How to Build Executive Functioning Skills With Homework
Completing homework with your child may feel like a daily never-ending battle. Kids with executive functioning challenges in particular often struggle with planning, time management, and completing tasks effectively — all of which play a paramount role in getting through homework. Assignments will only continue to increase in complexity as students progress through school, so it’s important to help your child build stronger homework and overall executive functioning skills. Try some of the ideas detailed below.
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Some children come home from school, plop their belongings down on any spot that looks clear, and begin to do their homework in that randomly selected place. Sound familiar? Help your child change this haphazard habit and create a regular, consistent homework spot where he will complete their homework every night. Some kids prefer working at a desk in their room, but others find that being in their room presents too many distractions. In that case, a more central area, like a dining room or kitchen table, may work well. Also, assess whether your child works better in a room alone or needs to be in a space where a parent or other adult can be around to answer questions as they arise. The key is maintaining a consistent spot every time homework is done.
Once an appropriate homework spot is selected, it’s important that it is always fully stocked with supplies that your child may need. These supplies may be in a non-movable spot, like desk drawers, shelves, or cabinets if your child works in a private space. However, a homework crate or bin may work better if your child works in a more centralized location, like a dining room or kitchen table. Just be sure to include all of the supplies your child may need, including pens, pencils, paper, a calculator, scissors, a laptop, and so on.
Try to identify the time of day after school when your child works best. Some kids prefer working right after school, when they are still in “work mode” and can plow through their homework efficiently. They may enjoy the feeling of accomplishment they get once their homework is done, and like having free time for the rest of the night. Others need a small break, like a snack or even some athletic activity, before sitting down to do their homework. Yet others are “night owls,” and do best working on their assignments after dinner. Generally speaking, earlier tends to be better since most kids start to tire as the day progresses.
Students with executive functioning challenges often feel overwhelmed with the volume of homework they receive and sometimes don’t even know where to start. To combat this struggle, sit down with your child when they come home from school, open her homework pad (yes, they need one of those!), and help them come up with a study plan. Start by going over each assignment with them and make sure they know what to do for each one. Then have them estimate how long they think each assignment will take (and even write this “ET,” or Estimated Time, in their assignment pad next to each one). Once that is done, have them order their assignments based on the ones they want to do first, second, third, etc. (with 1, 2, 3, and so on). They should then start completing each assignment in that order. They may need to build in breaks, like 10-15 minutes per hour, so they do not feel overwhelmed or burnt out, especially as the volume of work increases.
Some kids are motivated by grades; they notice how their hard work and diligence at completing assignments leads to good grades, which makes them feel good. Others, however, are not very motivated by grades and may need an additional motivational tool, like concrete rewards. You can try a simple motivator like if your child finishes their homework they can watch a show or make a phone call. Alternatively, you may need a more detailed rewards program, like earning points to “trade in” for prizes, like video games, screen time, a trip to the movies, etc. Just be sure to involve your child in the prize picking, since they need to feel motivated to earn them.
Creating structure and consistency with your child’s homework time is important for long-term success. Try these ideas with them and they will be well on their way to building stronger executive functioning skills and excelling in school.