Is homework a nightly battle with your child? Students often struggle to complete independent work at home due to a variety of factors. Sustaining attention, avoiding distractions and mastering the material are all examples of possible struggles that students may experience. The good news is that there are strategies that can help all students increase their understanding and reach their homework goals. At New Way, we use a variety of methods to eliminate distractions that can be easily adapted for the home.
- Avoid the Pinterest Effect – We all want our spaces to be decorated with flair and cute accessories, but these items are the most disruptive to learning. Painting the walls of your study space in a muted tone, such as beige or light blue, has been shown to calm the brain. Busy patterns have the opposite effect.
- Clear the Clutter – Items as innocuous as a family vacation photo can derail progress on homework, as a student daydreams about the fun she had meeting Mickey at Disney World. This doesn’t mean you need to hide all mementos or dedicate one room to bare walls. Choose a wall in your homework space as the “focus wall” and orient the furniture to face that wall during homework time.
- Keep Supplies Handy – The optimal learning environment keeps all necessary supplies out of sight but within reach. For example, you may use your dining room table as the homework spot, so keeping a container with scissors, glue, pencils, a sharpener, and calculator nearby will ensure your student has access to everything they need. This also helps to eliminate wasted time, as students often get “lost” searching out school supplies, as they find a toy they forgot about or a game they want to play, and a power struggle to get back to work soon ensues.
- Consider Alternative Seating Options – Your learner now has a great space to get to work, but what are they actually sitting on? Anyone who has gone to school for any length of time knows how challenging it can be to sit in one spot and maintain attention. We know that our students benefit greatly from alternative seating options. Hokki Stools, Zynergy Ball Chairs, and under-desk elliptical machines are some of the options used at New Way that you can incorporate into your learning space at home. All of these options are available on Amazon for under $200.
- Create a Schedule – Equally important is the way in which homework is accomplished. Students with attention needs benefit greatly from a schedule that includes frequent breaks. Spending the first 15 minutes of homework time creating a task list and schedule for completion saves a lot of time in the long run. Students can check off items as they are completed. Older students can also track the time they spend on each assignment to help build executive functioning skills like time management and prioritizing/planning. Using freeonlinetimer.com is an effective option. Review your student’s schedule and discuss acceptable break activities. For example, electronics should not be used during breaks, as this often results in a power struggle to get back on task. No one wants to leave Princess Peach in the castle or abandon Pikachu in the middle of a battle! Instead, play a short game like Tic-Tac-Toe or Simon Says, or use this opportunity for a snack or to help prepare dinner.
Although these adjustments take time and energy to implement, the payoff of increased student success will pay dividends for years.
New Way Academy is a private, K-12 school for students with learning differences. If your child thinks differently and has struggled in their current school, we may be able to help. Learn more at www.newwayacademy.org or join us for our Open House on Wednesday, Nov. 15th from 9 – 11am. Check our Facebook Page for more details!