School is in session and homework woes may already be an every day occurence in your home. Children with poor executive functioning struggle to organize (where did I leave that paper?), plan, manage time, and initiate tasks. This makes homework especially difficult…for them and you! Want to ease the frustration of homework? Try implementing these five strategies.
1. Create a Homework Space
- Create a designated, distraction-free space for your child to do homework and use it every day. Make it the one and only space for them to do homework.
- Have this space in close proximity to you (a desk in the kitchen, the dining room table). This allows you to monitor their attention to task.
- Have everything your child may need to complete homework such as pencils, erasers, paper, pens, and calculator. Having all the tools handy, keeps your child focused on the homework and not on finding what they need.
- Be sure the TV is off, talking is minimal, and computers or phones are only present if absolutely necessary.
2. Designate a Time
- Make homework a priority.
- Post a weekly calendar of after school activities with homework scheduled in as well. For example, if every Tuesday your child has drum lessons at 3:30, schedule homework for 5:00, they are more likely to stick to the committed time.
- Making homework an appointment in the schedule commits your child and you to that time.
3. Prioritize Assignments
- Have your child prioritize homework assignments by ordering them first, second, third, and so on.
- Have a planner with her assignments listed. Most schools now implement planners and planner checks in the classroom (middle schools and high schools may have assignments listed online).
- Do more difficult tasks first, saving the easy or fun tasks for last.
- Cross off tasks after they are completed. We all know how good that feels!
4. Use a Timer
- Have your child predict how long a task might take them to finish.
- Focus on one task at a time.
- Do not spend too much time on one task.
- Problem solve why a task may be taking longer.
- Let teacher know if homework continually takes longer than 30-40 minutes.
5. Homework Time Limits
- Elementary School – 30-40 minutes maximum
- Middle School – No more than one hour
- High School – No more than 2-3 hours a day or 10-15 hours a week
Remember, students already spend 6 hours a day in school. Even we only work 8 hour days!
Do a Daily Backpack Check
It’s a pain, but if you do it daily for a few weeks, you’ll instill a habit of organizing belongings. Remember, building executive function skills takes time and commitment, but if you put in the work, you will see the results. Use a pocket folder, designating one side for assignments to do and the other for assignments to hand in. If your child has a binder, have him go through it to make sure everything is where it needs to be and any old papers are tossed. Then have him go through the rest of the backpack getting rid of trash and checking that no unnecessary items are in there (no toys to school). Finally, he should be sure he has everything he needs for school and put his backpack near the door for the next morning. Once he learns what is expected for an orderly backpack, he will be able to do it independently, with you checking it only once a week.
*Note from the author: These suggestions can work, but they require time and consistency. My youngest child struggled with executive function and it took 2-3 months of daily consistency to instill the habits he needed to be a better student. At each new school year, he needs a refresher, but it takes only a week to get him back on track.