Strategies to Improve Homework Success

boy doing home workAfter a busy day, the last thing you want to do is fight with your child about finishing his homework. Turning in an assignment or performing successfully on a test should feel like a great accomplishment for you and your child, not a constant battle. Every child prefers different organizational and environmental strategies to help him focus and stay on task; and different strategies may work in different days depending on the child.

Homework Seating Tips:

• Exercise ball: By replacing a typical chair with an exercise ball, the child automatically receives more input to their body. He is now required to keep his feet flat on the floor, his shoulders down and relaxed, and his trunk erect with his muscles constantly firing as he keeps hjs body in an upright position. This extra input gives him increased attention and focus during fine motor and tabletop activities.

**Note: Exercise balls used as a chair are not appropriate for children who have poor postural control and weak core muscles, as this will cause them to focus on keeping their body stabilized on top of the ball, as well as on the task at hand. This may lead to rushed or sloppy work because their attention is on the exercise ball, noton their homework. Talk with an OT or PT if you have questions about the best seating for your child.

• Foam wedge or move and sit cushion: Either can be added to a typical chair to provide the child with some “wiggle room”. These seating enhancements also give the child a boundary in her chair, making her feel more secure and attentive; they also allow her to receive more movement within her trunk and lower body in a safe and appropriate manner. This may prevent her from tipping her chair back onto its hind legs.

Homework Organization Tips:

• Checklists: By creating a simple checklist for your child (e.g. handwriting checklist: handwriting is legible, complete sentences, capitalization, and punctuation), you are giving him a visual reminder of what he needs to do throughout his assignments or allotted homework time. Checklists help children to become more independent and confident in what they have to get done each day while building self awareness of their own work. Checklists are also a great self-esteem booster – it feels good to cross something off of your list and see what you have accomplished through all of your hard work.

• Bins: When everything is kept in its place, you child will feel less frustrated and save a lot of time. Simple shoe boxes, cups, and other household supplies can be used to store pencils, pens, scissors, erasers, rulers and highlighters on your child’s desk. Help your child to create labels for each container or decorate her containers – her workspace will feel more personalized and welcoming each day during homework time.

**Note: It is most beneficial for your child to choose a consistent desk to work at each day during “homework time”. This helps the child associate the desk with increased attention and focus. Once you and your child establish a work desk, you will be able to better monitor him as he completes his work. It can also be helpful to have a timer or clock available on the table or desk so that he knows that there is an ending point and that his hard work can be followed by a fun activity.

The Homework Experience:

Overall, homework should be a positive experience for you and your child to work through and learn from together. Homework should be a regimented part of your child’s daily routine and should give your child a sense of responsibility and independence. While each assignment or test may not go exactly as you or your child had hoped, each obstacle can improved upon next time. Every child has their “off” days and needs to be encouraged, supported and instructed along the way. Try implementing one of the ideas above for a couple of weeks, and see if homework time goes smoother!

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