Ahhhhh! Homework. Schoolwork. Seatwork. Whatever you call it… it is a bad word in our house. What should take 20-30 minutes by my standards always seems to take soooooo long! Or at least it used to, until I learned a few tricks and strategies on how to end homework battles once and for all. (Okay, not for all, but at least its better now).
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Whether you homeschool, traditional school, unschool, noschool, or something in between, homework can be quite the chore for a family. It can be the bain of your existence and the cause for a lot of stress in your family. A few years ago, I decided I had enough and needed to do something about there homework and schoolwork struggles.
Using what I have learned during my years in the classroom and my journey learning about my son’s anxiety and sensory processing disorder I have come up with a few tips and tricks that I think can help anyone that is stuck in that homework nightmare like we were!
Understanding Homework Battles
Do you argue with your child during homework? Is there teeth-pulling and lots of frustrations? Stalling, fiddling, fidgeting, and maybe even excuses that seem to last forever can be caused by several things. Today I’d like to address the causes that were most common in our case.
1. Primary Physical Needs | If your child is angry, delaying the inevitable, or downright refusing the homework, there is a reason beyond the fact that they want to get on your bad side. Believe me, that is not what they want to do, even if it seems like it. If your child has just come home from school, they could be hungry, tired, or even a little of both.
2. Sensory Needs | If you are a regular here, you know it is my mission to share what we have learned about the sensory systems and how they effect a child’s behavior and actions. If you have taken care of your child’s physical needs and the battle continues on, there might be a need for some sensory input to help your child calm and focus enough to do their homework. These needs can present themselves in any child, not just children with a disorder or a-typical behavior. All children have sensory needs, including (but not limited to) the need to move (vestibular), feel (tactile), and self-regulate/organize.
3. Emotional/ Cognitive Needs | Okay, so you have checked their physical needs. You know those are met. Next you have met their sensory needs, but you might still hit some roadblocks. This can be caused by many factors but more often than not, we have found this to be related to a child’s cognitive and emotional needs. For our middle son, he often needs hugs and affection before he can ever get started with any school work. However, for our oldest son, he puts up road blocks with his assumption that there is “too much” work and it is overwhelming to him.
Knowing the why behind the homework battles is extremely important. It allows you to be more empathic with your child and therefore address the battle from a calmer mindset. Now that you have dug into the why, you are probably wondering what you can try TODAY! Don’t worry, here are a few things we do before ANY seated schoolwork session!
Tips for Ending Homework Battles
TIP #1 MOVE | Before you start any homework session, start with movement! In our home we do 10 jumps on the trampoline, a few brain break exercises, a round of animal walks or we do some heavy work (sometimes this is in the form of chores).
TIP #2 SMELL | Set the mood and help prepare your child’s mind by diffusing essential oils. I know, you might be like, WHAT? I know I was before I ever tried it. But I kid you not, that the first time we diffused some Peace & Calming, was the first week we got schoolwork done without a fight in an entire year of homeschooling. (It didn’t used to be very pretty around here).
A few other favorites for focus and attention and a boost in our mood are Peppermint, Citrus Fresh, Frankencense, Stress Away, Valor, and Cedarwood.
TIP #3 CHEW | Man, how I wish we had learned about this tip years ago! My son has always chewed on his pencils but I never realized the effect that chewing could have on his ability to focus and produce work. He has learned to ask for gum before he starts any lesson because he knows jus how helpful it has been for him. In fact, we don’t go anywhere without gum or chewable jewelry in our toolkit.
TIP #4 DRINK | Hydration is part of those physical needs I spoke of earlier, but there is another benefit to drinking that I didn’t know about before learning about sensory needs. Anytime we sit down for schoolwork, we fill our water bottles with bite valves with cold fresh water and get started. The bite valve allows children to get that need for chewing (which organizes the brain) while also hydrating.
TIP #5 CHANGE | Change your position! Don’t get stuck thinking you have to do homework at the kitchen table or at a desk. Change it up! Why not stand at the kitchen counter? What about lying on your stomach (think tummy time) with a pillow under your shoulders? What about a bouncy ball or a wiggle seat? All of these changes can give your child the sensory support they need to finish that sheet of math work or spelling words.
TIP #6 TAKE A BREAK | Yep! Break it up! Don’t try to do all of the homework in one long string of time. Instead break it into 20 minute sessions. If that is still a struggle, break it into 10 (or even 5). In our home, we do 15 minutes seated work and then a movement or heavy work break. We use a timer to help us stay on track and keep it manageable. Then its back to work. When I was in the classroom, we did the same thing. Seemed to work every time!
TIP #7 CHUNK & COVER | An entire sheet of math problems can seem daunting and overwhelming to any child, especially one that might struggle with anxiety or sensory processing issues. Try using index cards or cardstock paper to cover parts of the work so only a tad bit is visible at a time.
Now that you have these tips you can get started today! I want to be real and tell you that ALL your woes may not end today, but at least you will have a toolbox of ideas to try next time the battle begins!
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