When shopping for an afterschool program for kids with learning and attention issues, it’s important to look at how the program handles homework. Homework is one of the keys to academic success. But getting it done takes organization and time management skills. And those areas are exactly where many kids with learning and attention issues 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. This may also be where your child gets help if she needs 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 homework. That amount can vary from about 30 minutes a day for grade-schoolers to as much as two hours a day for high school students. If kids complete homework before the time is up, good programs will allow them to move on to an enrichment activity, such as playing a game that uses math skills.
Some programs may give kids a snack and 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 with learning and attention issues do better when their parents and afterschool staff are in regular communication. 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 also good to find out if they send home notes, or if parents are expected to check in with staff when they pick up their child.
A Willingness to Work With Systems You or the School Have Created
Kids with learning and attention issues 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, consequences if he doesn’t follow through, and a reward if he does. 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 to keep track of his work. 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 accommodations your child needs. For example, a child with writing issues might need to dictate what she says rather than writing it. In this case the program needs to provide access to voice-to-text software or to someone who can write down her words.
Successfully completing homework on a regular basis can increase your child’s self-confidence at school. A good afterschool homework program can help. But don’t forget there are other topics to consider when looking at afterschool programs.