Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: The Organized Student by Donna Goldberg

Available on Amazon here
The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond, by Donna Goldberg, available here on Amazon, came highly recommended by my kids' developmental pediatrician.  I bought it reluctantly, expecting yet another unrealistic book promising miraculous transformations through elaborate sticker charts and token-and-reward systems.  I was pleasantly surprised!

Donna Goldberg, who has worked professionally with hundreds of disorganized middle and high school students on a one-on-one basis, shares a wealth of insight into what it's like to be a student today and the variety of challenges kids face in managing paper, space, and time.  The book is sprinkled with assessments to help you understand your child's school day, questions I never thought to ask but that immediately helped us to identify and solve some of the problems my son was having.  Questions like, Where is your locker in relation to your classes?  How often do you get to go to your locker throughout the day?  How much time do you have between classes, and is there one teacher who always lets you out late? 

Goldberg stresses that there are many different methods of organization, but the one that works best for your child will be the one that she or he chooses and sets up rather than something external that parents or teachers impose upon the child.  Consequently, there are lots of options and variations for each area addressed in the book. 

I read through this book off and on over a period of several months to understand the whole philosophy and process prior to attempting to implement anything, highlighting and flagging as I went along.  Then I went back and reread highlighted sections to create an action plan for addressing these issues with my sons in the order suggested by the author.  So far I've helped my 5th grader to reorganize his backpack and streamline his class binders (he doesn't have a locker yet) and the next step with him will be to set up his "portable office" for doing school work at home.  With my older son, who has been lugging around a 50 pound backpack, I will have to tread carefully and ease him into streamlining his paper flow before we even think about his desk, but I think he may even like to read a few chapters of this book on his own to help him understand why we are doing this and "what's in it for him."
I highly recommend this book to any parents of middle school or high school students, but especially for those who are disorganized and/or who suffer from ADHD related executive functioning weaknesses, but with this caveat: You and your child will need to invest some significant time into implementing the strategies in this book in order to gain anything from it.  If you're expecting to read the book and then instantly see miracles, you're going to be disappointed.

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