Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taming the Homework Monster

Before I was married, I didn't believe I would be anything other than a No-Shit Mom.

Okay, this is the second time I used an inappropriate word on my blog and so I apologize if anyone is offended but some words just say it all.

My kid was going to study, I told myself up until he was born. He would not be spoiled. And he would be able to speak at least three languages, one of them being Mandarin Chinese. (By the way, I am not Chinese American)

Even when you have typical children, I'm sure parents laugh at themselves when they compare their pre-baby goals to their actual goals after birth. Gosh, now my goals are not even anywhere close to him being multilingual! My goals are more like: Logan will stay in his seat for five minutes without being told to do so. and Logan will make one non-school friend by the end of 2009. Of course, now I must share my personal goal which of course is: Jenn will no longer need anti-anxiety medication after 2010 and/or lose 20 pounds.

Anyway, this year Logan is in Big School and with that I am dragged into the world of Homework Hell. Ohmigosh, this No-Shit Mom is no match for the ADHD Homework Monster. The Homework Monster has daily ways to annoy you so much that in twenty minutes, you don't care if your child wrote the letter "b" or "d." Just get it done and go to sleep! Argh!

But alas, No-Shit Mom is not dead in me. She is still alive and breathing somewhere in my psyche and will not let me give up. Somehow, she lets me believe that he can be a lot of things and he can be as smart as he can be and wants to be.

With that, I have tried to be mindful of what we need to make homework a positive experience because for the past few weeks, homework has been so taxing. It took me several weeks to come to this point but here is what I've done.

1. Clean up! Holy cow. I'm still a slob but I know that Logan appreciates neatness. When Logan wrote a Thank You card to my sister-in-law after we visited her place, he wrote, "Dear Auntie, Thank you for letting us play in your home. Your house is very neat...." My sister-in-law's apartment is indeed immaculate and I think Logan loves that so today I went to Staples and bought more office supplies to organize my files on the dining table where I work and where Logan does his homework.

2. Use a "Parking lot": I use this Parking Lot when avoiding a tantrum that I don't have time for but now I use it to make him focus. He used to ask me a lot of questions and make comments when he did his homework but now I write them down in a Parking Lot and he then clams up and stays on task. I am currently trying to make it not so negative because I really do want to encourage thoughts and ideas even though he has too many of them.

3. Respect his homework: Logan's kindergarten homework is all on worksheets and so I have been collecting them so I can see how his writing improves and the challenging work increase. I also did this because I actually don't know what to do with all these pieces of paper!!! I feel bad throwing them away. I also want him to know that I value his homework and hope he'll look at it from time to time and be proud of himself.

4. Make a homework checklist: (see picture) I did this because the Checklist gives me a little more patience and I think it relieves some of his anxiety. He seems less overwhelmed. I just printed a checklist on paper and laminated it. He can then check the boxes with a dry-erase marker whenever he does a task. I should have added colors and pictures to this but I got lazy. I also like it because my husband can now do homework with him without feeling like he's doing something wrong.

5. Remember that homework connects me to his academic life: Logan amazes me when he is asked to draw a picture starting with a particular letter. For example, for the letter "s" he draws someone sitting or standing but never a noun like sun or strawberry or star. Isn't that interesting? They are always moving, even in their language. He also does this assignment really fast. I also see how it is hard for him to read a book when the pictures are really detailed and there is a lot going on.

6. Fix my attitude and take baby steps: I am sooooo impatient and I can see it moreso during homework time. I really need to figure out how to slowly transition him to working more on his own. I think if I was organized about my expectations, I could be more patient.

So far, these interventions seem to be helping, especially the homework chart. He really likes that one. It only cost me a dollar to laminate it. What would special needs families do without Staples????


Jennifer Laviano said...

Hi there, wanted to let you know I've included your blog in the list of ones to read in the One Lovely Blog Award! To accept click here: Best, Jen

Anonymous said...


thought you might like to see this. hope it's helpful.


Penny Williams said...

I too struggle with the most frustration and impatience with homework with my ADHD kiddo. It's such a small amount of work each day but he tries his darnedest to refuse to do it before starting. Then he whines and complains the entire time and constantly asks how much more. I must admit, I am loose about the homework. His teacher doesn't believe in much homework (hallelujah) and so we just have to be sure he knows his spelling words by Friday's test and that he reads some. I haven't forced the reading every night because I know he is reading A LOT in school (it makes up about 50% of their day in 2nd grade) and I also know he just tested well above grade level.

I LOVE your idea of the parking lot and I am going to try to implement that.

I do have one more suggestion for your list of coping with homework: a specific homework time. We have homework at 4 pm every day. It gives them about an hour of free time after school but it gets it done before dinner and without rushing to do it before bed. My son is on meds and so it also ensures that we get it done before meds wear off (although they don't seem to be effective any time of day right now). We do have some days with OT or other after school activities and then we just do homework right away when we get home. I do notice it is more difficult on those days. I also think they like not having homework looming over them all evening to stress about.

Great post! Really good ideas!

Elyse Orecchio said...

Thanks for this post, Jenn. Homework left me in tears almost every night for the first few weeks of school this year, but it seems to be getting a bit better now. Like you, it makes me realize just how impatient I really am.

I never wanted to be the bribing mom, going along with your no-shit ideal, but knowing there's a cookie at the end of the road is a great motivator for Theo.

I've been meaning to do a homework post on my blog too, now you've inspired me!

Karen Griffith Gryga said...

Hey Jenn,

Great ideas and organization for homework time. I love the parking lot idea! I too have lots of frustrating homework nights with my son but I try to handle it with calmness and silliness although that does not always work. Also sometimes when my son is giving me a really rough time -- he really needs a big long hug.

I shared some homework tips on my blog too -- you can find it at if you want some other ideas!



I can so relate to your goals. Mine are more along the lines of getting Reiss to sit for more than 30 seconds. Or watch tv (he refuses!). Making a friend seems a bit lofty of a goal, so I'll go with having a goal of Reiss not greeting people by pushing them down. Oh.....I could go on and on...thanks, Jenn, for a great idea for a new blog post. :)