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How Parents Can Help With Homework to Support Student Independence

Many parents question how they can help their child with homework assignments to support academic success without encouraging a dependency on such support. This concern often becomes pronounced as students transition into middle school or high school. Parents can procure this balance by considering executive functioning skills development and the role these skills play when students complete homework assignments.

The Difference Between Academic Knowledge and Executive Functioning Skills

Whereas academic knowledge allows a child to add two numbers to determine the correct sum, executive functioning skills allow the child to complete chosen tasks, such as focusing on one assignment at a time, reading the directions, organizing the work pace, and initiating the task itself. Often, a difficulty with executive functioning skills hinders a child’s progress more than the academic knowledge. This is because executive functioning skills develop in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and do not fully develop until age 25. Therefore, many students need executive functioning support, and such support does not lead to student dependency. But how do teachers and parents implement this support?

A Teacher’s Role with Executive Functioning Support

Consider the teacher’s role in the classroom and the amount of executive functioning support embedded in the classroom structure. When a student completes a practice worksheet in the classroom, the teacher identifies the time to start, clarifies the exact problems to complete, creates a culture that avoids other distractions, and collects assignments at the end of the period. Therefore, the student focuses on the academic skills without needing to manage the executive function skills to complete the assignment. In this same manner, parents can help students manage the executive functioning skills, supporting the child to complete the academic component of an assignment. Such support does not create dependency. With substantial modeling, practice, and time, the executive functioning skills become habit, and the child implements them with increasing independence as they age and mature.

How a Parent Can Help a Student With Executive Functioning Skills

Consider some of the following ways to support a child’s executive functioning development during homework time. These methods guide a child to practice strategies that support learning while not encouraging the child’s dependency to complete assignments. For any additional directions, communicate efforts to support the child’s academic independence with the child’s teacher.

  • Help the child create a plan for when and where he/she will complete homework. Have the child set a timer, if necessary, as a reminder that it is time to begin.
  • Help the child maintain a clutter-free workspace with easily accessible materials.
  • Help the child identify leisure plans for when homework is completed so that the child has something to look forward to and a reason to finish homework efficiently.
  • Offer a finger-food snack and a closed-container drink for the child while completing homework.
  • If a child finds it difficult to start when it is homework time, ask the child to share his/her plan and identify the first task (read the planner).
  • If a child finds the assignment overwhelming recommend that the child
    • cover all but one problem to focus only on one problem at a time.
    • predict how long it will take to complete the assignment and set a timer.
    • help the child find a textbook or teacher example of a similar problem to model.
    • send an email to the teacher, requesting academic support.
  • Remind the child to complete one task at a time and place a check-off mark on the assignment in the planner.
  • If the child appears to be completing the assignment incorrectly, have the child read the directions out loud.
How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and attention challenges into confident, independent learners. We work closely with our family of teachers, parents, and students to promote academic success throughout our community. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.

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