At a glance
Afterschool programs can help kids get into good homework habits.
It’s important that the staff let you know how your child is doing with homework.
Many programs allow kids who struggle in school to use accommodations for homework.
When looking for an afterschool program for kids who struggle in school, it’s important to look at how the program handles homework. Homework is one of the keys to thriving at school. Getting it done takes organization and time management skills. And those areas are exactly where many struggling students need help.
How can you tell if a program offers enough support to make your child’s homework time productive? Here’s what to look for.
A dedicated space for homework
The area set aside for doing homework needs to be quiet and well lit. It should contain a few distinct areas:
- A table (or several, ideally) for small groups of kids to work together, which may also be where students get help if they need it
- A separate work area where kids can work on their own
- A research area with computers so kids can look up information or type assignments
- A comfortable place to read
A structured homework routine
A good program dedicates a specified amount of time for kids to complete their homework. That may mean about 30 minutes a day for grade-schoolers. And it could mean as much as two hours a day for high school students.
If kids finish their homework early, good programs will allow them to move on to a new activity. It could be something more challenging or playing a game that uses math skills.
Some programs may give kids a snack after school. Some allow them to play outside for a while before requiring them to start homework. If the timing makes a difference for your child, make sure you ask how homework fits into the schedule.
Assistance to help your child with homework
Good programs have staff to monitor homework and provide help when needed. This person may be a certified teacher. (This is likely if the program is school based.) Some programs may hire college students.
A process to communicate with parents
Kids who struggle in school do better when their parents and afterschool staff keep in touch. Ask if the staff alerts parents when your child:
- Takes a long time with an assignment
- Needs a lot of help to complete an assignment
- Goofs off or simply doesn’t get the homework done
It’s good to find out if they send home notes or if parents are expected to check in with staff at pickup.
A willingness to work with systems you or the school have created
Kids with learning and thinking differences can benefit from systems that help them track their work. For example, you and your child’s teacher may have created a homework contract. It might outline expectations that your child will meet. It will also include consequences if your child doesn’t follow through, and a reward for following through. The afterschool program staff needs to be willing to enforce the contract, if possible.
Or you might have a homework log that your child uses for keeping track of assignments. If it requires a signature, the staff should be willing to sign it.
Assistance for accommodations
It’s important that an afterschool program can provide your child needs. For example, kids who struggle with writing might need to dictate their ideas rather than writing them. In such cases, the programs need to provide access to voice-to-text software or to staff who can write down students’ words.
Find out if the staff will communicate regularly with you about your child.
Ask about whether they offer separate areas for homework and play.
Remember that a strong afterschool program will help make your child feel more confident at school.
About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.