Summertime — the sun is shining its delightfully warm rays down on our children as they happily splash in the swimming pool, enjoy a refreshing popsicle, or swing carefree on a tire swing at the park. Children work hard during the school year, and they deserve a a great Summer vacation away from reading textbooks, writing book reports, and getting drilled with math facts.
But just because they deserve one doesn't mean they always get one (not entirely, anyway). At my child's school, they have Summer requirements in order for students to not slip into the "Summer Slide" — losing three months of the knowledge and progress they gained during the school year. Every week, my 8-year-old is expected to read a weekly average of 150 minutes and complete an average of 100 minutes working on an online math program. She must also complete two book reports by the end of Summer. This is the bare minimum. The school also recommends writing in a daily journal, practicing keyboarding, and going on educational field trips.
The workload may not seem like a lot to some, but my daughter has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and in her eyes, these Summer requirements are absolute torture. She hates school, and getting her to do her homework is like pulling teeth, but I make sure she does it — every single assignment. Call it tough love if you want, but I never give in to her tears, no matter how much seeing her struggling tears my heart into pieces. I empathize with her, and I help her understand why her ADHD makes homework difficult sometimes, but I never let her use her ADHD as an excuse to get out of doing her homework. Instead, I help her find ways to make doing her homework easier, and, dare I say it, more fun. I let her decide what assignment she wants to do first, and I let her complete them however she likes (it's very common to find my daughter reading upside down on the couch in a silly cartoon voice). Here are some other tricks I've learned to help make those Summer requirements easier:
1. Start Early
Like most kids in the Summer, my daughter is eager to start her day and do what she does best — play! Once my daughter is engaged in an activity, whether it's painting a picture or climbing on a jungle gym, it's extremely difficult for her to stop what she's doing and transition to another activity, particularly if it's homework. So I've learned to have her complete her homework immediately after breakfast when she's the most alert. Having a consistent morning schedule works well for her, because she knows exactly what her expectations are. After she completes her homework, she enjoys having the freedom to spend the rest of the day however she likes.
2. Take Breaks
In order to give my daughter's mind a breather, I have her take a 15-minute break in between assignments to spend however she likes. She usually chooses to swing outside or play Minecraft on her iPad. I realize that having my daughter take these breaks drags homework on even longer, but we would both go crazy if she completed it all in one sitting. These breaks also act as an instant reward for her, and with children with ADHD, it's all about instant gratification.
3. Rewards System
Speaking of rewards, bribery with screen time is king in our household. For every assignment my daughter completes, she is rewarded with 15 minutes of screen time. (We use the coin system.) Depending on the difficulty of the assignment, she's rewarded with additional minutes. Since regulating emotions is something most children with ADHD struggle with, my daughter is also given "bonus" minutes for completing an assignment without having an outburst or meltdown. Your child's reward of choice may be different than screen time, but you get the idea.
Also, positive and encouraging words from you can go a long way during and after homework. Having a child with ADHD can be challenging all year, but during the Summer, when all they want to do is be free from the structured assignments of school, it's important to keep encouraging them. Your words end up being your child's inner voice, so choose them carefully and with love.