Children develop these skills at a very fast pace in their first five years through guidance from adults, a structured and organized environment, and loving support toward growing independence. As children grow into young adults, parents can further guide their development of executive function and self-regulation by training them to organize their schoolwork and gradually giving them control of their homework schedules.
You can begin to prepare your student for college by having her plan out her own week. Use a Weekly Assignment sheet or Planner to get her started plotting out her academic assignments for the work week. In college, she will need this skill to plot out her academic assignments on a monthly chart for the semester, so get her started now with smaller steps. (For elementary and junior high students, plot out their week for them on the Weekly Assignment sheet and help them pace themselves through their daily activities to achieve the academic goals for the day and the week).
Label the top of the sheet with the date and week number of the academic year. The week number helps the student see her progress through the 30+ weeks so it doesn’t seem like the academic year is an eternity. It also helps the parents with this perspective! Write the subjects in the left column and add the assignments in the next column. For example, the Math assignment box might read Lessons 1 – 4 and review. Then the student writes Lesson 1 for Monday on the Math line, Lesson 2 for Tuesday, etc.
Discuss with your student the potential roadblocks for achieving her goals that week. For example, perhaps she has piano lessons and classes outside of the home that consume her Thursdays. Then she would need to divide her lessons over four days instead of five. Or perhaps one week the family is going out of town for a three-day weekend, so she needs to figure out what she can accomplish in the car on that Friday versus having access to her desk at home.
Keep in mind your overall goal: that when she gets to college, she will be able to look at her syllabus and break down her semester into chewable (i.e., doable) pieces. My kids have found that the full-page calendar works best for planning their semester. If the college syllabus gives due dates for a 4-page book report, she needs to enter the date on her planner calendar and work backwards to peg the dates for the completion of the book, and the completion of the rough draft. She can further break down the reading of the book by adding Chapter numbers to her calendar so she doesn’t leave the full reading until the night before she wants it read (not that it would ever happen that way!).
Remember to enjoy these times of learning and growing with your teen! As Dr. James Dobson said, “The empty next comes quickly. Do not squander your most precious privilege of participating in the lives of your children.”