Overcoming Homework Hurdles

Overcoming Homework Hurdles

Growing up as a Language of Listening® kid has often given me a different perspective from my peers. Now, as an adult working in childcare, this different perspective is more obvious and useful than ever. 

I am proud to say, much like my mother, Sandy Blackard, the kids seen as problematic by others are the ones who endear themselves to me. I love to be assigned to these “difficult” kids, because working with them is fun, surprising, and rewarding.

Lizette (age 8) is one such child.

In the aftercare program where I work, many kids need help with their homework. Lizette finds homework overwhelming, which is not uncommon for school-aged kids. However, it can be frustrating to help her because after completing only a few problems, she often gets distracted and is nearly impossible to get back on task again for the remainder of the afternoon. The phrase “pulling teeth” comes to mind.

The first time I was helping her, after completing two problems she turned to me with a silly look on her face, and said, “Oh no, I’m going to pop!” Not knowing what on earth she meant, I responded using SAY WHAT YOU SEE®:

SWYS: “You’re going to pop! Oh no! What can we do?”

Lizette: “I’m about to pop…POP!” (frog-leaps out of chair and onto ground, then hides under table)

Boundary: “Okay, now you’ve popped, and it’s time to get back to homework. Let’s look at problem #3.”

Lizette: (Crawls back into seat) “I’m going to pop again…it’s gonna happen…POP!!” (Jumps out of seat again, hides again)

CAN DO: “I have an idea. How about after every problem, you can do one pop? Then you can come back and do another problem.”

Lizette: (crawls back into seat) “Okay!”

And she did.

By seeing Lizette’s distracted behavior for what it really was—backing up to succeed like kids do before they take a running leap—I was able to work with her, and together we developed a system. The “popping” eventually morphed into her taking a “lap” around the table by crawling across the benches on her knees, which let me know that just one “pop” wasn’t enough between harder problems. By following her lead, and trusting that kids always know the right level of challenge for themselves, I was able to let her set the pace and not get frustrated. Now whenever we do homework together, she knows that she can take as many running leap breaks as she needs, and is therefore much less resistant to her assignments in the first place.

Just this week she was able to do 5 pages of a workbook in a row, with no breaks, to finish quickly and join an arts and crafts activity she was interested in.

Knowing about the running leap has definitely made my life easier when working with kids. But I have to say, even more rewarding than having a smooth homework session is the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that you’ve not only helped a child achieve a goal in the short term, but that you’ve helped her discover one of her own inner STRENGTHs—self-motivation—which will benefit her the rest of her life.

Where have you seen a child (or yourself) back up to succeed with a challenge?

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