Homework time! Loathed by students and parents alike, difficult to implement for parents, and the last desire of students. It is a frequent topic discussed by stressed out parents in my counselling sessions. Special learning needs—including academic difficulties—high achievers, and students with social and emotional challenges can put additional pressure on families trying to find ways to support their kids. Here are a few ideas to support the young learner in your house:
1. Adjust Your Mindset
Practice patience! After a long day of school, learners with special needs are doing their best to "hold it together" during the school day. By the time they get home, more school work is additional stress. A trick for parents is to help create a safe and pleasant place to work without putting pressure on the child or showing them frustration—otherwise there is a risk of of the child becoming disengaged.
Take a deep breath before you start.
Make sure everyone is fed and hydrated.
Share and model acceptance for the process and effort, not just the mark.
2. Enhance the Environment
Create an environment that invites learning and helps your child attend to their homework.
Think outside the desk. Some students do better standing to do their work, or spreading out on the floor.
Make sure the learning space for homework is distraction-free.
Find a consistent, routine work space
Electronics should be off and away if not needed for the task.
Playing soft, classical music is helpful, especially for children with sensory needs.
Natural lighting, plants, and aesthetically pleasing artwork can help create inspiration.
Create a place where you, too, would want to put your mind to work!
3. Be Prepared
Get organized! Searching for pens, pencils, and paper when you finally get a child seated to work is not helpful.
If the environment can't be set up all the time due to space issues, create a homework caddy so the supplies needed are ready and can be transferred to the table or preferred area
Adaptive tools and adequate seating should be available and easily accessible.
4. Create Routines
A predictable regular routine is an effective strategy for students and homework success.
FInd a mutually convenient time, so that parents can be available and monitor any difficulties.
Try scheduling 20 minutes on and 10 minutes off, so that your child can have a brain break, like a drink of water/snack, some movement, or conversation with you.
Break the task up into smaller pieces. A wind-up timer to keep on task can be useful when breaking a project into sections.
5. Provide Context for their Content
Sometimes the work can seem irrelevant to your child, so find connections and links to every day life and experiences you have shared with your child. Altering the homework content to include visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic ways can really help your child.
Make mathematical homework—like discussing decimal points—relate to everyday uses, such as money exchanges.
When learning new spelling words, use those words to recognize items around the home.
Examine scientific concepts by discussing how science works in your home—from the oven to the way the toilet works.
The quirkier and more fun you make the learning experience, the better the outcome for all involved!
Thinking outside the box is important when helping your child learn. Avoid high expectations and imposing traditional education methods, keeping in mind that previous ways of learning may not be relevant when preparing students for jobs that are yet to be created! When you are flexible and responsive to the learning style of your child, it will be easier to successfully reach the other side of the homework debate.
Click here to learn how to create an organized homework space for your kids.
Click here for more tips on surviving homework hell.
Written in collaboration with Educational Consultant Emma Donaldson http://cogmatters.com.au/