Wikipedia Definition - Homework is a set of tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed outside of school. It goes on to say that homework is also a stress creator for students and their parents. Homework, in their opinion, reduces the amount of time that students could spend outdoors, exercising or playing.
Yes, homework is an assignment given by teachers meant to be completed outside of the classroom...which is the only part of the definition I agree with. Given with the right intention, I believe homework can be a powerful tool in the education of a special needs child. For the purpose of this article, I will be discussing the elementary school setting only.
I believe that homework offers a unique opportunity for the special needs child and their family to connect. It offers parents or other appropriate family members to reinforce, praise and instill self-confidence in their child or family member. It also informs the parent of what their child is working on in school and invites them to be a part of their child’s learning.
If the special needs child has siblings also participating in the homework ritual, the student feels proud that they are doing what their brother or sister are also doing. Homework is an excellent way to review a skill that has been introduced or practiced earlier in the day at school. It strengthens concepts and moves him/her one step closer to mastery of the skill.
Here are some helpful hints to accomplishing their homework:
- Set a specific time and place for homework. Be sure to select a comfortable table or desk in a well-lit area of your home. Make homework a part of your after-school routine. Keep to your designated routine Monday - Friday.
- Do homework for specific time periods. My recommendations are as follows:
- Kindergarten - First Grade - 20-30 minutes
- Second - Third Grade - 30-45 minutes
- Fourth - Fifth Grade - 45-60 minutes
Adjust as you see necessary. If homework isn’t completed, take a break and come back to it for a brief period to finish. If you need to, send a note to the teacher the following day with what you did complete and a brief explanation. It may be that she needs to adjust the length of her assignments.
If at the end of the homework session, your child is feeling stressed and unaccomplished, then change it up:
- Try a different time or place
- Take breaks
- Change the person who helps with homework
- Talk to the teacher to get more ideas
Remember, homework is only beneficial if it either gets your child one step closer to skill mastery or maintains a previously mastered skill. I encourage you to speak with your child’s teacher if one of these goals is not being met.
Happy Homework completion!