Why We Should Rethink Homework for ADHD Kids

Are we approaching homework all wrong? These four myths about at-home work just may be contributing to your family's nightly battles -- and holding your child back from school success.
Success at School | posted by Michelle Davis

"We spend our entire afternoon and evening just trying to get my child's homework done."

"Homework time is a nightmare that tears our family apart. I dread homework and so does my child."

"The school won't give my child additional services, but my child can't even do her homework."

"My child can't do his homework independently so we have him in tutoring three times a week!"

If this sounds familiar, then you can’t afford to ignore your child’s homework challenges for one more day.

Here are four common myths that may be stifling your efforts, plus solutions for making learning at home more productive and fun.

Myth 1: Homework must get done one way or another.

Truth: 80 years of research shows that homework done while in tears will not improve your child's achievement and will likely have a negative effect on his attitude toward school in general. There is no strong correlation between homework and achievement. When assigned, homework should be at the right level, with the right amount of time spent reinforcing the right material.

Myth 2: Perfection is the goal.

Truth: Homework that returns to school perfectly completed will skew how your child's teacher sees his needs, and may prevent the school team from providing additional services. Remember, homework is supposed to be independent practice, not new learning. Good teaching and learning includes introducing new concepts, allowing the child to practice with guidance, encouraging independent practice, then compelling mastery and generalization.

Most parents don’t want their child to feel a sense of failure or to suffer bad grades, so they help to hand in perfect homework. But perfection today leads to failures tomorrow, so it’s important to look at a child’s view of herself long term.

Myth 3: My child can't advocate for herself.

Truth: Instead of shooting off an email to the teacher after you’ve spent all evening doing battle, I mean, working with your child on her homework, consider involving your child in the homework feedback loop to make her a better self advocate. Your child can turn it assignments with as much done independently as possible, and a sticky note on top flagging the teacher to too-difficult portions. Or she can develop a simple way to rate the homework, such as a smile or frown at the top of the page. Tech-savvy students can take a picture of or scan the homework and email it to the teacher, to avoid feelings of embarrassment handing in a blank page. Whether your child is 5 or 15, she can learn self advocacy by giving the teacher feedback on the content and difficulty level of the homework.

Myth 4: Teachers won't adjust.

Truth: Whether on the 504 plan or the IEP, an accommodation to adjust the amount and difficulty of homework based on a child’s independent level — as specified in a 504 Plan or IEP — is appropriate and needed. Teachers know that one-size-fits-all does not always work when in comes to homework, and they should be prepared to work with a child and his parents to devise solutions that reduce the arguing and increase the learning at home.

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