As the eldest of four children I have always been a typical “first child.” Read any blog on oldest-child syndrome and it will pretty much outline my best, and worst, personality traits. Over-achiever, studious, bossy, perfectionist. When I got a homework assignment, I did it. When my room got messy, I cleaned it. When I was babysitting my siblings, I dominated (sorry you guys!). In retrospect I probably would have benefitted from a bit more frivolity, but my natural tendency made me by all accounts a high-functioning, self-motivated kid.
Fast forward to my siblings, specifically my two younger brothers, and they will tell you a very different tale of their childhood. Friendly, social, active, carefree – my brothers are all the fun things that I am not. Teachers loved them and they approached every obstacle with the laissez-faire attitude of true individualists. My parents assumed they were the best of both worlds – getting all their work done while maintaining a carefree personality. So, you can imagine my parents shock when my brothers entered middle school and started getting terrible grades. When asked what the problem was both boys responded with some version of “I don’t know.” My parents were stuck – they didn’t know either. They hired tutors, they met with teachers, they asked the boys if they had any homework and usually these Band-Aids helped alleviate the pressure for a little. Eventually, however, the inevitable blow up came when the bad report card arrived or a teacher called about ten missing assignments.
My youngest brother is 13 years my junior, so we have a unique relationship where I play both sibling and parent. One night I was home and he started crying. He told me he was behind in all his classes, he didn’t know how to study for his test, and he was so overwhelmed he did not even know where to start. My heart broke. I knew in that moment we needed to come up with a more concrete solution to this problem.
With anything in life, I develop plans. While I sat with my brother and talked through his problems, I realized he had no plan. Not by choice, he just had no idea how to create one.
It began with buying my brother a physical agenda and we mapped out all his assignments. We added notes for due dates, meetings with teachers, after school tasks – anything he had to do to stay on track was outlined in the planner. While the planner helped reduce his anxiety, we quickly realized it was hard for me to help him stay on track from afar. I did not live at home and I could not be in-person regularly to check his agenda. Additionally, he was a hyper-active boy and managed to rip half the pages out of his agenda and break the binding within 2 weeks. I also noticed that homework and assignments were no longer communicated in the classroom as they had been when I was his age – now they are communicated online. I realized that if my brother had an online planner it would solve many of the problems we faced – I could teach him how to manage his time effectively from afar and he could pull all the information coming at him via class, email, and online into one centralized location. Oh, and he couldn’t rip the pages. While we did not recognize it at the time, VIINKO was born.
I never want a kid to feel the way my brother felt – VIINKO’s mission is (1) to teach students to manage their time effectively and (2) to provide a space where kids can get organized so they can achieve success both inside and outside the classroom.