Monday, May 14, 2012

Time to think about 504s

As summer draws to an end, it is time to think about what you want for your child next year. If you have had chronic homework problems, your child needs relief. Once there is homework relief, you can start observing rather than pressing your child, and consider what he needs in order to succeed. If he's already in middle school, you need for the school to have someone on their staff who can negotiate among the teachers so your child has priorities for using his limited homework time. I would back off from trying to micromanage the schools in deciding between good and bad homework in favor of giving them a fixed amount of time for homework to be done in your home, and leave it to them to decide among themselves what's the best way to use that limited time. Here's my recommendation for your 504 plan. I explain the psychological reasoning behind it, in detail, in my book:
1. Time bound homework. Require ten minutes per night per grade. Create homework sessions that start and stop with a clock.
2. Reduce penalties. Modify the penalties so that the child gets rewarded for the work he does and cannot fail because of homework that was not done.
3. In middle school, assign a study skills teacher. This teacher works with the student to develop study skills, provides extra time to complete assignments in school, works with the teachers at establishing priorities, and serves as the primary contact for the parents.
4. Recognize that the parent is the head of the home. Establish an understanding that in fine tuning their efforts to get the child on a positive track, teachers and parents will work together, but that for matters in the home, the parents are the ones who have the final say.
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