs

The homework folder should foster communication between home and school, so use it as a conversation starter with your kids. Ask them if they understand their homework, and check it occasionally. Look for notes home from the teacher, and send notes back if you feel your child is struggling with a concept.

Sometimes parents forget that the folder works both ways. You're checking it each day for notes and instructions, and so is your child's teacher. If you're concerned about your child's academic performance or have other school-related concerns, send a note in the folder, call or e-mail your child's teacher. It's also a good idea to let the teacher know of any family circumstances that may impact your child's classroom behavior. Share life events such as sibling births, deaths in the family, separation or divorce with your kids' teachers.

The homework folder is an organizational tool for your child, so don't let it become a colossal headache for you. Work with your child to design a routine that works, and keep it consistent throughout the year. If you've slacked off a little in the last few months, use the new year to recommit to school organization. The study tools you model for your child now are the ones she'll take to high school, college and beyond.

Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to three crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. She writes about passionate parenthood at moderatelycrunchy.com.