Imagine this scenario… You’re in the middle of making dinner when your 4th grader asks you for help with his math homework. He’s been staring at the same piece of paper for a while now, trying desperately to figure his latest math problems out, and he’s losing steam fast. You probably haven’t even seen math problems like these for 30 years, but you know you’ve got a limited amount of time before your child is even able to invest in the task at hand so you stare at the paper until you go cross-eyed. As you do your best to stay positive, you soon realize that he’s going to have to start fresh and erase everything he’s done. This is when you notice that the eraser on his pencil is completely worn down (and possibly a little chewed). Where’s an eraser? You can’t find an eraser. Wait, do you even own an eraser? This is not the time to run around the house looking for one. If you lose momentum, your child (and you) may completely burn out or get distracted by something else. Also, the water in your pasta pot just boiled over and the rest of dinner is probably burning. Do you even own a fire extinguisher?
For many, homework time can feel like quite a battle. You battle each other, you battle with other responsibilities, your child battles with his brain as it tries to create new cells, and you both battle exhaustion. Doing homework in the morning is too risky, so it’s usually done after a long day of school or work. [Coincidentally, this is also the time you used to call “the witching hour” when your children were toddlers. I contend that this time of chaos and misery didn’t just go away. It just looks different now.] Add ADHD or some other learning difficulty (in child, parent, or both), and you’ve got one stressful situation. Now, multiply it by the number of children you have.
For high stress situations like homework, it’s especially important to create a space that’s as calm and streamlined for the task as possible. My children do their homework on the kitchen table so I am available to help and can more easily supervise progress. We’ve used this caddy on the table for a little over a year now, and when we keep it stocked with the correct supplies it works perfectly for us. In addition to being practical, it has also helped by both defining the space and signalling the start of homework time. I swear I’ve seen a difference in my childrens’ attitudes. I see them calmer, more confident, and more in control knowing that they have everything they need to get it done. I’ve come to realize that the same chaos that affects me when I feel like I don’t have everything I need naturally affects them as well.
Finding the Right Caddy
I love that caddys have handles for easy moving. I also love how sturdy this particular one is and how it works with my decor. The rustic look works for our home. Keep style in mind when choosing your caddy. Organizational solutions don’t have to be unattractive to be practical. Actually, I find that I’m more likely to keep a solution in place when I like how it looks in addition to how well it functions. This cuts down on wasteful reorganization time later.
These types of caddys pop up often these days. I found the one I’m using in the kitchen section of Home Goods for only $20. I found another similar caddy there for only $15. I use it for flatware and other necessities during parties. It isn’t solid wood (and I had to paint it a better color), but it’s really cute and sturdy. I also found much smaller, but also attractive, ones in the dollar section at Target for only $5. You don’t have to spend a fortune or make one from scratch.
The next step after finding the right caddy is to gather and take an inventory of the supplies you know your kids will regularly use. Don’t stress too much about this step, however. The beauty of this solution is that it can be adapted without a complete reworking of how the supplies are organized. Unless new supplies are huge, we still have plenty of room to add new items as necessary. I won’t even need to make new labels for it.
I have children in kindergarten, 3rd, and 5th grade right now, so these are the supplies I believe we’ll need this year. I’ve made a few changes based on how we used it last year. For example, I’ve removed the crayons and replaced them with markers. I did this because I realized I was constantly being asked to go get markers while they completely ignored the crayons. Of course your list may be different. Ideally, you would have everything you need on the table and not have to get anything for them once they’re situated. I use a different solution I’ll share later for paper.
Preparing the Pen Holders
I’ve used cans to hold our pens, pencils, and markers, because they work with the reclaimed look I’m going for here. You might find that jars or some other chic pencil holders work better for you. I used a smaller, metal bucket for the scissors and empty spots for the rest of the supplies. I have a few guidelines when using cans…
The Finished Product