Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Off-Track Homework Keeps {Some} Kids On Track

My youngest is in year-round school and is currently off-track. (They go roughly 8-9 weeks on and then 3 weeks off).  Even though I am not a huge fan of year-round school, it works out okay for us, mostly because last year my college-age son was home nearly every morning and this year I have a high schooler doing online school. It's nice that he isn't home alone and that he is old enough to make his own pb&j and can play by himself. However, he still lacks the self-directed motivation to be productive each day, especially while the others at home have to work on their own school work. 

The hardest part (and a huge reason I don't care for year-round) is with his ADHD anytime he goes off his routine (when they go off-track) it is a HUGE deal to try to get him settled when he goes back on. It's a rough 2-week adjustment period after every 3 week break. He finally gets settled only to go back off track nearly 6 weeks later. Yo-yo effect. 

Last year just before he went off-track for Christmas break the teacher sent home a pretty thick math booklet that the kids could work through during the break if they wanted. There was also a reading response booklet for books they would read before returning to school. 

We had our son read and work through a few pages everyday before he was allowed to have his electronic play time. I know this probably sounds strict or mean or harsh to some parents out there. After all, it is a BREAK, let him enjoy it, right? But, he actually thrives on stuff like this. He enjoys the challenge (as long as there is still play time) and he takes pride in completing each page. Never once did I have to remind him to get it done. Whenever I'd get home, he was eager to show me what he completed. You might wonder how that happened? Well...

I made him a daily checklist with things like "eat breakfast", "brush teeth", "comb hair", "2 pages math", "read 30 minutes", "1 page reading response", "eat lunch", "30 minutes electronics", "30 minutes exercise",... as well as lots of other optional activities such as writing in his journal, working on certain scout badges, working on a puzzle, "free time" with just good old fashioned non-electronic toys. I even included a rotation of simple chores, usually 1 a day in addition to make your bed. (He's 8 years old now and has been in charge of his own laundry for nearly 2 years now.) 

He liked the checklist because he got to be in charge of how fast or slow he worked on each item. He would check the box when each task was completed. Seeing that he was accomplishing things gave him the motivation and pride to do more. He started setting personal goals to get through the list faster. One day, when I got home, he asked if we could ad a second snack time to his checklist. When I asked why he said because he gets really hungry before I get home. After a few more questions, I learned he ate lunch at 9:30 in the morning, "because that was next on the list!" Ha! He did all of his morning work lickety-split, the checklist said "Eat lunch", so he did! 

With the checklists, he did the work on his own, without whining. Honestly, I was quite skeptical at first but after the first few days, I was extremely impressed that he was not only succeeding, but sticking with it and loving it. We discovered that he does really well with checklists! This was a small victory for us. 

Yesterday was day 2 of off-track. He doesn't go back until after the Thanksgiving break. There wasn't a packet sent home from his teacher this year and we've already had two days of  meltdowns. So, I am in the process of putting together my own booklet for him to work on for the next 3 weeks. I want him to definitely enjoy his break, but if the checklists work for him, then why not?

I am grateful for pinterest for making my search easy and I am so happy to find lots of FREE printables. I can pick and choose and customize his packet for him. Later tonight we will introduce his packet and new daily checklist. I am keeping my fingers crossed for no more meltdowns and no more "I'm bored" days during the rest of this break. 

No, this post isn't to guilt parents into giving their kids extra homework or anything. I am an advocate that each child is different and that the only way "no child is left behind" is when we do our best in determining what works for them, and then make it happen! I don't like labels, per se. However, I do like understanding how my children operate, what their struggles are and how best to help them. To me, this is what the "label" ADHD does; it gives me answers and steers me in the right direction of how to help.

It never ceases to amaze me how we are all so different and how each of our children are wired in their own way as well. I love that about each of us! 

Parents, if you are struggling to help one of your children with behavior, academics, or social skills, don't give up! Utilize what resources you have, and push for what you don't. Do your best and then celebrate each little victory that comes your way!

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