Got Homework Overload?

Yes, we so know there are days teachers overdo it when piling on the homework. And you’ve heard all the typical homework tips -- no TV, good lighting, take breaks. But homework stress can be all but demolished with good time management. Make smart use of your time -- so you can actually carve some out for chillaxing. Really!

Homework Wrecking Ball No. 1: Find out where you're wasting time
Those 10 minutes at the end of lunch and 20 minutes on the bus could equal a half hour of required reading. College students have this trick down! They read while waiting in line for coffee, on the train and in the few minutes before the teacher hasn't got things underway yet. It adds up, so find and use these little pockets of time.

Homework Wrecking Ball No. 2: Ditch the “home” from homework
While some schools provide study period, waaaay too many students see this as the opportunity to do each other's hair or nap. If your school doesn’t offer study hall, head to the library after dismissal. You’ll be more inclined to concentrate on your work so you can get it done -- and get on home!

Homework Wrecking Ball No. 3: Create a homework task calendar
Whether you prefer to go paper or digital, it’s important to keep your assignments straight. It’s hard to ignore an in-your-face mounted wall calendar. Write every due date down in the same place while at school. Then, transfer that info to your calendar at home. Color-code it to show tests, quizzes, essays and other assignments. Now you'll know what's due when, with no surprises.

Homework Wrecking Ball No. 4: Tackle the tough stuff first
Some homework assignments are for classes where you don't have to try so hard. Others you can barely understand when the teacher is actually explaining the stuff! Decide what you can breeze through, and bump that to the end of your study session. Getting the more challenging tasks out of the way takes the overwhelming sting off even the longest of homework laundry lists -- and keeps you from dragging. When you get to the easy part, it's just ... easy. Done and done!

Back-to-school Checklist

Sure, you’ve got your school supplies covered -- notebooks, three-ring binders, No. 2 pencils. Those are easy. But what about the rest of the stuff you need? Don’t worry: We’re on the case!

What to Wear
Even if your school requires uniforms, you’ll want to look put-together after dismissal and on weekends. Here are the 10 mix-and-match items you must have in your closet this fall:

1. Military-style lace-up boots that are clunky and chunky

2. Zip-up hoodie in a muted gray or khaki

3. Lots of solid-color, long- and short-sleeve scoop-neck tees for layering

4. Dark-wash jeans that fit but are still a little baggy (roll ’em up!)

5. Brown or black leather belt to wear with jeans or to cinch dresses

6. Cardigan sweater in a bright color or a pastel (bonus: get one with ruffles or appliqued details)

7. Button-down tunic that can be worn as a shirt or dress

8. Solid-color leggings and striped socks (try wearing them together!)

9. Brown or camel-color peacoat, either solid or plaid

10. Knit cap and scarf set in colors that complement your wardrobe

Stuff Your Backpack

Smart girls have necessities that go beyond the school supplies stashed in their backpacks and lockers. Here’s our list of never-leave-home-withouts: (They’ll come in handy, we swear!)

1. Tampons and feminine pads (just in case)

2. Fresh, clean underpants (ditto)

3. Spare, neutral-colored sweatshirt for days it’s colder than you expected

4. Safety pins to quick-fix clothing tears, popped buttons and broken zippers

5. Granola bars for when your tummy goes “grrr” way before lunch period

6. Deodorant and breath mints so you don’t repel the boy you’re trying to attract

7. Headbands, barrettes and ponytail elastics (plus a brush or comb) for bad hair days

8. Compact mirror so you can fix hair and check for stray food in your teeth

9. Toothbrush and toothpaste in case something is stuck in your teeth (er, braces?)

10. Lip gloss (duh)

Get Back in the School Mindset

Yeah, the lazy days of summer are coming to an end. Sorry! Time to shake that do-nothing ’tude and get back into full swing. Hey, it’s not so bad -- just do these five things, and you’ll be ready to go:

1. Rise and shine! Set your alarm a little earlier each day so you’re not draaaaaaagging yourself out of bed that first day of school.

2. Read something. Check out a book from the library (even a romance novel will work!) to get your brain back in action.

3. Go for a new do. Get a fresh haircut (bangs are in!) or just play around with pulling your hair into a loose bun or cute braids.

4. Smell good. Try a soft-scented body wash or spritz. Something light -- maybe floral or fruity -- is great for daytime. Steer clear of strong, heavy perfumes.

5. Smile! Even if you’re dreading going back to school, force yourself to crack a grin. It’s the best way to make new friends this school year.

The Summer Fun Starts Here!

Nothing to do? No way! We have a ton of stuff you and your friends can take on for some summer fun in the sun. Get outta the house … NOW!

Summer Fun Activity No. 1: Balloon Battle-mania
Pick up some balloons at a party supply store. Fill with water by wrapping the lip of the balloon around an outdoor faucet, then tie in a knot. Divide your friends into teams and start launching! Yeah, it can sting a little to be hit with a water balloon -- but it sure feels good to get wet on a scorching-hot day!

Summer Fun Activity No. 2: Forever … Flower Power
Pluck flowers from your garden or wild varieties growing around your neighborhood and press them into keepsakes:

1. Arrange each flower between two sheets of waxed paper.

2. Place on an ironing board, cover with a thin dish towel and place a warm iron on top until sealed.

3. Let cool and trim to fit into a small frame, or to use as a bookmark.

Summer Fun Activity No. 3: Obstacle Course, of Course
Using garden hoses, lounge chairs, spare tires, picnic tables and whatever else you can find, map out and set up a challenging course for you and your friends to hop over, then crawl under and run around as fast as you can. And the winner with the fastest time is …

Summer Fun Activity No. 4: Make a Scene!

Break out the art supplies and paint or draw an image of some summer scenery. Do a sketch of your yard’s landscaping or create a canvas painting of a beautiful beach scene you’ve dreamed up. Hmmm, a dream scene.

Summer Fun Activity No. 5: Build a Fortress

If you and your friends are handy with some basic tools, you could build an elaborate fort from scrap plywood and other materials -- complete with painted details and window treatments. Or … just put together a temporary fort with lawn chairs and large beach blankets. Girls only or boys allowed?

Summer Fun Activity No. 6: Clean up!

Get all your buds to clear out their rooms and closets, and sell all your old toys, clothes and accessories in a yard sale. You’ll get rid of junk and rake in cash in one full swoop!

Summer Fun Activity No. 7: Free-for-all Mall Crawl

Yep, the mall is air-conditioned. But instead of your usual shopping trip, have a scavenger hunt for freebies! Pair off -- nobody goes solo, please, it’s unsafe -- and hit up stores for free items (cosmetics samples, sugar packets, shopping bags and so on). At an agreed-upon time, reconvene at your meeting spot to see which of you squirrelly girls gathered the best bunch of loot … and no sticky fingers.

Sharing a Room With a Sib

Sure, sharing a room isn’t the ideal situation. But it happens. Here are some tips for carving out some personal space in a shared room, setting sibling boundaries, compromising on the decor and more!

“I’m dying for a little alone time!”

Maybe you want to crash on your bed, turn on your tunes and chill. “Sometimes, my little sis gets really annoying, and I just want her to leave me alone,” says GWD reader Leah, 9, who’s been sharing a room with her sister, Laurel.

Room share boundaries: Not in the mood to hang out? Instead of squawking “you’re always bothering me,” work out a schedule so each of you gets some private time. Maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays you get an hour to yourself in the afternoon; she gets the same on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Bonus bedroom tip: If you want a friend to sleep over, ask your sister if she’ll snooze on the couch, then let her have a friend over the following weekend.

“My sister raids my side of the closet.”

Sharing a bedroom doesn’t mean sharing everything in that room. “Once, I wore my sister’s new sweater. I was walking down our street with a friend when she drove by, slammed on the brakes and made me take it off right there,” says GWD reader Deb, 14.

Room share boundaries: Make an agreement that before “borrowing” each other’s clothes, shoes or jewelry, you’ll ask first -- and you each reserve the right to say no. Respect each other’s right to have dibs on your own personal belongings.

Bonus bedroom tip: Mutual respect must flow past the wardrobe too. Some areas are completely out of bounds: diaries, desk drawers and personal computers.

“Help! She puts princess posters all over our walls!”

When sharing a room, sisters need to be able to express themselves. But maybe you’re a bold and edgy kinda gal, and your sis is into frilly and fluffy stuff. How can you create a peaceful space without dividing the room with duct tape?

Room share boundaries: Start with the walls. Get ideas from decorating books and have a planning session. If you can’t agree, pick two colors -- perhaps bold but complementary, like orange and blue. Then decorate your area with wall stickers, dangly mobiles or a mural.

Bonus bedroom tip: What to do if you’re a neat freak and she’s a slob? The room is lived in, so it doesn’t have to be perfect, but set a weekly tidy-up session. (You can probably get your parents to back you up on this one.)

Make Your Own Beauty Products!

Wanna pamper yourself without spending one precious penny of your allowance? Turn common household ingredients into fabulous beauty products.

Striped Candy Bath Salts

1 1/2 cups Epsom, kosher or sea salt

1/2 cup baking soda

1 teaspoon mint extract or essential oil

2 drops red food coloring

Combine salt and baking soda, then add mint extract (or any other extract or essential oil) and mix well. Scoop half the mixture into a separate bowl, adding food coloring and mixing until salts are evenly tinted. Spoon equal layers of white and colored salts in a clear glass jar, alternating to form stripes. Add a few heaping tablespoons to tub water for a soothing, scented bath.

Vanilla Sugar Shower Scrub

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup canola, safflower or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, use a spoon to mix all three ingredients until blended, then transfer to a clean plastic or glass container with a lid. To naturally exfoliate and moisturize skin, gently massage onto your body in a circular motion while showering. (Be sure shower stall is slip-free, as oil can make the floor slippery.) Leave on for a few minutes before rinsing with warm water.

Pink Lemonade Lip Gloss

1 tablespoon petroleum jelly

1/4 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon lemonade mix (or lemon extract)

1 drop red food coloring

Melt petroleum jelly and honey on high in a small microwave-safe bowl, for about a minute. (Careful, it will be hot!) Stir in lemonade mix (or lemon extract) and food coloring until well blended. Pour into an empty lip balm pot and refrigerate about 30 minutes until it gels. Experiment with different colors and flavors of extract and drink mix -- try powdered cocoa or Kool-Aid.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Mask

1/4 cup oatmeal

1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon honey

1/8 cup water

In a blender, grind oatmeal to a fine consistency. Pour into a bowl, then add brown sugar, honey and water. Mix well to form a paste. Dampen your face with warm water before applying the mask, avoiding eye area. (It looks gross but will make your skin silky-smooth.) Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes for a refreshing facial before rinsing with cool water. Refrigerate leftover mask mixture in a plastic or glass container with a lid.