The mess in his backpack


Yesterday I got a peek into what I think may be at the root of SportBoy’s homework woes. I fear it is genetic. That picture up there? Could easily be his dad’s or even his grandfather’s (dad’s side). We have long joked about his dad’s “piling system” which, as far as I can tell whenver I go into his house, is just as bad as ever.  Of course SB has to take after them, right?

The clue came yesterday when another dreaded Red Box of doom showed up on his online grade sheet. This time for English. Given that he really has been spending a lot more time on homework and that we have been everything on our end to see what is due, and check it off when he completes it, I was shocked to see this assignment listed as missing. He’d spent at least an hour working on it over the weekend at my house! So I email the teacher just to be sure. No – she saw nothing for sure. I was upstairs resting off my bout of sinus induced dizziness yesterday so I called him upstairs and tell him to bring his backpack & notebook and all school papers so that we can search for the work. The teacher said in her email that since I knew he had completed it, she would accept it today for full credit. Back in December we bought him a different three ring binder to better organize his papers. Well, it’s not working just yet!  His backpack still had about  dozen loose papers, partially crumpled and shoved into the main pocket. We go through those and I make him sort them into the subject tabs in his binder. Fine, but there’s no assignment. So I ask him if he did it in the binder, or on a loose sheet. Loose sheet of course. He then remembers that he has another pile of loose sheets at his dad’s house. So when his dad comes to pick him up, I go to talk to him about it and let him know that he needs to find the home work or else re-do it. I look at the desk where he was working on some other homework – and see another pile of papers! And there is another single sheet on the kitchen counter! WTF? He left those down there when I told him to come up with ALL his stuff. Grrrr. Well, the assignment in question was not there, but I told his dad that he HAD to sit down last night and put every last loose sheet in that binder!

How can you spend time doing an assignment only to not turn it in? I Just Dont Get It. So now that we are getting him to DO the work, now we have to figure out how to keep him organzied enough to not LOSE it and also to TURN IT IN!

How do I organize this kid without ending up doing it all myself? We need to come up with something easy enough for him to not just blow off. His counselor recommeded the single binder method which seems simple enough, yet he still shoves papers in the backpack. Should I try penalizing him for every loose paper? Since he is doing his work, I’ve been letting him watch tv or play on the computer after the work is done. Perhaps charge him 5 mins of tv time per loose sheet? Or make him do one chore per sheet?

Ideas welcomed please!

8 thoughts on “The mess in his backpack

Add yours

  1. Maybe an agreement that an assignment isn’t “done” until its in the proper place in his binder? And taking away TV privileges if he cuts corners?


  2. I like the idea of a penalty per loose sheet. I would keep this punishment short term while you figure out a new way to organize him. What he needs to learn is that this behavior needs to be nipped in the bud.

    More later!


  3. I know and FEEL your pain honey!! When you figure it out, can you let me know? Same struggles here.

    p.s. Can you shoot me an email at I want to feature you in an upcoming Stalker Spotlight. You used to be in my box (that sounds kinda sick) and I don’t see you there anymore, but know that you are still “around”.

    Wanna play along??


  4. Hey C:

    Our youngest was the same way when he started in high school. He got so bad at not turning in his work that I told my wife that there was no way he would ever graduate from high school!

    Continually checking up on him with his teachers, we had to institute penalties and restrict privileges whenever we found the practice continuing, such as restricting tv time, phone call (he only had use of our land line then), time with his friends – especially his many girlfriends around the country (then that is another story in itself), going to movies, staying over with friends, and anything else that we considered to be a privilege.

    He has always been the most social of our three children, and talked and interacted with friends, and he just didn’t put much focus on completing his work and turning it in. When the penalties were instituted, he eventually got the message and began turning everything in by when it was due.

    Oh, yes, he actually DID graduate from high school. AND college!

    Good luck!!! I’ll be praying for you!


  5. PS- did you notice how ‘white’ my hair is? Au huh. The youngest had a lot to do with that happening! He is a GREAT person, though, and is doing very well now at the age of 28. He has an amazing tenor voice!


  6. heya.

    I haven’t read other comments. I had very similar troubles to the ones your son seems to be going through when I was in school. For about two years, I was a disaster, doing work but not turning it in, leaving stuff at my moms when i went to dads and vice versa. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.

    I don’t think penalizing for loose sheets is a good idea. He just doesn’t think the same way you do, and trying to keep track of one thing so intensely will mean he’ll drop the ball elsewhere. I think, probably, the organization trouble will get better with time if he’s anything like I was. Instead of being the authoritarian, I’d try putting the stuff in his hands, as far as figuring out a system. Getting him stressed over the dire consequences of one paper will be counter-productive in long run. Try de-stressing instead of stressing the situation, talk between you, ask him how you can help him figure this out.

    I think he’ll appreciate the understanding a lot.


    1. Actually, it’s not that hefty of a penalty – just 10 mins less play time after homework – and it’s worked for two weeks at any rate! Even if he cannot take the time to punch the holes in a sheet given to him, he has been putting it in the proper section of his notebook. I’ve also just been talking to him about his day to kind of retrace his steps when he may have missed something – like an email he was supposed to send to his English teacher that he never wrote down. So yeah, lots of understanding and trying to deconstruct the events. But I had to put down some sort of punishment for the lost papers because his grades are just TOO low to risk even one more lost assignment.


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