by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
Teachers often hear, “My child… never finishes his/her homework before
bedtime… lives in the moment... puts things off until the last minute… is always late
getting ready for school… never gets to practice on time... completes one assignment
and doesn’t finish any others. Why?” There may be several
reasons. Some students are able to come home, finish
homework, complete school projects, or practice piano
lessons, and pack their book bags for the next school day –
unassisted. Then, there are others, especially those who have
weaknesses in processing or executive functioning skills,
whose lack of time-management skills affects their success
both in and out of school.
Children spend as many as seven hours a day at school and some as many as four
more hours in after-school care and/or participating in after-school activities. Once
arriving at home for the evening, there may be projects and homework to complete,
more lessons to practice, etc. Should teachers teach time-management skills? Yes! Even
if some students manage their time well, teachers should incorporate, directly and
indirectly, simple time management strategies in the daily curriculum. Then, parents
should help their children follow through with those strategies at home.
Tips for Time Management at Home
Time-management skills must transition from school to home. Use the following
strategies to help your children continue learning and understanding the importance of
- Provide a clock or visual timer for your children as early as preschool and help
them gauge their time spent on tasks. Some visual timers display time increments
in color. As time passes, the colored section disappears. You can also use a sand
timer. The child is able to “see” how much time is left. Use timers for bath time,
dressing time, or TV time, and for homework. Set times should be appropriate for
the age and ability of the child.
- Give your children some “down time” before “homework time.” Provide a healthy
snack of fruit or crunchy, raw vegetables and dip or crackers and cheese to give
your children a boost of energy in order to push through another hour or so
- Teach increments of time to early learners by relating a period of time they are
familiar with to their time on a task(s). For example, “You have thirty minutes.
That is as much time as it takes us to get to Grandma’s house.”
- Provide a quiet place, free from TV or other distractions, that is stocked with
school supplies where your children can sit and work without interruption. Set
a clock/timer for an increment of time appropriate for the child’s age and ability.
Adjust times accordingly if you see that the “time’s up!” factor is stressful. Allow
them to have more time if time is not being wasted or interrupted.
- Monitor homework assignments daily. Guide your children in prioritizing lengthier
or more challenging assignments first. If your child has an IEP (Individualized
Education Program), ask the special education teacher for guidance as to how
much time your child needs or should spend on assignments. Some students with
IEPs have accommodations suggesting time increments for completing homework
assignments. Some students may have a reduction in the amount of work assigned
(e.g., writing 5 sentences with spelling words rather than 10). Ask your child’s
teacher for the strategies that work best for him/her while working in school.
- Keep expectations for completing work at home the same as those in school. Use
your children’s planners/agendas to keep open and consistent communication with