Second semester: Getting off on the wrong right foot

So I informed Joe last night that we’re going to have a new attitude when it comes to homework this semester. Though, it’s really my attempt to get back on track with the old attitude that got buried under bad habits.

New Old Rule 1: There’s no computer time until homework is done. He’s famous for claiming his need to decompress with some computer time, and I’m famous for caving in the face of his pleas for a little enjoyment after his long school day to help him regroup. I’m committed to changing that pattern, and to having Joe take more responsibility for getting his assignments done. He can have a short break and snack, and I will cue him when it’s time to get started—but that’s it.
 New Old Rule 2: Joe needs to take the lead on getting his homework done. I told him I will be around to support him, but I’m not going to sit next to him for the hour— or two or three it can take—to keep him on track. “You didn’t get any highlights (the penalty for not completing homework on time) first semester, but that was due in large part to my efforts. This semester, it’s time for you to step up and do it on your own.” Maybe I have to accept he needs to fail on this point to learn, no matter how upset it makes him and no matter how much more difficult his being so upset makes my life.
New Old Rule 3: I’m not going to be the constant scribe. Joe’s output is hampered by his handwriting and his struggle to keep an organized train of thought while his hands try to keep up. A two-hour homework battle can be reduced to 30-45 minutes of straightforward work when I let him dictate everything to me. Keyboarding will be the answer to this struggle for Joe, but he’s not yet fluent enough with this skill to keep up with his brain. I, on the other hand, am a pretty fast typist (old school home-row keys with no correction tape) and can keep up fairly well without interrupting his flow. He’s more successful at conveying his knowledge and expertise, and as a result is less frustrated and feels better about himself. My nerves are less frayed, and I’m better able to manage myself and the dinner hour without having my own outbursts. But again, I’m not sure I’m really helping Joe in the long run.
Those are the three biggies. So how did night one under the new regime go?
About 4:30 yesterday afternoon Joe prompted well to get started on homework. Four classes had assignments and he chose to start with math. It took him about 20 minutes to assemble his planner with the assignment, his textbook, graph paper (a strategy for keeping number columns organized) and a pencil so that he could get started. There were only six assigned problems (pre-algebra), and I was hopeful that he could move through them pretty fast. Within five minutes he signaled he was done the first problem. “Great job, Joe. Keep going.”
Next thing I know, he is up and wandering around. “What are you doing, Joe?”
“I have to pet Libby. I need to get some of her energy.”
Then he disappeared into the bathroom.  “What are you doing now, Joe?”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“But you just went.”
Another 20 minutes later and he’s back in his seat. “Come on, Joe,” I encouraged. “You got that first problem done so fast. You can blow through these if you just focus.”
“I only had a little bit left on that first problem,” he said “I did most of it at school.” Turns out it took 5 minutes to essentially record the final answer, and when I looked at his work, I couldn’t read what he’d written. Even with the graph paper, his lines were floating and meandering across the page. Two numbers were written in one box in places.
“OK, Joe. Keep at it. It will be dinnertime soon. Try and finish math before dinner, OK?”
His ability to keep himself focused was virtually nonexistent. He found every reason under the sun to wander from his workspace, including seeing how his sister was doing on her homework, throwing a toy for Libby because she asked him to, and going to the bathroom yet again. At one point he asked for some background noise. “It’s too quiet. It’s distracting when it’s too quiet.” But then the background noise drew his attention away from the task.
By the time I fixed his plate for dinner at 6:30 p.m., Joe was midway through the second problem. After dinner, I set him back to work. At 7:30 p.m. I gave him his sleep medication so that he’d be able to settle down for his 9 p.m. bedtime. At 8 p.m. when I sat down with him, he had just finished the second problem.
“I can’t do it, Mom. I just can’t do it. I need someone to sit with me and be on me 24/8.”
“You mean, 24/7, Joe.” He hadn’t been on the computer, and while he hadn’t been seated non-stop since homework time began at 4:30 p.m., he hadn’t really been doing anything else. Time just frittered away with distractions.
So what was I to do? Break New Old Rules 2 and 3, of course.
I sat with him and let him tell me what to write as he solved the remaining math problems. Then I typed his 10 English questions from the textbook (the questions had to be typed in addition to the answers or he wouldn’t get full credit) and let him dictate his answers. It was approaching 9 p.m. and the med had kicked in. He’d laid his head down, and I kept having to wake him to dictate the next answer.
When we finished English I sent him to bed, telling him I’d get him up early to tackle World Studies and Science. Then I emailed the English teacher and asked her why I had to type the questions in addition to the answers.

Tammy Murphy

Tammy Murphy is a journalist on hiatus. She’s the mother of two—a 14-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son whose ADHD and related symptoms were evident practically from the womb. Tammy is a native of Maryland and a recent Georgia transplant. She started blogging about her up-and-down experiences with Joe—and life in general—as much-needed therapy.

Related posts:

adhd and school, attention/focus, General ADHD, homework, parenting/FAMILY, Tammy Murphy, Tammy Time, written output disorder ·

About the author

Tammy Murphy is a journalist on hiatus. She’s the mother of two—a 14-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son whose ADHD and related symptoms were evident practically from the womb. Tammy is a native of Maryland and a recent Georgia transplant. She started blogging about her up-and-down experiences with Joe—and life in general—as much-needed therapy.

One Comment

  1. Kmom says:

    This nightly homework routine feels eerily familiar.  I have a son, Ryan, in 6th grade (junior high) so the homework levels have amped up since last year.  This year I vowed to stick to a routine of getting homework done right after school.  In years past I would allow him to burn off some energy outside, etc. after school, but homework kept creeping into dinner time, bedtime, time when his meds had worn off and so had my patience.  Thank heavens that I have a daughter in 3rd grade who’s eager to do her homework, and a 5-year old son who can entertain himself a lot.
    We’ve been back in school for one month.  I felt like everything was going well.  Homework was getting done (though it can easily take 2 hours for us, working together), assignments were put back in his notebook, back into his backpack, ready for school the next day.  The stress levels in our house had gone down, way down.
    Our school district has an online system which allows parents to see daily homework assignments, and another online system where grades are recorded and can be checked.  Yesterday I thought I’d do a quick check to see what his grades looked like.  In 3 subjects he had an A- (I was ecstatic), but in one subject he had a D-.  WHAT?!?  what?!  First frustration, then defeat.
    1 homework assignment was turned in late.  1 homework assignment wasn’t turned in.  One quiz with a 44%.
    All of that hard work to get the homework done.  All of the success at home.  UGH!!

    To give some background, after several years of trying, we finally got a 504 plan set up for Ryan in the final week of his 5th-grade school year.  Although we have accommodations that include checking that assignments are listed in his notebook, allowing gum and/or Jolly Ranchers during testing periods, check-ins to ensure understanding of directions and instruction, etc. we didn’t have anything about checking to ensure that homework is actually turned in.  Wow…reality check!

    A simple little request.  Turn in your homework.  Apparently a big challenge.

    Now the 44% on the quiz is another issue.  Does he truly not understand the concepts tested, or did he not understand the instructions?  That will take some extra sleuthing.


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