Concerned parent: “How was your day?”
Indifferent child: “Fine.”
Parent: “What did you do?”
Parent: “Do you have any homework?"
Sound familiar? The conversation could go on, with the parent desperately trying to engage, and the child getting more and more frustrated. It is a common conversation.
A struggle for students with disabilities is, typically, homework completion. The key to heading these problems off at the pass is to start early, stay consistent, and model and teach the processes and strategies the student will need to be independent. Most of the time, students don’t do their homework for a reason, and it is not just to annoy their parents. 9 out of 10 times there is an underlying issue causing students some difficulty, and therefore, they would rather avoid the homework than working through a difficult process. Some key points to get you started:
1. Think Routine! Same time, same place. Start young-in elementary school. Set up a place free of distractions, comfortable, and where you can be close by. This is THE place to do homework---at all times. This routine will become habit, and having a structure to rely on is important for all kids. Homework gets done at the same time and place everyday. (depending on schedules of course, but make it as routine as possible day to day and week to week)
2. Think System! Review your child’s planner or assignment book, etc. Take the first 10 minutes of homework time to review the homework that was written down, look at their binders and books. Help them to organize their materials. Have a three hole punch handy. Everything gets put in its place. It is amazing what you will find in their binders and books---this will often give you clues to what is for homework, and this review will also help jog their memory. Role model how to organize and review their belongings, etc. Do this every night.
3. Think List! After looking through everything, have the student WRITE A TO DO LIST. Make one list of all the things to do tonight. If there are more than 3 or so items, include break times after every couple of items. If a student sits for ½ hour, let them get up and walk around, get a drink, etc……about 5 minutes should do. Then, the expectation is to sit for another half hour if necessary. Again…..if you follow this every day, all the time, it creates a clear expectation, and a structured system. It will become habit, and it will become second nature.
4. Think Reward! What is the reward for a job well done? This is especially important for students who have had a hard time with completing homework historically, and they are able to do this successfully. But, it is good for all students, who might just be starting with this structure. When we are thinking of rewards, we are not thinking of large rewards or monetary rewards. Small things work….like time watching tv, reading, playing video games. Or outdoor activities if there is time for that. The key is that the child picks something he/she likes and wants to do.
Consistency is the key to forming good habits. A parent or other supportive adult needs to lead this process and do it with their child at first. The hope is that, over time, parental support fades. If you are starting this with young children, you can be more involved at first, then they will be able to do it on their own with decreasing support. If you are starting this with an older child, who has struggled, you need to figure out a way to review these ideas, offer the suggestions on how to do it, but don’t hover and don’t argue about it. But some things should be non negotiable…..such as same time, same place, no distractions. So, for a high schooler for instance, if they have sports and other commitments right after school, maybe they do their homework after dinner. So, from 8-10 every night, at their desk or at the kitchen table, no radios, tvs, ipods, or cell phones, breaks on the half hour, with ½ hour of tv/computer/video games at 10. If their homework is not done at 10, they continue on, but they must do a minimum of two hours each night. If you set the expectations, and stick to it, 99% of students will be able to form the habit. (this scenario applies to “typical” students or those with learning disabilities, high functioning autism/aspergers, ADD, or mild to moderate emotional disturbances-students with significant disabilities may need something different)
This is just a start, certainly not an all inclusive list, but hopefully, will get you to a good place, so that arguments and frustration start to go away, and homework completion rates go up!
What are some of your homework tips???