Making Homework Easier

No one likes homework, but it's a part of life for most students once they hit middle school. Homework can be especially tricky for students with ADHD or executive function struggles, and I advise parents to take an active role, in conjunction with myself or another academic support person, to set up systems and tools that will work for students and then scaffold the help as the school year goes on.


That might look something like this:


1. During the first few weeks of school, show or remind students how to use their planner. Either use the one from the school or find one that is a better match for your student. Sit down with them each night to cross-reference their planner with the online school portal or teacher web sites, if your child's school uses them.


2. Ask not only about homework due the next day, but also homework due in a few days or the next week. Check to see if any long-term projects have been assigned or if there is a test or quiz coming up.


3. If your child isn't writing down complete information (they wrote the name of the book to read, but not the page numbers) help them figure out strategies to find the missing information. This might be emailing their teacher, texting a friend, or looking at the school's online portal. Remind them that getting all the information the first time will save time having to hunt it down after school.


4. Ask your child to keep a timer as they work on each task and record how much time it took them to do a particular task. This will give you both a good idea of how long things take. You may want to be in the vicinity for the first few times they do this so you can monitor their focus, especially if they are younger. Once you have a baseline, you can help them understand how to plan their time. The planner can now be used not just to write down what is due and what is upcoming, but also to block out time for tasks based on how long they take. This begins to take the guess work out of how long homework will take and makes planning easier, especially for long-term assignments.


5. Follow up about assignments that were supposed to be turned in. The online portal helps with this. When I work with a student, I track what is turned in and if it is turned in on time or late. Then I can talk with the student about what might have happened if an assignment is late, and come up with strategies with the student to help curb late assignments.


6. After a month (or perhaps longer, based on your sense of the student's needs), you can start to back off of checking in with all of these things daily. Maybe check in three times a week. If you start to notice slipping, go back to daily.


A couple of notes about this. First, I hear from many parents that when they try to do these kinds of things with their child, their child balks. If you don't already have me on your team, this would be a good time to call me up and see if I could help. Or, see if there is someone at your child's school who could offer assistance. Having another adult in the mix can really help.


Second, many parents say they don't want to do too much hand-holding. I often say that if a student doesn't do something it is often because they don't really know how, but don't want to admit it. Teaching them how to manage their time and plan ahead can be a good first step, and knowing when to help and when to leave them on their own is not an exact science. It can take some trial and error, and it often takes longer than you might expect. I am happy to support you with figuring out when to be involved and when to let go.