Howdy Strong Mamas!
As the school year gets into full swing I wanted to share some tried-and-true strategies I use for homework time. Things have actually gotten easier for me with 2 high schoolers, 1 middle schooler and 2 in elementary school. My high schoolers are pretty self-motivated and do their homework later in the evening after practice and clubs, so I only have 3 to do homework with at once after school. But there was a time when I had 5 at home after school all needing help at the same time! All having projects due and sometimes all 5 calling for me at the same time crying in exasperation!
Before I get to the meat of the post, let me just say that I believe homework is training for adulthood. It is THEIR WORK to do at home. It is an opportunity for me as a mama to grow independence and accountability in my kids, so if they can’t do something, they write a note to the teacher that I sign (and follow up with an email so he/she knows it is coming to school). If the project is late or poorly managed they suffer the consequences. I only intervene if I feel the Lord leading me to do so or we have extenuating circumstances. Homework is their job and is supposed to be a tool utilized by the teacher to identify what my kids do or do not understand. So I give some assistance but my primary goal is to just be a support and to raise self-learners. I find it is good to let them sink or swim, especially when the stakes are not so high, as is the case with homework.
Here are my 6 favorite strategies I use year after year, and you can also check out my Pinterest board on study techniques here.
The first technique I love and my ADHD eldest boy uses is a large whiteboard (written on with a simple sharpie to make the table). On this board he is able to write down (in dry-erase marker) the subject, due date, assignment and priority in a space that is large enough NOT TO BE OVERLOOKED and easy for me to see what he is working on. The priority column is the most important because it allows him to weigh how long an assignment will take and when it is due to figure out what needs to be done in what order. A strategy like this is key for folks with working memory challenges because is alleviates the brain’s need to keep this data in the “que” while working on a task. The board rests on the window sill in our dining room where he prefers to do his homework and can be hidden behind our China cabinet when not in use.
The second technique I have used is a printable form that is much like the board (I made this one in Word. Like the forms for my menu planning system they are just basic documents. Regular. Regular. Regular.). I have used this form to put down all the kids’ homework and projects for the night so that when I make my rounds I am sure each child has not only completed what is due tomorrow but has also worked a bit on any projects that are due in the future (feel free to use these forms but please give credit to mamastrong.co)
The other form I use sometimes is the Weekly Homework Planner. This one is more in-depth than the “Homework for the Week” shown above. This one lists the possible materials a kid might want to get beforehand, spots for homework for the whole week to be entered, extra items we often forget like studying math facts as well as reminders for “good habits” I want to instill.
It might sound wonky but studies show that music can actually help kids with ADHD focus better. Other studies show that certain music (Mozart and Baroque period pieces) help with retention. So… I have some CD’s I bought on Amazon.com that I play when we begin homework. I can’t vouch for improved brain waves but I can say that when I put on the music, everything in the house calms down and the kids know it is time to begin work. The entire atmosphere changes and we get down to business.
We frequently use a timing technique called the Pomodoro. Essentially they work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break and begin another 25 minute stint. I have found it to be stupidly simple and surprisingly effective. I also am constantly reminding my kids to plan ahead and try to estimate how much time something will take. This not only sharpens their mind but is a GREAT WEAPON AGAINST ANXIETY. If they know their math homework will only take them 15 minutes they tend to stress less rather than feel the looming cloud of “MATH HOMEWORK MATH HOMEWORK MATH HOMEWORK” accosting them. They can use that as a weapon to say, “No need to stress. It’s just 15 minutes out of my life. No biggie.”
#5- THE TIP SHEETS
I believe that study skills need to be taught at a young age and fortified throughout the time my kids have in my home. I want to release students into the world who not only love to learn but KNOW HOW to get information into their minds based on God’s unique design. So, after researching tons of websites and books I came up with these 2 forms that I go over periodically with my kids. Each child has a copy in their binder so that I can refer to it when I am helping with homework. WE DON’T DO EVERYTHING ON EVERY FORM EVERY NIGHT. These are just guidelines for my young scholars to try and for me to utilize as we figure out how each one learns best. And remember I’ve got 3 with learning disabilities. For one child a glass of juice is key. For another the “I Don’t Know” list helps alleviate anxiety as they study for a test because they know they won’t forget what to go over with their teacher at school. And for yet another the note card system works great and for another it might be a bust. BUT even as they turn their nose up at certain aspects of the lists (or embrace them) they are inadvertently investigating what works for them. THEY ARE LEARNING HOW TO LEARN.
Here’s the second tip sheet…
I have found one of the biggest time-wasters during homework is not having the materials you need to do the assignment. You know the drill, “Oh, I forgot my pencil.” or “Oh, I need a marker. Or glue stick, or scissors.” With the average kid that can add 15 minutes to homework time… with ADHD kids who get distracted on their way to get the pencil by 30 things that can be 45 minutes. No kidding. So, my kids are not allowed to begin homework until they have all they need. This caddy from the Target dollar section during back to school is perfect for our needs. In it my 8 year old has scissors, pencils, markers, glue sticks, large eraser, a calculator, a highlighter and a small pouch of fake money to use as math manipulatives (all found at Target). My middle school girls have a similar stash but protractors and a compass are included in theirs.
So those are a few tips on how to help homework run more efficiently and hopefully be over sooner! Let me know if this is a help to you and please share if this was useful! Finally, I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!!! Please reply to this post and share your best tips for how you tame the homework monster!
Stay Strong, DJ