I’ve said this many times: I believe that all parents are homeschoolers, whether we do it full-time or in the after-school hours. If you send your child on the school bus each morning, and pick him up at the end of the day, you still have lots to do before the day ends. That business that happens between the after-school pick-up and the time your child goes to bed – that’s called homeschooling.
You are doing plenty of teaching in that time, whether it’s intended or not. Every minute of every day your child spends with you, he is watching you. And, learning.
If your child has special needs, you may need a little extra patience in those exhausting after-school hours . Perhaps your child comes home with homework, but he also comes home with the same special needs identity as when you dropped him off at school. Whereas at school your child may have an IEP, at home, you may be at a loss as to how to help him academically.
Tips for helping your child with special needs in the after school hours:
1- Set-up a work space specifically for your child. If you haven’t done this yet, your child absolutely needs a space in which to do homework. Ideally, it’s away from distractions like television sets and other technology (unless he’s using tech for academic/ communication purposes). Also, it is best that it be specifically for your child in that no one else uses that space/ desk. This way, he may leave his materials there without having to set-up from scratch each day. This also makes it possible to have all visual cues and schedules adhered to the space permanently.
2- Speak with your child’s teacher about homework expectations. If it isn’t already on the IEP, meet with your child’s teacher about his/ her expectations for homework with your child. Sometimes, that means no homework, less homework or weekly homework. Weekly homework means that a package is sent home with assignments/ tasks that your child can work on at his own pace and hand-in at the end of the week.
While this might make the teacher’s job a little more demanding, in the end, both the teacher and your child will be less frustrated as homework will most likely be completed when this kind of extension is given.
The one downfall might be that your child won’t be able to follow along when the teacher works on corrections/ review with the rest of the class. However, this can be alleviated if your child’s teacher prepares the package a week in advance. Again, having been a classroom teacher myself, I know this is a lot to request of your child’s teacher (tell him/ her that), but you might suggest that it doesn’t have to be every single assignment (this is almost impossible for him/ her to do as sometimes, the best assignments are those the teacher gives last minute as she sees the opportunity arise). This way, your child will be able to follow along with at least some of the daily corrections. This will make your child feel a part of the class – helping to build his self-esteem and self-confidence.
3- Do homework using your child’s learning style. Despite having been taught traditionally yourself, and having done homework in traditional ways, try to stay away from this method for your child with special needs (unless this is his preferred learning style).
If your child is a visual learner, use more visuals.
If your child is an auditory learner, use listening as a key way to completing homework.
If your child is a kinesthetic/ tactile learner, use methods in which he can manipulate real-life tools/ materials to complete the homework.
To learn more about learning styles, click here.
4– Be positive. As discouraging as it might be to help your child with special needs with homework, you need to remain positive. If you have to, take a break between the time you all get home and the time you tackle homework. Enjoy a tisane yourself. Your child can feel your frustrations, so be conscious of the words you use and the sighs you release.
5- Get help when you need it. When you try the best you can, and your patience is running low, remember that there are services available in your community to help you with homework. First, speak with your child’s school team, then look for homework workshops specifically aimed at parents of children with special needs. I encourage you to attend them, even if you think you can manage or if you feel intimidated. You will learn something at each meeting as well as connect with other parents struggling in the same way you are. It’s the best way to empower yourself.
What issues are you presently dealing with when it comes to your child’s homework?
If you need extra help, I encourage you to follow step 5 above and get the help when you need it. I provide after-schooling parents After School Support Sessions where you can figure out things like your child’s learning style, how to use your child’s learning style during the homework hours, and how to work through the assignments he’s been given. Learn more by clicking below.