Homework.  We seem to have a love/hate relationship with it.  As parents, we want our children to truly grasp what they are being taught in class, support our children in their learning and show a united front as we partner with their educators in hope to see them excel in school and life afterward.  We also want our kids to play – just ‘be’ and learn in the world around them. Watching our children bloom in the afternoon light, we see them come running up to house muddy and glowing with imagination and revelation, and we melt.  We are raising wonders.

The battle to get homework done, and done well, is real.  I am confident we can all remember a time in our youth when homework was the bane of our young existence and now we live it all over again from the other side of the table.  And yet, deep down, we know that the reinforcement that homework delivers is vital to truly understanding new concepts and being prepared to move forward with the rest of the class.  We urge our children to push forward in fear that they will be left behind.

Most children with a language or auditory processing disorder have been challenged the whole day at school and are understandably reluctant to start round two when they get home.  Even the simplest homework tasks can be really difficult when they are already exhausted.  Could you imagine being stuck in a job that was too difficult for you?  Where every day feels like you are drowning in your work – constantly having to complete tasks that you aren’t good at, then having to take them home with you to work on, and to top it off, you are accruing debt every day because you could not finish things quickly enough.  Pretty disheartening, right? Maybe the stress sounds familiar.

So, we ask, what do I do? If homework is fundamental to our education system and my child is floundering on the best of days, how can I help?  Read on for 6 simple thoughts to consider when it comes to homework.

  1. Be realistic.

It seems like a no brainer, but being realistic can be harder than we think.  Make it your mission to understand your child’s processing disorder. It is important to work with what is true of your child’s learning journey and meet her where she is.  Observe, ask questions and gather intel.  What is she showing about her learning journey that will give insights to the best pathway to take?  Be unafraid to speak with her educators and other learning professionals to discuss strategies that will help your child find her learning sweet spots in both school and home environments.  Understanding where she is now is crucial to carving out smart homework goals.

  1. Make expectations clear.

We are talking about basic communication here.  Misunderstood expectations are bound to stunt progress from the get-go so be sure to really think about your own expectations before discussing them with your child.  If you are considering a reward system, this is the time to plan how you will go about this.  Keeping it simple and realistic is the key – unnecessary expectations and rewards are going to restrict success.  Once you have a direction, a clear understanding of how your strategy is to be implemented, AND you have found a time when he is fresh and able to process the conversation, involve your child in goal-setting and establishing the guiding expectations.  The goal here is to make sure that everyone is on the same page to ensure the proper support for your child’s processing needs is being implemented.

  1. Do homework in the morning.

I’ll give you a moment to cringe.

Ready?  You are probably not all that surprised to hear that doing homework when your child is well rested and at his freshest could be beneficial.  Provided, of course, his environment is calm.  As you can probably imagine, trying to concentrate in the morning rush will cancel out any effort and you’ll find a blank homework sheet at the end of it.  If barely-controllable-whirlwind mornings are a regular occurrence in your home, try reconsidering your family’s morning routine – perhaps everyone could benefit from a tranquil start to the day.  Alternatively, designate a simple space in your home where your child can work undisturbed.  A patio or study room away from toys and noise is perfect.  The thought of homework-free afternoons might even make the prospect attractive!

  1. Engage with the homework.

Take the time to patiently sit with your child as she works on her homework.  Fight the urge to get it done and out of the way by doing it for her.  As it turns out, this approach helps no one. Rather, show interest in the questions and process the tasks together. When appropriate, ask her to explain tasks or her answers to you – this is a great indicator of what is ‘sinking in’. Our children learn to value the things we personally put time and intention into.

  1. Break it into bite-sized chunks.

Now that you have a strategy in motion, you can see more clearly the way your child absorbs information.  Breaking homework down into smaller pieces not only makes it more bearable, but allows space to incorporate a new approach and the time for information to cross into understanding.  Patience is key here!  Avoid crowding and remove the distraction of the next question by simply covering it with a spare piece of paper and stack other workbooks away to help with visual organisation.

  1. Reassess with professionals.

As mentioned above, partnering with educators and learning professionals can be extremely beneficial in realising how your child learns and in nutting out strategies.  When it comes to implementation, the ‘trial and error’ phase can be a stressful experience for both parent and child. There are some important things to remember during this time:

o   Results may not be apparent straight away.  Prematurely ruling out a referred course of action allows no time to see any improvement.  Give your child an opportunity to feel out a learning pathway.

o   Take note of important details: what worked, what didn’t, how long did it take to see results, differences in overall behaviour?  All information is useful when it comes time to reassess and further customise strategies.

o   Ensure there is no mismatch between expectations and ability.  If you or your child’s educator feels there is a mismatch, set a time aside to talk it through.  When his people are on the same page, your child will be far more likely to show positive results sooner