10 to 14 Years Old
Developmental milestone: More independent work at home.
Focus on: The desk.
Right now your child is: Capable of handling more responsibility and completing homework assignments on his own—in theory, at least. Reality, however, is another story, says Breuner. “Despite what parenting books may tell you, lower your expectations about how organized the kids, even ones toward the end of this range, can keep their desks and their schoolwork,” she says. If you can, place the desk in a spot in the child’s bedroom in sight of the door, so you can check in discreetly.
Take advantage, or at least keep her on task, by: Establishing a clean work space, with at least four drawers (or compartmentalized shelves), to corral the clutter. “Kids this age are highly distractible. It’s easier for a child to spread out books and notes if there’s as little as possible to demand his attention,” says Breuner. Why four drawers? Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student ($15, amazon.com), recommends one for basic supplies (pens and pencils), a technology drawer for iPod and camera accessories, one for stationery and paper, and a junk drawer for all the miscellaneous items that can multiply in a child’s desk. Another key item: an analog clock kept in plain sight, to boost productivity. “When you look at a digital clock, you’re always in the present tense and you don’t see time pass,” says Goldberg. Finally, it’s essential that your child feel involved in the setup process if he’s going to have a shot at maintaining the space, says Goldberg.