Homework Strategies Tips

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Any suggestions for organizing homework with due dates?

Creating a Reference Book

At the beginning of each school year, have your child create a "Reference Book" to be used for all important information, memos, announcements, special assignments, Field Trip forms, the yearly calendar, holiday schedules, or other valuable paperwork. Taking the time to construct this book will save time and energy as the year progresses. Be sure to reserve a section for the returned, graded papers. These papers will be a good source of sample problems or other skills to practice. Keep this reference book in a safe place and update it weekly.

Have your child fill out homework sheets completely noting the due dates, resource books, and directions in the upper left-hand corner of the page. This way, the child and the teacher can see if there is agreement about the assignment and the due date and it provides yet another opportunity for teacher and student to clarify expectations and praise a good performance.

Since many ADD children are visual, colored folder for each subject can be useful. Red for math, yellow for Social Studies, and green for Language Arts.

For other children, folders do not work well but paper towel tubing does! On the outside of a paper towel tube write the name of the subject and any other important information. When the bell rings, the child can quickly roll up any papers for that class and slide them into the tube. Oftentimes, the papers stay much neater and the child enjoys the novelty of rolling up schoolwork and stashing it quickly! One towel roll per subject is all you need for the book bag. This system also secures the papers since the unroll to fit the inner dimensions of the tube, thus reducing "lost" papers.

My child refuses to do homework at home. What will help?

Strong-Willed Children Who Refuse To Do Homework

With a very defiant child who refuses to do homework, it may be useful to remember these pointers:

1. Step back. Separate the child's behavior from the child, using thought rather than feelings. Another way to say this is "disengage" from the defiant behavior. (This does not mean ignore it.) Consistency and follow through on consequences still apply, especially in these kinds of circumstance.

2. Choose a powerful incentive that your child will recognize as meaningful. This might be extra time on the computer or a special meal, or attending a function that he or she is looking forward to. Incentives can be phased out when children attend to the school work responsibly.

3. Tie responsibilities to privileges. When the child chooses to do his or her work reliably, they may then expect to participate in activities that interest them.

4. Be clear. Be firm. Do not argue with your children about homework. Make eye contact and tell them calmly that they are responsible for the work.

5. Use a broken record technique to respond to any rebuttal the child may offer. "I hear you. I want you to start your homework now."

6. Make your child responsible for his or her choice. All privileges are suspended until the work is done, even if it takes all day.

How can I avoid a power struggle with my child over homework?

Parent As Authority

Do not engage in a power struggle with your child over homework or any other issue. A power struggle accomplishes little except, perhaps, for teaching the child how to become a better negotiator and the struggle reinforces the negative behavior. Do not reward this behavior with a lot of energy. Create a homework rule and stick with it, calmly and firmly. Conflict over schoolwork must not be tolerated.

What is the best way to teach my child how to read directions for assignments first?

Parent As Tutor

Review the directions for each assignment with your child prior to attempting to the child's attempt to start the assignment. Make sure you understand the assignment first, so that you can efficiently help your child complete the assignment. Use timers, water breaks, and other reminders to break up long assignments. Before your child returns to task, go over the directions once again to insure that they are still clear in your child's mind.

What is a good way to acknowledge the completion of homework?

The Finish Line

Completion of assignments brings a reward. Have your child choose a reward from the "Privilege List" or “Super Star Reward Box” reserved for special efforts.

Finishing a task is an essential skill that all of us must learn in order to be successful in life. Lecturing a child will not help them finish a task, in fact, it may invite a power struggle so scheduling a time for homework to be started and finished will be important. It is vital that you be concrete and specific in asking for compliance with a request. Say, "I want you to stop playing with your cars and I want you to start clearing the table so you can do your homework. Telling a child what you would like them to stop doing, and then bridging the information gap with what you would like the to start doing is very helpful. It makes transitions easier. Remember: transitions are not easy for children with AD/HD.

Use pictures if you like to demonstrate what the child is to do. Usually, children love to be photographed doing different activities, so photograph them eating, brushing teeth, packing up the book bag, and make a chart for them using photographs of themselves!

When a room is cluttered, it serves as a distraction. If possible, divide a room into distinct areas of use: a place to read, a place to do puzzles, a place to watch television, or a place to rest. Use colorful plastic bins with each child's name on them for loose items such as crayons, markers, drawing paper, or other related items. The rule is that no one may borrow from anyone's bin without asking permission first.
Make sure that your child is clearly rewarded for the successful completion of each task by using verbal praise instead of traditional stickers, candy, or the like. Say, "You are showing me how grown up you are becoming when you make good choices about how to finish your chores." This will go a long way to reinforcing this kind of behavior.

What will help make doing homework less of a struggle?

Same Time, Same Place

Same time, same place strategies for completing homework: Choose the time of day when homework will be started. Do the work in the same place, at the same time each and every day. Consistency and predictability are essential for AD/HD students.

Who does homework belong to?

Back To The Future Of Homework

Homework belongs to the child. Assist as needed but be clear with your child that the work is theirs. In most cases, you can request a year long syllabus from the teacher so that you can plan ahead for assignments. Homework is one area where consistency and routine pay off! Schedule homework appropriately, alternating noisy and motor busy activities with periods of calm and quiet.

Prepare ahead of time for consequences and unforeseen circumstances. Contingency plans are useful, especially when your child wants to negotiate a privilege prior to fulfilling his or her agreement. "I will be happy to drive you to the store as soon as you finish your chores."

Make eye contact when speaking with your child. When you have your child's full attention, explain your position or give directions or make a request. When your child does not respond, remain calm and repeat the request once more. Be prepared to give a consequence.

If you tend to point or gesture, make sure you do it in a way that teaches the child what direction you want them to go. For some children, novelty is everything. Find an old appliance carton and cut it open. Let the child decorate the "walls" of the box and allow them to sit in their own "office" to do homework.

Whisper a request from time to time so the child must listen closely to what you are saying. Countdown. "You have five more minutes of play before we sit down to dinner." Again, this helps for smoother transitions.

"Noticing" in a positive, affirmative way what your child does well, including the baby steps toward goals, goes a long way to helping your child build confidence and obtain more of the desirable behavior.

Should music be on or off during homework time?

Noises Off!

Limit distractions during homework time. Turn off
electronic entertainment devices, postpone making or receiving phone calls, or
working on computer games. For some children 'white noise' is helpful for
concentration. Others need quiet. Plan accordingly.

Should my child save the more difficult subjects for last?

Easy Does It

Work from the easier subject to the most difficult one. For example, if math is the subject that is enjoyable and seems easy for your child to do, have your child work in 15-20 minute blocks of time on the math problems. Take a one-two minute water or bathroom
break between homework assignments and begin again until that assignment is finished. The "harder" subjects, once done, is a great reward for the effort your child has just made to complete homework. Review it. Pack it away in the book bag. Stash the book bag by the door and the rest of the afternoon or evening is freed up for some well earned fun.

Some children cannot tolerate any noise when they do homework, others seem to require it. Find out what your child's preference is and honor it. "White Noise" is best. Instrumentals are next best. Music with lyrics can be way too distracting, so save those for another time.

Motivate your child to remain focused on the task at hand by allowing him or her to have something to nibble on: popcorn, cheese cubes, or fiber-rich crackers topped with peanut butter. Also, for the kinesthetic learner, those that learn best through touch and movement, provide small spiny spheres that can be squeezed or spun on the tabletop.

Interestingly, some children do their best work when the are allowed to lie on their tummies and read or fill out answer sheets. Others do better when they stand up and do their homework. Sitting still is agony for motor busy children, so allow them to take a quick lap down a hallway or give them a quick shoulder massage if they do not object, as they take a break between subjects.

If your child is very sensitive to auditory input he or she could wear headphones.

Ultimately, homework is the child's responsibility. If there is too much of a struggle to get it done at home, notify the teacher that you prefer your child not participate in any "fun" activities that day until the missing work has been completed.

Is there a way to get assignments ahead of time?

Break It Down

Break long assignments down into manageable sections. Keep track of the due dates if teachers assign them on a central calendar. Help your child set daily and weekly goals for finishing school work. Most teachers are happy to provide you with a lesson plan schedule by the week, month, or year if you ask for one.

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Patricia Walters-Fischer