Ana Homayoun '01

Ensuring Student Success

Parents can’t help themselves. They want their children to succeed. But sometimes the best of intentions can thwart a student attempting to find his own way. In her new book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life, Ana Homayoun ’01 helps parents understand the importance of making students responsible for their own mistakes. In addition to a host of study and organization techniques, the book counsels parents to resist the urge to fall into the “competitive parenting” trap.

“Parents can unintentionally become over-involved, and that disables a child from finding their own personal pathways to success,” says Homayoun. “Parents don’t always realize that unless a child is given the opportunity to fail and to learn to do things on their own, they will end up as young adults who can’t make concrete decisions for themselves with confidence. That’s why you see parents who are still involved with checking their children’s homework when the kid goes off to college.”

Orderly approach: Homayoun assesses student's organizational methods. Jim Wilson/The New York Times/Redux

Homayoun wrote That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week based on her work as the founder and director of Green Ivy Educational Consulting. When a struggling student comes for academic tutoring, Homayoun, who earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of San Francisco, asks which subject poses the biggest challenge.

“Inevitably, the binder for that class will be the messiest,” she says. “People put off the things they don’t like or that are difficult—it’s why so many people don’t start their taxes until April 14—and it’s no different for a student who hates math.”

Homayoun’s book focuses on boys because they lag behind girls developmentally, sometimes by as much as two or three years. But girls can benefit from her advice as well, since all adolescents face the challenges of multitasking, hormone-related sleep deprivation, and internal and external pressure to thrive socially and academically.

In the book, as in her work, Homayoun focuses on different approaches for different kinds of learners, but there are some absolutes that work for all students, she writes. These include setting aside a two-hour block for homework in a quiet room, with no distractions—no cell phone, music, Internet, or television. Getting students to disconnect is not as hard as it might sound, she says. “I tell them, you can either spend two hours without technology, and then, when you’re done, you have three hours to do what you really want to do.

“Or you can spend four to five hours with those distractions, have no extra time at the end, and not have done a very good job. When they see that the benefit is more time to do what they like, there’s not as much resistance.”

While the book is intended to help boys become organized, set goals, and alleviate anxiety, it has also become a guidebook of sorts for others in the education field. One mother told Homayoun that she had bought That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week for each of her son’s seventh-grade teachers.

“A lot of parents think they are the only ones struggling with this,” she says. “It helps to know you aren’t alone.”

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