Moving homework out of the home, part 3

Parents, this is your opportunity to remove yourselves from the homework equation!


Moving homework out of the home allows you to arrange conditions under which there is an increased likelihood of homework being completed (because, ideally, this out-of-the-home location offers few other alternatives) while decreasing the likelihood that homework will not be completed (i.e., decreasing the likelihood that your child will engage in more preferred activities). Voila, your work is done! No nagging, no battle, no muss, no fuss!

Moving homework out of the home, part 2

Reason #2 to move homework out of the home:

In addition to the association that your child has made that home is the place to unplug from academics, home is also filled with tons of competing distractions (screens, friends, etc). Moving homework out of the home eliminates access to these distractions.

As an adult with a fully-formed brain, even I have to leave my house if I want to be productive. At home, there is always something else to do - cleaning, playing with the dogs, watching Netflix, etc. The still-developing brains of children and teens lack the full ability to anticipate long-term consequences of behavior. For a child with learning or attention disabilities, this effect is magnified. Asking a mentally exhausted child to forgo the temptations of the many distractions of home that are available RIGHT NOW in favor of more schoolwork (with some abstract consequences that occur sometime later), is a tall order.


If you were trying to eat healthfully, would you stock up on junk food? Of course not! If your regular drive took you past a doughnut shop (you know the can smell it blocks away and it may even have a brightly flashing sign alerting you when freshly-baked, hot doughnuts are ready NOW) you might alter your route. By limiting access, you eliminate the need to have to overcome temptation.

Moving homework out of the home accomplishes this for your child. We are not asking them to engage in the monumentally taxing task of resisting temptation, because the temptation is not there.

Ending the homework battle by moving homework out of the home, part 1

How is moving homework out of the home helpful? Ah, let us count the ways! 

The long academic day is mentally exhausting for most children, especially for those who have to work extra hard due to learning or attention disabilities. Over their entire school careers, they've come to see that home represents the endpoint to the school day's stressors and functions as the starting point of recovery. 


What is your reaction to this picture? Do you crave this comfort? Does is make you feel cozy? Do you wish you were there? This is what home, at the end of a school day, looks like to your child. In the same way Pavlov's dogs salivated at the sound of a bell, our children make the cognitive transition from school to rest when they get home. This association has become automatic. It is strong and visceral, and will be difficult to undo. 

Rather than continuing to spin your wheels by constantly nagging your child to do their homework, allow them to create a new association by finding a "homework place" outside of the home. Public libraries, coffee shops, and possibly even your child's school (many are open after school hours, just check first) are good starting places. You may have to try out a few, but ultimately, we want your child to make a new association, that wherever this place is that they settle on signals "homework" to them. With time, it will become automatic.

I've got a confession to make...

I'll admit it - I used to be one of those people who didn't believe ADHD was a thing.  This idea persisted well into my Ph.D. coursework.  During a discussion in a course on ADHD in my doctoral program, I defended this idea: 


"I can't sit through a movie because I get bored, but that's totally normal!  I don't get much enjoyment from reading because my mind drifts and I end up reading the same sentence over and over, not absorbing any of it, but that's totally normal!  I hardly ever paid attention in school; I was constantly daydreaming, but that's totally normal!  I fidget constantly, but who can sit still?  It's totally normal!  I always wait until the last minute to do things, but that's totally normal!"  

It was at this time that I noticed the looks on the faces of my classmates and my instructor - they were aghast.  

"Um, actually, none of that is normal, Shannon.  You may want to  make an appointment at student health and talk about this," my instructor told me.  And then it was I who was aghast.  "You mean, these things don't happen to you guys?  These things aren't true of everybody?"  It was then that it dawned on me...maybe ADHD is real...and maybe I have it!  

A visit to student health confirmed this.  ADHD is real, and my experiences had not been the same as everyone else.  I started medication for ADHD, and it was like someone flipped a switch in my brain.  I was finally able to experience what everyone else did.  I couldn't believe the difference, and was sad about all that I had probably missed out on because of my inability to sustain attention.  

I'd been able to compensate with coping strategies, though many of them were unhealthy.  Breaking those lifelong habits has been difficult and is something about which I continuously remain vigilant.  I still don't go to the movies very often, though.