In this Article
By Moira Toomey
Agendas can help children learn to manage their time. Children are under pressure to track their own time and manage multiple activities, such as homework, projects, tests, extra curricular activities etc. The efficient use of an agenda prevents children from feeling overwhelmed by their school work and gives them a sense of control which makes them feel good about themselves. It helps children to prioritize, plan and pace their tasks and is a communication tool between home and school. As parents, we can help our children take responsibility for their time so they can become efficient time managers.
The daily use of an agenda serves:
Your child's classroom teacher(s) will be teaching students how to make the most from their agendas.
But, as parents, there is much we can do at home.
Ask the questions:
Examples: An urgent task would be to study for the test for the following day. An important task would be to begin work on the project due at the end of the week. A nice task would be to colour the illustration to a poem. Write the urgent tasks down in the agenda on the appropriate dates. Write "project due tomorrow" and mark it as urgent. The project is considered important on those days leading up to its due date but urgent the night before it is due.
Estimating helps children learn how to predict tasks and plan the completion dates accurately. It also develops the pacing skills needed for sitting tests and exams.
Example: Your child estimated it would take 10 minutes to complete an easy math assignment with 20 questions, but it took 20 minutes. The next day your child is to complete a harder math assignment, still with 20 questions. Can he or she adjust their estimate accordingly?
Remember this is a learning experience. It takes practice and perseverance. This step must be learned before realistic planning can be done independently.
Once your child has mastered the skills of setting priorities and estimating, they are ready to learn how to plan and to realistically pace their homework.
Note: This stage of organisational ability is specific to each individual child. Only you and your teacher know your child's learning style and work capacity, so plan and pace the work schedule according to his/her individual needs.
Example: If a project is estimated to take 3 hours then break it down into 3, 1 hour blocks and spread it over 3 days. Write the project in the agenda on each of the 3 days, marking each entry as important. Remember to continue to prioritize the urgent tasks so they can be completed on time.
Make sure your child has enough down time to relax. Children need time in the day where they are not scheduled, time alone for uninterrupted reading, playing, listening to music or shooting baskets. This relaxation time is as important as structured homework time.
Be an example: Make sure that you take time to relax; learning by example is very effective.
Take time each day to review the agenda and check-in with your child concerning the school day. The emphasis should not be on marks and success, but on positive communication.
When you notice your child taking initiative to plan independently, back off. Let your child practise this new organizational skill alone and reward his/her developing independence. Encourage your child to make decisions independently and stop yourself from rescuing him/her from possible mistakes.
As children mature, the setting of personal goals becomes increasingly important to them. They will ask questions such as:
Read some books on this subject. Draw up a realistic, goal-oriented Action Plan. Write the Action Plan into the agenda.
Review it regularly to ensure that the daily extra-curricular activities contribute to and support the Action Plan.
These tips were written by Ottawa-based occupational therapist Moira Toomey who is in private practice and runs workshops called "Take A Moment". She has two, elementary-school aged children.