Balancing Homework and Fun Time for Children with Autism

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What is our policy about homework?

Homework comes first.

Our child gets homework every Monday through Thursday. He’ll occasionally have something to do over the weekend, like study for an upcoming test or, at least, he has to do some reading.

During the week, our child attends an after school care on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. At after school care, they have a homework hour. Our child has a chance during after school homework hour to complete all of that night’s homework.

Often, he comes home with his homework completed.

We check it when he gets home. Then, he can have dinner and some “fun time” until it’s time to go upstairs. Fun time for my child usually means being on the computer, playing his Wii, drawing, or playing a game on the iPad.

If he hasn’t completed his homework, he has to complete it at home before any fun time.

On Wednesdays and Thursday, he comes home, has a snack, and then has to work on this homework. Again, there’s no fun time until homework is completed.

Is there a balance between homework and fun time?

There have been many times when my child protested this arrangement. For example, he might have went to school that morning focused on some game or something he really wanted to do on the computer when he got home. He didn’t always like our policy of homework first and he often fought with us. All we would say was the following:

“You’re wasting time protesting. If you just get your work done, then you’d have fun time.”

We stuck to our guns, and, for the most part, he has accepted our homework first policy.

What about the weekends?

The weekends were a challenge and became even more so in third grade. Third grade was the beginning of kids having a week or longer to study for a chapter test. Often, study time had to be done on a weekend because they would still get other homework during the week.

Fourth grade is no different. Chapter tests are considered as important – if not more so – in our house. Both parents make notes on the chapter so that we know what he needs to know. Then, either Daddy studies with our child or I do.

How do we juggle studying and fun time on the weekend?

We typically split it up into blocks of time where our child does some studying and then gets a fun time break. If we are driving somewhere, we can even use that time to study with our child. You’d be surprised how much studying you can get done in the car!

We feel that studying for a chapter test is a process that can’t be completed all on a Saturday morning. Studying often involves learning definitions or formulas and it takes repeated practice. Studying needs to happen again and again right up until testing time.

But, especially on a weekend, it cannot happen all the time or all at once. We’re simply not believers in cramming for the test the night before it. By balancing the two on a weekend, we’re hoping to not only prepare our child for his test but teach good studying habits.

Are there other times that can be used for homework?

There were nights last year, when my child was still in third grade, when I replaced his nightly reading time with study-for-a-big-test time.

I’ve also been known to bring the spelling list with me on the walk to school or with us when we go to social skills group.

I try to be creative. I want my child to do well in school but he also needs to be a kid. There is a balance in there.

For example, our child is very good on the computer. It’s already a skill he’s mastered (and, well, he mastered it a few years ago). Using a computer is a lifelong skill and will be to his advantage. Why would I deny him the use of a computer?

Is he mostly playing games? Sometimes. But, other times he’s looking stuff up. He’s a very curious individual. I like that he’s good at using a computer. Computers may turn out to be his job in life. He also loves to play games on his Wii system.

But, here’s some food for thought. My child will leave his computer and his Wii and sit down to “design” games. Is he really designing a future Super Mario Brothers game? Probably not. But I love it that he’s taking it to another level. He’s thinking creatively. He’s also taking his fun time serious and with enthusiasm expanding on it.

I know all about the studies regarding too much computer and game use. He still has time limits to his fun time. But, I will always let him do it – as long as he gets his homework done!

I believe you can find a balance in almost everything – even homework and fun time. It may take some time to establish a solid homework rule, but keep at it. You won’t regret it.

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:

 

www.kimberlykaplan.com
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”
Twitter: @tipsautismmom

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