By Amanda Morin
In middle school, teachers expect your child to be a more independent learner. He’ll have more homework to keep track of, organize and complete. Here’s how to avoid the battles that can come along with it.
You may already have a homework routine in place from grade school. But now is a good time to see if it still meets your child’s needs.
For example, in middle school your child may need more space to store his books. Or he may want to add a calculator to the supplies in his homework station. If he’s involved in an extracurricular activity, like soccer, you’ll want to work together to make sure he has time for homework, too.
Kids with learning and attention issues can have trouble with organization and time management. Being organized yourself can help. Consider putting up a big wall calendar to show appointments and activities. Set your phone alarm for reminders.
Give your child a planner, and encourage him to get in the habit of writing down assignments. Suggest having him pack up his book bag every night, so that nothing is left behind. Talk through your own organizing process so your child can understand how you do it.
Letting yourself get drawn into an argument about homework may give your child the impression that doing it is negotiable. Instead of fighting, try to be matter-of-fact. Say something like, “It’s homework time. I’m here if you need help. When you’re done, you can have free time to do what you want.”
Having your child’s homework routine and schedule written out and posted can keep things calmer, too. If he starts to argue, take a deep breath and point to the schedule.
Sit down with your child and talk about what each of you needs to do to make his homework go more smoothly. What the contract should include depends on what you and your child battle over. Just make sure the expectations are reasonable.
The contract can build in rewards for sticking with the agreement and consequences for breaking the terms. You could set up a point system. For example, he gets two points each day he brings home all his homework or loses a point for not bringing home homework. When he reaches 20 points, he gets a reward like movie tickets.
Homework is your child’s job, not yours. If he asks for help with long division, it’s OK to show him how to set up and solve a problem, but use one that’s not part of his homework. If he wants help editing a paper, talk him through the changes he could make instead of just fixing the mistakes for him.
The upshot? By guiding your child through the process, you’re helping him learn to take ownership of his homework and how to be self-sufficient.
Beeping cell phones and Facebook messages can be a big distraction from homework. Set the expectation with your child that while he’s doing homework, his phone needs to be set to silent (not vibrate). Ask him to sign out of email and social media, too.
To let him know you take this seriously, consider doing the same with your phone and electronics during his homework sessions. You might even designate a small box as the place to put cell phones until his homework is completed.
Don’t forget that your child’s school should be part of his homework process, too. Some schools have “homework hotlines” that your child can call for help. Others offer homework clubs or set times before or after school when kids can get help from teachers.
Your child’s school may also have a website like PowerSchool to let parents to see their child’s grades and homework assignments. Using these tools can give your child more sources of help and ensure that you know what homework has to be done by when.
Grade-schoolers with learning and attention issues may feel more nervous about tests than other kids their age. But there are ways you can help your child reduce test anxiety. Use these tips to help your child feel more at ease with taking tests.
Studying can be extra challenging for grade-schoolers with dyslexia. But grade school is when they need to build strong study skills and habits before the stakes get higher in middle school. These tips can help make the process easier.
Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.
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