I am amazed at the amount of homework my children bring home some days. In our state, the learning objectives are pretty rigorous. The children are taught things at a brisk pace and concepts are constantly being reviewed so that they can pass the standardized tests required by federal law. In order to keep up with the pace, many students must take home a considerable amount of work to be completed at home.
Perhaps it would not be so difficult for students who do not have learning challenges. However, federal laws which say that no child should be left behind pose unique challenges for those of us with special needs children who, it seems, are expected to keep up the same pace of learning as their non-challenged peers. I am sure that teachers will have a different perspective on my observation; I am just relaying my perspective as a parent of children with learning challenges.
Are you in a similar situation? Maybe your children are overwhelmed by the amount of homework they are required to do nightly. You too may be overwhelmed with it all! I’d like to share some of the strategies I have used to help my children and to advocate for them with their teachers.
Be a Helper
I do not have a problem helping my children with their homework. However, there is a distinction between helping them with their homework and doing their homework. We’ve crossed that imaginary line many times in our house. When you cross the line, it’s important to decide if you are doing their homework because they don’t want to do it, or because they actually aren’t able to do it.
I have found many times that teachers simply did not have the time to adequately present a certain topic due to constraints upon time. For example, according to the state standards of learning, teachers in a certain grade need to have students do a report and present it using a power point program.
This was a great thing to learn, but when my daughter came home and told me that her teacher told her that I could do it at home with her, I balked. I personally don’t know anything about the power point program! How could I learn it, much less teach it to my autistic and blind child? How was I going to accomplish this within 24 hours? Also, my computer doesn’t even have power point. Shouldn’t she have checked with me first?
When you have issues like these, it’s best to write a note, and request a conference with the teacher. When I met with her, I found out that basically the teacher was overwhelmed in trying to accomplish a goal set forth for students by the administrators. I understand her dilemma, but the way out of that dilemma was not to pass the job on to the parents. Several other parents and I ended up having a conference with the teacher and some of the administrators about this whole assignment. Was the goal even attainable for these students? If not, what then?
Other times, my child did not understand at all what was presented. I have done my best to help them, but I will write a note to the teacher asking him or her to contact me.
It’s all about Environment
Most times, homework issues can be solved “simply”. It’s important to provide a quiet, comfortable place for your children to do their homework. It also helps to establish a homework routine, and set consequences for irresponsibility.
My one child hates to do homework. I hate to nag her about her homework! I found that school nights were becoming battle nights because we were constantly fighting about homework! I created a routine for her. She could come home and take some time for herself and have a snack, but she needed to start her homework before dinner so that she could go to bed at a decent hour. I helped her to create a homework routine complete with breaks built into the routine. This helped immensely!
There are still times when she refuses to do her homework. Instead of arguing with my teen, I let her experience the consequences of her actions. If she acts irresponsibly, she will pay the price! If she doesn’t complete her homework, she can’t watch her favorite TV show on Thursday night. Also, the teachers have consequences at school for homework that is late or that is not done.
Use Resources When Needed
Our school has some excellent resources available for students including after school homework help, a phone line dedicated to homework help and also a website online dedicated to helping children with their homework. If your child is able to take advantage of such resources, they are wonderful. Your child’s teacher should be able to help you find these resources in your community.
If your child is having difficulty understanding the concepts that are being presented, you may wish to consider tutoring.
In some states, the school district can provide funding for tutoring if that school has scored below a certain level in state standardized testing. Other times, you may be notified that your child is eligible for tutoring paid for by the state if he or she scores below a certain percentage point on standardized testing.
There are many tutoring facilities in your area that would be able to help tutor your child and they can be located by using an internet search or using the yellow pages of your phone book.
If your child just needs more practice on certain concepts, but understands them, consider going to a teaching store to purchase a workbook for extra practice.
Our school does offer after school tutoring for most of the year. The tutoring is several days after school (or before school in some schools) per week. During tutoring sessions, teachers present concepts that in general are difficult for students and they review these concepts. Although students don’t receive individual help with the concepts they personally are struggling with, I have taken my children to these sessions because they are very helpful.
If your child continues to have difficulties and is struggling to keep up even after you have intervened, perhaps you should consider having him or her tested for learning disabilities. With my fourth child, I intervened in this way several months into the school year.
She was tested for several learning disabilities and was placed in a special classroom where she would receive help from an aide during class time. This has been wonderful as she is still in her regular class, but getting help so she can continue to keep up with the class. She has quite a bit of homework because she works at a slower pace than the rest of her class, but she is able to complete the homework when she gets home and shows mastery of the concepts.
Hopefully, this school year will be relatively painless for us all. Getting control of the homework situation is one way to make sure that your year will be as painless as possible!