Bite-Sized Homework — 5 Minutes for Special Needs


We’ve had our ups and downs with homework this year. Most weeks the child’s homework is a sweet routine of math drills and spelling practice. Since she thrives on routine more than even she would care to admit, this has been overall very good. Most days she can do her homework with minimal mom input, which is a good thing. The challenge then becomes some of the more extraordinary projects that come in and dislodge the routine.

Every five weeks they do a review spelling week, so instead of practicing spelling words we do a writing assignment. Usually they are short and seemingly simple: tell a funny story, explain how you drew something, write a letter…Working through these writing assignments put our “new” challenges into clear perspective. Writing is so hard for her. Every aspect of it – spelling, punctuation, just putting her thoughts down onto paper is labor intensive, slow, and excruciatingly painful to watch. She can do it, so I keep encouraging her to try, and to do her best, but she summed it up one night with the words, “Mom, I know I’m not good at writing.” So I’m meeting with school  staff again for assessments and new supports.

Meanwhile, this week is our school’s annual Science Fair. It is open to all grades, and so far we have done a project each year. I say we because although I make her do most of the work, there is a fair amount of mommy supervision going on. I have loved science fairs since I was in fourth grade, so I am always happy when she tells me she wants to do a project again this year. The Fair is this Thursday. We always start our project early, knowing that we have to break it into several small manageable pieces in order to succeed. Last week the teacher reminded me that this week is a writing assignment week. Plus there is a special “family homework” that we’re supposed to be working on, and the usual math drills. My mommy-powered red flags triggered immediately. I asked the teacher to send home the writing assignment early (which she did, Thank You!) and we made a homework calendar. We figured out that we had 10 days to get everything done. We worked our way backward from when the last project (family homework) is due, and limited homework to no more than three items each day (a pre-determined limit.) On days when we have a big event (like the Science Fair) we limited it to two “easy” things. So far we have stayed on track, and even finished the Science Fair Project early.

You know that saying about how you eat an elephant? It works with homework, too…

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Kimberly is the mother of three wonderful children: an eight-year-old who is somewhere on the autism spectrum, and twin four-year-olds who are just very busy little people. We live on routine with a side of novelty.

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1 Jo February 24, 2012 at 5:31 am

Just a thought and not to upset the apple cart. Does she need to write everything herself? Writing is hard for these kids. I have two and it is the younger one I forsee more issues with writing as he gets older. He has learnt to write and is doing remarkably but I know the more written work the harder it will be.
I negotiated with the teacher when my older son was younger for him to read and a few pages and then one of us to read him the rest. I asked her what the purpose of the excercise was ie. more about reading comprehension than whether he could read.
I have an article entitled to write or too type which does a good job of explaining some why it can be better sometimes for alternatives to writing. Let me know if you would like it.
I think the way you handle all this is amazing. She sure is lucky to have such a caring and helpful Mom.

2 KDL February 25, 2012 at 1:39 am

Thanks, Jo. I guess I am waiting for full assessments before I decide what to pull back on, or what accommodations to use. We’ve tried typing and that doesn’t make it any easier for her. Partly because she hunts and pecks, and the hunting part is challenging in and of itself (visual discrimination and muscle memory both play a role there I think), and partly because it is the expression of her thoughts through any language (oral or written) that seems to be the hitch. Her reading seems to be coming along pretty well, though I wouldn’t call it easy for her yet, especially if she is tired. I’ve tried to let her tell me what she wants to write, as her teacher said it was OK for her to just dictate it to me, but that also seems hard. Sometimes she just doesn’t know what to say. Other times it seems to come easier, but still with spelling and other glitches. For now breaking things into more manageable chunks seems to be the best way to go, it just means we have to be hyper-organized. Always interested in articles…please do send it along!

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