Jen had reached her wit's end. After a long day at work, she used to look forward to coming home and spending time with her kids, even if it was just the time in the car on the way to soccer practice. Lately, homework fights had killed any "quality" out of the quality time they spent together. Jen's older daughter, Katie, had always had an easy time with school. She never had to be nagged to do her homework, and often didn't even need any help with it. Her younger brother Jeff, on the other hand, avoided homework like the plague.
Jen knew Jeff was smart- he could talk your head off about the iguana he saw at the zoo- but when it came to reading, he just couldn't do it. Jen would sit with her son for hours doing homework that should have taken 20 to 30 minutes. Spelling was even worse. They would study his spelling words until he could recite them all by heart. The next day Jeff came home in tears holding the spelling test, of the 10 words, he had only spelled five right. The harder Jen tried to push him to do his homework, the more upset he got with himself and with her.
I wish Jen's experience was a unique one, but it's not. Hundreds of parents come through our website everyday, often with a very similar experience. The top seven homework challenges parents share are:
1- Students do not bring home the right books
2- Homework assignments are either not written down or are incorrectly or incompletely written down and/or notes are incomplete.
3- Parents have to re-teach what was covered in class
4- Child was too embarrassed to ask teacher for help with something they didn't understand
5- Child does not understand what they are reading - this happens both when they have a reading assignment and must answer questions and with math word problems
6- One or both of you lose it when doing homework and once again homework turns into stress-work
7- All these problems worsen as the child gets older and the work gets harder
Let's walk through each one and talk about some answers.
1. Not Bringing Home the Right Books
This seems pretty basic, but it's also a common problem. If the student is in public school, the solution is partially to have a 504 Plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that either calls for:
- The teacher or a buddy checking to make sure the student has brought home the right books or
- Having a second set of books at home
It is important for parents to know that if a child has ADHD, attention deficit with or without hyperactivity, and this significantly impacts their academic performance, the student should qualify for an IEP.
Parents need to realize that IEPs are written contracts, but they are rarely followed - if the teachers have agreed to do something work collaboratively with them to set up a system that works - first work with the teacher and go up the ladder to make sure you get the right help.
If the student is in private school, then any accommodations are at the private school's discretion - they may be more understanding than you might expect - these problems occur more frequently than you might think. (If someone at the school says "We don't have a special program for children like this"-you might remind them that Einstein, Edison and Disney were "like this" and that with some minor changes they could be quite successful, thank-you!
The key is to work with your child to make sure they do bring the right stuff home more often and that you have a back-up system if that fails - (e.g. having a friend's phone number). Remember- reward for what WAS done-not punish for what was NOT brought home. "You did it AGAIN!" is not a way to effect positive change. Try- "You brought your math, but next time what do you have to do to remember all of your books?" See what suggestions THEY come up with.
2. Not copying down the right assignment
Sixty percent of the students we see have vision related issues that often make it difficult for them to copy assignments off the board. If the student takes extra time to copy information, there is an excellent chance they are missing what the teachers try to cover in class - again accommodations are called for. Students often have problems taking notes while the teacher is talking and we often recommend students either get the notes from the teacher or another student.
Schools are often reluctant to give these accommodations, because they want the child to improve this skill. One compromise solution we have found helpful, is for the student to be required to try and copy assignments during the time the rest of the class is doing so, and then for the teacher to make sure the student has the assignment correctly written down before the student goes home. For notes, it is very important for the student to get a copy of these notes; otherwise, they'll be completely lost when doing homework and when studying for tests.
3. Re-teaching what your child should have learned at School
When a student is unable to understand what the teacher is saying in class, it could either be due to hearing, attention and/or learning issues. While auditory issues are often the school's diagnosis, we have often found significant improvements once the attention and learning issues are addressed. We urge parents to have a thorough assessment so the real issues can be identified and addressed.
4. Child was too intimidated to ask for help.
Being too intimidated to ask questions is a problem for 90% of our students. The best solutions we have found are to either have the teacher ask easy questions to build the student's confidence and to develop a nonverbal communication that allows the student to indicate when they know the answer.
We've also found it very helpful to set goals with the students to ask more questions, because asking questions requires them to pay attention and this in turn gets homework done faster and better.
5. Child has problem comprehending what they are reading
We talk more in depth about reading comprehension in a separate article at http://www.3dlearner.com/. As Dr. Linda Silverman says in her book "Upside Down Brilliance" it is important first to address sight word vocabulary and pattern recognition before phonics will work for these students.
Before intervention, two options we've found that work best for these students are to either get textbooks on tape through the Recording for Dyslexic and Blind http://www.rfbd.org/ for students with vision issues or dyslexia, or where parents read aloud with their child.
6. Reducing the Stress of Homework
Students often take two to three times as much time to do homework as other students. While learning, attention, and/or vision issues will often result in homework taking longer, we've often found GOLD students homework time can be cut by 25% to 40% when parents can just stay calm.
Our challenge to parents is to ask you to stay calm for the next week when doing homework with your child, and to write us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with your observations.
Lastly, homework will get more difficult, take longer and create more stress, unless the underlying vision, attention and/or reading comprehension issues are addressed. We strongly encourage you to identify and address the issues as soon as possible.
Mira Halpert M.Ed. and Mark Halpert, Professional Speaker, provide educational programs, teacher in-services and parent empowerment presentations. For a free learning survey on a child go to http://www.3dlearner.com/. They can be reached at 866-411-2578