Stop struggling with homework! Try these 7 strategies that work!
Your child brings home a small mountain of homework every night. He sits at the dinner table and just stares at the blank sheet of paper in front of him. Minutes pass, then hours. Nothing’s done. You don’t know what to say or do. You know that if you
sit down to help again, you’re just going to end up doing the whole thing again.
Or maybe your child will tell you she doesn’t have any homework. All quarter, she’s told you, “No homework today.” Or, “I finished it during lunch” Then the report card comes. Her grade was obliterated by a whole quarter’s worth of missing homework.
Kids with disabilities face special challenges when it comes to completing homework.
They could struggle with making a plan about which homework to tackle first. They may be unable to read and comprehend the directions. They may lack the academic skills they need to do the homework.
And let’s face it: those aren’t even the biggest barriers to homework completion.
Distractions are everywhere.
Stuff comes up in a kid’s life. Instead of doing homework, they could be playing video games, chatting with friends online, shooting hoops at the park, or looking up funnies on the internet.
Impulse control is a skill that many kids with disabilities struggle with. And nowadays, with Internet devices that fit into our pockets, distractions are so much more prevalent than there were just 10 years ago.
But Wait! There’s hope!
There are things that you can do at home to help your child become better at starting and completing homework independently.
You can get your child in the habit of tuning out distractions is by creating a clear time and place where distractions are not allowed. Homework should be completed at a regular time in a regular place. Once all the homework is done, they can go back to texting friends, skateboarding, or playing Super Smash Bros.
You can put systems in place to take the decision making out of it.
There’s no “maybe I’ll play 30 min of Minecraft before I’ll start my homework.”
There’s no “Oooh Becky’s online! I want to say ‘hi’ to her!”
Just stick with the systems, and your child won’t have to battle all the distractions.
Put systems in place.
When you systematize homework, you cut out all the guesswork, the fighting, and endless detective work. You take impulse control and distractions out of the equation.
What your child needs to get homework done is a systematic approach. Like a factory line, you want to automatize as much of the homework process as you can.
The real reason kids don’t do homework is because they lack the support they need to complete homework.
Try these strategies to establish routines that will help your child do homework without you constantly standing over their shoulder.
1) Designate a regular homework time
Everyday, set aside a time for homework. This is designated homework time that cannot be interrupted by chores, friends, siblings, or pets. It should be the same time every evening. Maybe it’s right when your child gets home from school. Maybe it’s after practice, but before dinner. Maybe your homework time is right after dinner. Find a time that works best with your child’s schedule. Giving your child an option for homework times could create some buy-in. If the child has a say in when the homework times is, they will most likely have ownership over working during that time.
2) Set up a sterile workspace
This one is very important. The space needs to be free of distractions. Not by any windows, away from any television. If possible you’re going to want to find a new workplace. It’s best if the only time your child is in the physical space is when they are doing homework. The mind links memories with places. Sterile space leaves little distractions Starting with a fresh space means no wandering memories.
Make sure the space has a large, uncluttered, hard writing surface. Provide a basket with all of the pens, pencils, and other materials that your child needs to complete any homework assignment. That way they don't have to leave the workspace to finish their homework.
3) Play some music!
You may have heard that music is bad when studying. But it really depends on the individual child. Try it out, and see if your child responds to instrumental music while doing homework.
One study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities looked at the benefits of music for students with ADHD while doing math problems. They found that kids with ADHD performed the best when they had music playing. Check out the abstract here.
Make sure you are finding instumental music. Music with lyrics could be distracting because the human brain works hard to automatically process the lyrics.
I like to listen to classical music when I’m studying. It can be very soothing. But most kids don’t like classical music. If your child loves dubstep, trance, or jazz, let them rock out while they do work.
Here’s a great tip: Videogame music is upbeat, and designed to encourage sustained focus. This is a website that streams remixes of popular videogames. Just click the "Tune in" button on the top of the page to start the music.
4) Find and use online resources
We live in the age of the online resources. That means your child can learn how to search for solutions to their problems online using quality information.
Kahnacademy.com is a website that provides quality video explanations about how to solve specific kinds of math problems. It also has a whole curriculum of videos for topics ranging from kindergarten level to college-level math.
Kids just need to search for the current topic they are studying and then they can watch videos, and try sample problems (with hints!). It’s a great resource for math, but also has all sorts of science lessons as well.
5) Keep track of homework assignments
There’s two main ways you can do this. If your child’s teachers are incredibly technologically inclined, they may already list daily homework assignments on the school website (or google doc). If so, send an email to your teachers asking for specific details, and they will be sure to help you get logged in.
The other way to do it is the old-fashioned way. The child carries around a daily planner and writes down the homework for every single class. You could even ask the teachers to sign the planner each day to avoid lying about homework. You’ll want to follow up every day to make sure that homework assignments are written down. Very important: If there is no homework, the child must write “No HW”.
6) Reward a job well done
You’ll want to use rewards to support the kinds of behaviors you want to see on a regular basis. Homework is about developing habits, and rewards are crucial in the early stages of developing habits.
For example, if your child lies to get out of homework, you’ll want to reward honesty. That means telling the truth, even if homework is not done. That means rewarding “I didn’t do my homework”. This reward works to decrease lying behaviors associated with homework.
Another example would be allowing the child to watch their favorite TV show AFTER all of their homework is complete. You could even DVR the show to make sure if their homework takes a little longer than expected, it won’t cause a full-on panic attack. This reward decreases time spend idly daydreaming. It usually works best when a child understands the material and can complete homework without needing resources.
You can have big weekly rewards for completing 80% of the homework, like going to the movies or going bowling. You could also have daily rewards like ice cream if all homework is completed.
7) Follow-up and problem-solve
Homework systems are like sewer system, when they start breaking down, they aren’t doing anybody any good. Make sure you have an accountability system. That means targeting whether you are doing your part in this homework arrangement. Ask yourself these questions weekly:
Any major distractions?
How many days did my child spend in homework space for entire homework time?
Daily homework completion rate?
What percentage of classes are writing down homework?
Utilization of resources?
Check in with these questions every week. If one of these pieces is not working properly, you’ll want to address the issue as soon as possible .
Take a problem solving approach. Ask your child:
Why isn’t the plan working?
What additional supports are necessary to get back on track?
Try not to get emotional about these talks. If you are getting upset, your child will want to de-escalate the problem as soon as possible by saying what they think you want to hear. If your child is trying to tell you what you want to hear, you will not find an honest solution.
Now it’s your turn!
So now you know how to set up structures to help your child complete homework successfully.
Set up a sterile workspace – (free from distractions)
Choose a regular homework time
Use online resources
Reward your child’s hard work
Follow-up and problem solve
Go out there and try these strategies out!
I want to hear from you!
Have you tried these strategies? Do you have different strategies? What kinds of homework trouble does your child have? Share your stories in the comments below!