article originally written for FamilyShare by Jen Lilienstein

Did you know there are two different ways to get organized for back to school? It depends on whether your child is like Aesop’s fabled tortoise or hare! One is not necessarily better than the other — you, as the parent, just need to help your kids play to their strengths and acknowledge their weaknesses.

Hares approach tasks like sprinters and like to be spontaneous. Hares are not known for great time management skills. (After all, if the hare in the story had been a hair faster, he probably would have won the race!) Tortoises embody the slow and steady wins the race approach in the story. And while they do better with a game plan, they are not as adaptable when things don’t go according to plan. Here are some general guidelines for getting your hares and tortoises ready for back to school. Because you are either a tortoise or a hare yourself, you’ll probably find that one of these lists will work best for you this back-to-school season, too!

Tortoises (Extraverted Feelers, Extraverted Thinkers, Introverted Sensors, Introverted Intuitives)

Clear the desktop! Get in-the-drawer or accordion files for your tortoise. A pencil case with compartments keeps pencils, pens and highlighters organized and out of view. Set up a filing system with a pocket for each subject and a set of file folders that can be slipped inside for long-term assignments. Attach a project ladder inside long-term project folders where your tortoise can put together a game plan with interim due dates like research done, first draft, teacher preview, final draft and turn in assignment.

Other helpful organizational items:

  1. A day timer where daily to-dos are organized by what can be done quickly, first to what will take longest, last.
  2. An outbox for completed tasks.
  3. A consistent routine for each evening so your tortoise can anticipate what’s coming next at home — even if she got a few curve balls thrown her way at school.

When things don’t go as planned, be ready to help your tortoise readjust her game plan so she doesn’t get flustered.

Hares (Extraverted Intuitives, Extraverted Sensors, Introverted Feelers, Introverted Thinkers)

Out of sight is out of mind for hares, so think on the desk rather than in the desk when organizing. For instance, grab a desktop organizer for homework tools like highlighters and post-its rather than one that slips in a drawer. Because hares thrive on the pressure of looming deadlines, get an inbox rather than an outbox for them and a stacked file-folder rack for long-term projects. Make sure your hare’s assignments go right into his backpack after he’s done!

Other helpful organizational items:

  1. An at-a-glance calendar with everything listed — both in school and out of school — so that your hare doesn’t overcommit.
  2. While hares enjoy more spontaneity in the evening routine, be sure to enforce grandma’s rule — work first, reward after.

When a long-term assignment comes home, help your hare outline all of the interim steps it will take to complete the assignment, then put deadlines for each phase on his calendar so he doesn’t leave everything to the last minute.

Getting Ready for Back to School – Tortoise and Hare Style