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Helping Gifted Children With Common Homework Problems

Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.

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Andrea Rice is an award-winning journalist and a freelance writer, editor, and fact-checker specializing in health and wellness.

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The last thing most parents of gifted children would think their kids will have problems with is homework. After all, gifted children are cognitively advanced and learn quickly. Unfortunately, for some parents, visions of straight-A report cards are replaced by one or more (or even all) of these problems:

  • Child does homework but doesn’t turn it in
  • Child procrastinates
  • Child rushes and makes careless errors
  • Child says they did it at school, but didn’t

It’s not unusual for a gifted child to experience some or all of these problems. It is difficult to motivate a child to do homework to begin with, despite that gifted children are often intrinsically motivated. The first step in solving these homework problems is to understand what causes them.

Reasons for Homework Problems

From learning disabilities to perfectionism, there are many reasons why a gifted child might have homework-related issues.

Learning Disability

A gifted child with dyslexia, an auditory processing problem, or some other learning disability may find it difficult to perform as well as they should in school and on homework.  

Gifted children are not immune to learning disabilities and the effects of these challenges can be reflected in your child’s homework-related behaviors, including avoidance.

Gifted children with undiagnosed disabilities may be confused and even embarrassed by the problems they have understanding concepts or doing their homework. It is much less psychologically and emotionally threatening to avoid doing the homework than it is to do it and fail at it.   If they don’t try, they could easily convince themselves that had they done the homework, they would have done it well.

Disorganization

Gifted children who are disorganized have a hard time doing homework because they have misplaced the assignment, forgot to bring the book or worksheet home or forgot the due date. Daily planners don’t always seem to help these children because they might lose, misplace, or forget to bring them.

If they have managed to bring all the necessary materials home on the right day, they can then forget to take it to school or they may take it to school, but be unable to find it in their backpack or they’ll stuff it in their desk or locker at school, where it disappears until the end of the semester or school year.

Perfectionism

Children who are perfectionists are often reluctant to complete their homework because they don’t feel it is good enough. If it doesn’t meet their standards, which tend to be quite high, they can become frustrated. Over time, they may procrastinate in order to avoid that frustration.

Perfectionist children may complete their homework, but then neglect to turn it in because they aren’t satisfied with it or they don’t feel that it reflects their true ability and don’t want their teacher to see it and evaluate it. Perfectionists may also choose to put little effort into their work since they can then rationalize the lack of perfection on the lack of effort.

Lack of Challenge

For any child, homework tasks should be optimally challenging. That means that they should not be too easy or too difficult. Tasks that are too difficult can lead to anxiety while tasks that are too easy can lead to boredom.   In both cases, children find it difficult to concentrate on the task. They will avoid the tasks in order to avoid the unpleasant feeling—either anxiety or boredom—that comes with it.

Work that is not challenging or stimulating can be so tedious to complete that gifted children will avoid doing it at all costs.

When children are given tasks that are too difficult, they can get help learning the concepts or completing the task. When tasks are too easy, on the other hand, no help is necessary; children are simply expected to complete the tasks, in spite of the fact that boredom makes it just as difficult to concentrate on a task as anxiety does. Some children will manage to focus long enough to do the homework, but will rush through it to get it done and as a result, make numerous careless errors.

Homework Solutions

Solving your child’s homework problems requires tackling the underlying issues. Once you’ve identified what’s causing the problematic behavior, you can take steps to rectify it.

Get Help for Learning Disability

Gifted children with a learning disability may have problems with homework. Like all children with a learning disability, gifted children need to learn how to manage the disability and need specific learning strategies and classroom accommodations in order to work at their level of ability. It’s important to recognize, however, that gifted children are often misdiagnosed with disorders like ADHD, bipolar, and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder).

Some (but not all) learning disabilities in gifted children can be discovered through IQ and achievement subtest scores as well as other assessment tests. This testing and any screenings for disorders should be done by a psychologist who has knowledge of and experience working with gifted children.

It’s also important to understand that problems with homework can have many causes; looking for a disability should not necessarily be the first thing considered.

Help Your Child Get Organized

Some children have problems with homework because they forget to bring it home, forget the books they need to do it, forget to take it back to school, or forget when it’s due. If they do remember all that, they may lose the homework, which may eventually turn up—at the end of the school year, stuffed with countless other papers in the child’s desk or locker.

Organizational strategies can help your gifted child make sure that homework is turned in. The best method may depend on your child’s age.

Consider creating a designated homework basket where your child will leave all school-related papers, notebooks, and books when they get home from school. When it’s time to do homework, they’ll pull what they need out of the basket. When they’re done, they put it back. In the morning, everything they need is in one place, ready to take to school.

While you might get your child to do the homework and take it to school, there is no guarantee that your child will turn it in. What can you do to make sure the homework gets turned in? A plastic, expanding folder with separate compartments is a good way to help kids keep track of work that needs to be turned in.

Each compartment can be labeled so that a child knows where the homework is for each class. The expanding folder can be used along with the homework basket. When homework is completed, rather than just placing it in the basket, it can be placed in the appropriate compartment of the expanding folder, which is kept in the basket.

These techniques can work for teens as well as young children, but teens might also find an electronic organizer useful. Teens love electronic gadgets, so they might be more motivated to keep track of their work electronically. It eliminates assignments written in numerous different places, including little scraps of paper.

Set a Homework Schedule

Gifted children will often rush through homework that is too easy for them.   They are eager to get it done so that they can move on to more interesting and stimulating activities.

It is helpful to set a time every day to complete homework. This time must be used for study whether the child has homework or not. When children have homework, they know they must do it during this time.

If the homework takes them only 15 minutes and their assigned study time is one hour, they must fill in the remaining time with additional study.

The additional study can consist of enrichment activities. For example, if your child has an assignment to draw a map of the expansion of the Roman Empire, you might have them write an essay about the Romans or a short story about an imaginary Roman soldier. Once children know they must fill the assigned study time, they may be less likely to rush through their homework just to get it done and move on to other activities.

Consistency is key. The daily study time should be at the same time every day. Consider discussing the options with your child so they can share some control. Your child might choose to do their homework right after school or they might choose to do it right after dinner. Either way, the set time should be consistent.

Although homework time should be the same every day, children who are involved in extracurricular activities may need a more complex schedule. They may need to do homework right after school on Mondays because they have a dance class after dinner but will do homework after dinner on the other days. Consistency will help your child learn that scheduling time for homework is important, and can reinforce necessary time management skills.

Talk to Their Teachers

If a child has had issues getting homework done and turned in for so long that it has become a habit, other strategies may be needed at school, whether the teachers provide more challenging work or not.

Communication with your child’s teacher is a key to success. Ideally, teachers will recognize the need for more challenging homework and will be willing to provide it.

Some schools have homework hotlines that parents can call to find out about homework assignments. In addition, some teachers have websites, where they post assignments, giving you more insight into your child’s homework assignments.

Parents can also arrange with a teacher to sign daily papers about homework. Every day a child writes down homework and has the teacher sign a paper, even when there is no homework. Children cannot say they have no homework when they do.

On those days children have no homework, they should still spend their designated homework time studying. However, for this system to work, children and parents must agree on a consequence for failing to bring home a signed homework sheet. Good study habits are important for success in school and these strategies can help develop those habits.

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How to Make a Better Homework Schedule for Your Family

Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.

Verywell Family content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more.

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter. She has more than 15 years of experience crafting stories in the branding, licensing, and entertainment industries.

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

Do you frequently have homework struggles with your child or teen? Or, does your student procrastinate doing their work? Maybe they even fail to turn in assignments. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, a better homework schedule may help.

A regular homework schedule establishes predictable times when homework is to be completed. Once the homework schedule has been in place for a few weeks, you may even find your child will begin doing their homework without needing to be reminded—although you may still need to monitor their work progress.

Why Homework Schedules Are Effective

If you’re struggling with homework completion in your household, or if you’re having daily battles about allotting the appropriate amount of time to homework, you’re not alone. That’s why educators recommend developing a homework schedule—with input from your kids.

Once you set a homework schedule, then there are no questions about when the work will be done. It also communicates clear expectations; having a homework schedule helps kids understand what is required of them. And following the schedule encourages them to develop a good work ethic.

Schedules also help prevent procrastination and instill good habits like completing work on time. Homework routines also improve study skills and encourage kids to plan ahead.

Other benefits include developing your child’s work ethic and organizational abilities. By helping your child complete their work at regular intervals, you are modeling how to manage time and projects in the future. When you send them off to college, they will know how to pace their work so they can avoid all-nighters at the end of the semester.

A regular homework schedule can help kids transition back into in-person schooling after months of remote work and other pandemic-related disruptions and changes. It also ensures that everyone has time to complete their work with limited distractions.

How to Develop a Homework Schedule

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

To develop a homework schedule, start by talking with your kids. Get their input on how they would like to manage their time and incorporate their homework into their daily routine. A successful homework schedule allows kids to finish their work and also have some free time.

Give Kids an Option

If you ask kids when they want to do their homework, their first answer might be “Never” or “Later.” But if you dig a little deeper, your child may tell you what matters to them as they plan their schedule. This information will help you avoid scheduling homework during their favorite television program or when they usually get online to play games with friends.

When you include your child in the decision-making process, you also will get more buy-in from them because they know that their concerns were heard. You don’t have to give them their way, but at least considering what they have to say will let them feel included. After all, this homework schedule is about them completing their homework.

Allow for Free Time

Some kids can step through the front door and buckle down on their homework right away. When this happens, they reap the reward of getting their work done early and having the rest of the evening to do what they want. But most kids need to eat and decompress a bit before tackling their assignments.

As you develop your homework schedule, keep in mind your child has already spent at least six hours in class. And this time doesn’t include getting to and from school or participation in extracurricular programs. Allow kids some free time before beginning their homework if that’s what they need to unwind.

Establish a Timeline

Generally, you can expect about 10 minutes of homework per grade level of school. This means that a third-grade student will need about 30 minutes to complete homework. However, the amount of time needed can vary dramatically between students, teachers, and schools.

Find out how much time your child’s teacher expects homework to take each evening. If your child takes a lot of time to complete their work or struggles with homework, talk with the teacher. Your child may need extra instruction on a task or tutoring assistance—or fewer homework assignments.

Pick a Homework Spot

Designate a comfortable and efficient spot for your kids to do their homework. This workspace should be well-lit, stocked with supplies, and quiet. The workspace should allow you to provide some supervision.

If you have multiple kids trying to complete their homework at one time, you may want to find a separate location for each child. Sometimes kids can complete their homework together at the kitchen table, but other times having siblings around can be distracting. Do what works best for your family.

Put It All Together

Now that you know what your child’s needs and concerns are for finding a time to do homework, you need to come up with the actual plan. Creating a homework routine is really just one piece of creating a daily school year routine.

For the homework time itself, get it down on paper so you can see exactly what they will be doing and when they will be doing it. Do this for each day of the week if you have different activities on different weekdays. Students who are assigned larger projects will need to review their homework plans regularly to make adjustments as needed.

Expect your child to work consistently throughout the assigned time. Avoid having multiple homework sessions, such as one before dinner and a second one after dinner. Starting and stopping may mean children may spend more time getting into what they are doing than working continuously.

Be Consistent

Once you have decided on a time to do homework, stick to the plan! It usually takes about three weeks for most children to really get into the habit of their new schedule.

If your child or teen has difficulty maintaining concentration for the length of time that their homework should take, then you may want to carefully consider breaking up the work to take advantage of the time when your child can focus.

This added step is especially important for children and teens with depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They may benefit from multiple smaller work sessions and more frequent breaks.

Other Considerations

Even though the idea behind creating a homework schedule is to get your child to work consistently and independently, you may need to look over their work when they are done. This is especially important for younger children.

Make sure they understand their assignments and that they completed a reasonable amount of work during the homework session. If you find your child is having trouble actually working during their homework time, troubleshoot to find out what might be the issue. Sometimes kids need extra help and other times they simply need more motivation to get their work done.

Be patient as kids readjust to being back in the classroom after the difficulties of the 2020-2021 school year. Trying to attend class and complete homework after living through a pandemic is not an easy task. Your child may need more time and guidance from you and their teachers than they did prior to COVID-19.

If you find that your child continues to struggle with homework even with a schedule in place, you might need to dig a little deeper. Consider discussing your child’s issues with their teacher or pediatrician.

Sometimes kids are reluctant to complete their homework because of undiagnosed learning disabilities. It could be that your child struggles with reading comprehension or has a processing disorder. Or it could be that your child is struggling with a mental health issue like anxiety.

A Word From Verywell

Establishing a homework schedule allows children to build some important life skills that will help them as they navigate high school, college, and eventually the workforce. Practice is important when kids are learning new skills. So, having a nightly homework routine enhances your child’s learning. Just be sure you aren’t requiring homework time at the expense of being a kid. Having time to play is just as important to a child’s development as learning new material.