5 tips to help make homework time easier!
Homework. Is this a word that conjures more fear than a horror movie, more anxiety than a dentist appointment, more avoidance than cleaning the bathroom? Is it a time of day that means frustration, struggles, tears, arguments, and defeat in your home? If so, it is likely you are the parent of a child with multiple learning differences and/or attention difficulties – a Complex Learner. Complex Learners struggle with homework for a variety of reasons. From difficulties with focus on the task at hand to language-based learning differences that compromise reading to executive function challenges hindering organization. While your child might struggle with homework, it doesn’t have to turn into a family struggle. Here are five tips to help make homework time easier for everyone!
1. Help. Don’t do.
It’s natural to want to take the lead on an assignment when your child is struggling. But you can’t do his homework for him. Along with being a disservice to her, it could also be harmful to her self-esteem in the long run. Instead of doing the work for him, offer support and encouragement. Reassure her that you know she can do it. Tell him how proud you are that he stuck with it even though the assignment was difficult. Feel free to offer guidance that helps her do the work for herself. If he asks you how to spell a word, instead of spelling it for him, tell him how he can find the word using a dictionary or online. Empower her to discover she’s capable of completing her work, entirely on her own. For students with learning disabilities, these moments give them confidence in their own abilities and encourages them to persevere!
2. Set the scene.
Do you know any child that’s going to want to learn the state capitals if there’s a TV in front of her? Or wants to learn what happens during photosynthesis instead of play with his favorite toy? You can’t expect your child to easily complete her work when there are distractions all around. But you can create a dedicated homework space that minimizes diversions and provides her with all of the tools she needs. Choose a space that is away from his favorite distractions (toys, TV, video game console, etc.) and close by to you so you can check in at times. Stock the area with scissors, rulers, highlighters, and anything else he might need to finish his work. You can even create a space that uses walls or dividers to make the space separate and minimize your child’s view of a room.
3. Stay organized.
Some learning differences make staying organized incredibly difficult. But for homework success, an organization system that works for your child is key. Talk with your child and come up with a system for his homework together. This could involve color-coded folders and notebooks specific for each class, a checklist in her locker of what materials she needs to bring home that she reviews before leaving school, or an agenda where he writes down every homework assignment from that day and has his teacher sign it so he knows he’s completing the correct work. Older children can take a picture of the assignment if it’s written on the blackboard, or use Apps that help with organization and time management. By talking with your child, she’ll clue you in on what specific organization areas she’s struggling with and feel invested in trying the system you mutually put in place.
4. Make a plan (including breaks!).
The idea of getting started on their assignments for the night could be the most intimidating part of homework for your child. Create a routine that includes a pre-homework ritual (a snack, a mindful minute, a few jumping jacks – whatever best suits your child) a way to get in the seat (you walk them over and give them a high five), and a set time to start. Help your child develop a schedule for completing her homework by going over everything he should work on that night. Is she worrying about a quiz happening next week instead of finishing up her social studies paper due tomorrow? Help her learn to prioritize. Break up large assignments into smaller more manageable pieces. Set a schedule of how she’ll tackle the assignments. But don’t forget to add in short breaks to give him a chance to move around and refocus before he takes on more work!
5. Talk with the teacher.
What if you try all of this and your child is still spending way too much time on homework resulting in incomplete work and frustration? Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher. Maybe the teacher can make accommodations, allowing your child to complete half of the math worksheet instead of the full page. Or maybe they’ll let your child hand in a typed spelling list with definitions instead of a handwritten one. Either way, getting your child’s teacher in on the conversation is key. Perhaps the teacher has a method that works for your child during the day that you could implement at home. As we’ve talked about before, positive parent-teacher relationships contribute to your child’s success in school.
At the end of the day, homework is important to help your child succeed in school by reinforcing concepts and skills they learn during their classes. But if all it’s doing is discouraging your child and causing nightly chaos in your house, it’s time to try a new approach! What other strategies do you use to help your child get through their nightly work?