That is a tough one. I lucked out in finding a small alternative non-profit elementary school with lots of outdoor time and no “sit in one spot and don’t talk” requirement. It makes a huge difference, in that my kid is happy to go to school and happy to learn. I really think I might have used up a good chunk of my lifetime luck with this one. Even so, I recently had a discussion like: Me – “I’m willing to help you with your project, but you sure don’t act like you want my help.” Kid – “I want your help, it’s just my attitude that’s bad!”
A few suggestions:
– Let him keep moving. I spent my entire schooling walking circles around the room and reading the material out loud. It was the only way anything stuck. My kid does best on her writing and projects while standing up at the table.
– Try to squeeze the homework before dinner time. That may or may not be practical. However, after dinner time my kid’s brain is off and anything requiring to much focus will devolve in fits and tears.
– Check how much homework he gets, and discuss with the teacher if it’s too much. The National Education Association suggests that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so on. For an ADHD kid, 10 minutes transforms into 30 minutes easily. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a strong scientific backing for the helpfulness of homework in elementary school (after that, it definitely seems to help).
– Use a timer. I set it to 15 minutes, and say “Let’s see how much we can get done before the timer stops.” Knowing there is a time limit makes it seem less like “it will take forever!”. (Putting a shorter time like 5 minutes didn’t work for me, kid thinks nothing can be done in 5 minutes.) Often starting is the hardest part, and if there is still something left and the kid is amenable, we can go for another 15 minutes. Anything more than that is counterproductive.
– Consider working with the teacher to drop the homework if he pays attention is school. Any focus on his studies is better than none.
– If the teacher takes a hard line and it all devolves into a power struggle, there is no winning that one. Sorry. I would try to change teachers or schools, and in the meantime don’t let the relationship with your kid dissolve over a homework battle.