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I knew from the time my son started preschool that doing homework with him wasn’t going to be easy. He didn’t want to sit still and he didn’t seem to want to learn anything from me. So I had to take a step back and let his teachers do the heavy lifting, but that doesn’t mean the homework hassles went away or that I didn’t bear the brunt of many meltdowns.

Jayden is quick to get frustrated. Sometimes he gets so upset that he completely shuts down. He just stops listening to my advice, making it hard to help him.

Even though there is no perfect formula to get through homework without any meltdowns here’s what I’m learning through trial and error and also from other moms. Here are six ways to tackle homework battles.

1. Snack Is Critical – Kids are at school for almost seven hours and they are starving when they get home. I always give my kids snack before they have to start their homework. I know they can’t focus if their bellies are growling.

2. Eliminate Distractions – There’s no TV on, no toys on the table and I try my best to keep my toddler from distracting my older two while they’re doing their homework. My son is so easily distracted by anything and it takes him a while to refocus once he is.

3. Be Flexible On Homework Times – I was always insistent with both my children that they had to do their homework right after their afternoon snack. While that has always worked well for my daughter, I’m starting to see that this doesn’t work as well for my son. He really needs to run around and play for a little while before he gets started on his homework.

Other moms in my moms’ group on Facebook also choose different homework times that suit their children best. Some moms find it’s easier for their early rising children to do it in the morning before school. Some moms sit down and help their children after dinner. I’m learning that what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another.

4. Set Limits – Several times last year, after my son’s homework meltdown was carrying on for a long time I would insist that he just stop working on it. I offer to write his teacher a note explaining how he was struggling with it. After all, we’re supposed to be supporting each other and if there is something about the lesson he doesn’t understand his teacher needs to know that.

Typically just giving him an out, would give us both time to cool off and he would come to me later insisting he finish the work. The “homework timeout” gave him enough time to calm down so he could listen as I tried to help him or gave him the patience to reread the instructions without his default attitude being, “I can’t do this!” It’s like hitting a reset button.

Other moms set timers and let their kids have a break when it goes off or split it up so they do half their work before dinner, and half after. Sometimes it’s just easier for some kids to do one or two assignments at a time so they don’t get overwhelmed when they have a lot of work.

5. Talk to Your Child’s Teacher – A strong line of communication between you and your child’s teacher is absolutely key to their success when they have trouble with homework. Last year when he was in first grade, my son had too much work in my opinion. There were always five assignments on the list every night and it would take sometimes 45 minutes to an hour for him to get through all of it, and he never made it through without constant prompting to get him to focus.

At our first part/teacher conference, I explained my concerns to his teacher and I was amazed at how understanding she was. I learned right away that I was misreading her homework chart and he was doing one assignment every day that only needed to be completed once a week. She also explained that she didn’t want her homework to take that long and if it took him longer than twenty or thirty minutes to complete then I should let her know. Some kids like my daughter power through homework quickly and others like my son need longer.

6. Give Problem Solving Strategies Instead of Answers – A lot of times when my kids are having trouble with a problem it’s because they misread the directions. If they make a mistake I usually ask them to look at the answer again and reread the question so that they find the mistake themselves. Sometimes having them reread the directions themselves allows them to hear what they missed before.

I also have them reread paragraphs to find the answer or look at similar math problems that they got right to see where they went wrong on a particular question. Even though I know it would be quicker and less frustrating if I just told them the answer, when they get to middle and high school I know there will be times I don’t know the answer. It’s my hope that giving them strategies to help themselves will serve them well, even if it means more of a hassle right now. Plus, they are proud of themselves when they do finally get it.

I’m still learning about the unique learning styles of my kids and I’m trying to be more flexible. I’m hoping to make this year’s homework battles easier to overcome.

How do you help your children when they’re struggling with their homework?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.



The Simple To Make Ouija Board

When I was a kid I played the Ouija board “game” that supposedly contacted spirits to answer questions about your life. I played it at a friend’s house when I was in Middle School. Now the kids have found a new “game” to play called Charlie, Charlie or the Charlie Charlie Challenge. It’s has been played in Spanish speaking countries for generations, but has exploded in popularity in the U.S. recently. If you had asked me last week I would have no clue what game it was.

Young Kids Introduced At School

The fact that the game merely requires pencils and paper make it easy to play anywhere, even school. The Washington Post did an article about the game and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to play. Basically you draw four quadrants on a piece of paper with yes or no in each one. Then you ask permission for Charlie, a demon/ghost of a murdered boy to play. After asking questions, you are supposed to ask Charlie permission to end the game and supposedly those that do not are haunted. My husband read about the game online and just asked my seven-year-old daughter if she had heard about it. She was introduced to it that very day by a friend in her class,HER SECOND GRADE CLASS!

Spiritual Warfare

Even if you aren’t a religious family, I can find plenty of objections to this game and cause to bring it to the attention of teachers and administrators. Besides being scared and getting nightmares, this game teaches kids about evil forces in the world. Sure it seems like it’s just a game, but kids have a natural curiosity about death and I can’t imagine any parent wants to approach that conversation in the context of demons or hell.

What Happens When We Die?

It’s the million dollar question and one day our kids will ask us. In fact my daughter just had the realization a week ago that one day her mother and father will die. It broke my heart to see the tears in Hannah’s eyes so I did what any parent would do. I made a promise I can’t keep. I promised not to die for a very long time. I remember having a similar ah ha moment at around her age and my dad died when I was only 14. No matter what any of us believes none of us have control over when we leave this world. We just try to protect their hearts. We try to calm their fears.

Not A Lesson For School

So I urge you to ask your child if they have heard of or played this game. Tell them to steer clear of it and not to play it. Ask your child’s teacher if they have seen kids playing it and if so ask him/her to put a stop to it. If my child is not allowed to pray to God in school, no child has the right to teach her about the devil or demons. Hannah and I talked and prayed about it and she promised to never play it again.

No matter what you believe about heaven or hell, God and the devil or anything regarding what happens after we die, these lessons should be learned from parents, not peers. Has your child played or heard of this game? If so what did you tell them about it?

So thanks to an insanely packed and hot Open House night on Thursday, Sydney now has a stuffy nose and my husband has a full blown cold. Welcome back to school indeed. I was just commenting the other day how pleasant it’s been to have a sickness free household all summer and how it was all about to end. Guess it was a self-fulfilling prophesy or else just pretty good odds that an elementary school would be a perfect breeding ground for germs. Since the baby is co-sleeping in our room I know that being sandwhiched between the two of them, this cold is coming for me soon. I feel like sick mom walking.

sick mom

Image credit

Moms Should Be Immune To Germs

You’d think that the sheer volume of bodily fluids moms come into contact with on a daily basis would make moms immune to all manner of illnesses, but alas that’s not the case. I swear I couldn’t tell if it was me or Sydney that reeked of baby vomit yesterday. It was probably both of us. Since I’m breastfeeding that means that when this cold does hit, my options for medicine  are pretty limited. Guess I’ll be drinking lots of OJ and tea and suffering through. It’s what moms do; we put our misery aside, get up (even when our body screams at us to lie down) and take care of the family. Life doesn’t stop just cause mom gets sick.

Moms – The Circus Act

Moms are born multi-taskers, juggling the needs of all our family members at once. I’m not saying we get everything done with equal proficiency, but if we didn’t at least try it seems the world would fall apart (at least mine would). Right now I just got off the phone with my husband who’s volunteering today despite feeling yucky, I’m talking to my neighbor on Facebook, watching my kids out in the backyard, writing this post and rocking a fussy baby in her chair with my foot. Sometimes I truly don’t know what I’d do if I had the ability to focus on one task at a time.

Who Is Mom’s Understudy?

So I have an important question – who takes care of mom when she’s sick? So far I’ve found that in my household the answer is no one. My husband (if I ask/complain enough) will help lighten the load by taking care of the older kids and maybe the cooking. Right now I’m still in survival mode with a newborn. I don’t know if that’s good or not. It just means that I’m used to feeling tired and a bit underwater. It’s amazing how you ALMOST get used to it. The other day my husband had off from work so he got the kids ready for school so I could catch a little more sleep. I actually noticed one layer of fog seemed to have lifted from my brain, BUT with a sick baby who needs her nose sucked out every few hours the feeling didn’t last very long.

The Comfort of MOM

There are days I knew it was going to be harder with three kids, but I think that it’s harder not having my mother around to help me anymore. I have pulled myself from the couch during a nasty stomach bug to take care of two kids, so I know I can deal with three kids and a head cold. I’m just missing the comfort of mom. A shoulder to lean on, someone to baby me and make a fuss as if I’m still the child. There is a physical comfort of a mother that I know all too well when it comes to my own sick kiddos. My husband tries to do the same things, but sometimes they just want mom. I too miss that physical comfort. If your mom is still alive you are indeed blessed.

If you can ask for help from anyone while your sick, do it. Send up an SOS, a bat signal or whatever it takes because even as I say to myself there is no time for me to be sick, the  reality is that it’s going to happen whether I’m ready or not. So I’ll say cheers with my OJ, and send up another prayer that I don’t get this cold, not because I’m so worried about me, but because I worry about who will take care of Will, Sydney, Hannah and Jayden if I’m down for the count. Nobody knows better than a mom how horrible it feels to watch your kids when they feel sick. It’s even worse to watch them feeling miserable from your own tissue filled corner of the couch.

I wish you all a germ free week. Feel free to share you secrets to staying sickness free during the school year.

How many times has your child come home upset about something that happened at school, but wouldn’t talk to you about it? If you found out it was because they were being bullied, what would you do? Well, one father took justice into his own hands. According to a report on the Today Show a man in Florida boarded his daughter’s school bus to defend her from middle-schoolers who were allegedly “taunting, hitting, and even throwing condoms at her”. The 11-year-old girl has cerebral palsy and the father’s lawyer says she is now under suicide watch. Even if you don’t condone the father’s behavior, you can see where he is coming from. Who wouldn’t fight for their child?

What do you think?

A Texas 4 year old boy nicknamed “tater tot” has been at the center on controversy for a few months now, for what you say? What could he have possibly done? Well he has shoulder length hair that’s what he did! “They kicked me out that place,” Taylor said. “I miss my friends.” Taylor’s father, Delton Pugh feelings on the matter is “It appears the school district “is more concerned about his hair than his education,” . “I don’t think it’s right to hold a child down and force him to do something … when it’s not hurting him or affecting his education.” Pugh, a tattoo artist, said he used to shave his own head but that his son “made me pinky promise I would let my hair grow long with him.” Taylor has been put on in school suspension where he sits in the library with a Teachers aide, and is not allowed to play with friends during recess. I find it a bit much, however rules are rules…But aren’t some rules meant to be broken? I guess not as far as the school district. According to the district dress code, boys’ hair must be kept out of the eyes and cannot extend below the bottom of earlobes or over the collar of a dress shirt. Fads in hairstyles “designed to attract attention to the individual or to disrupt the orderly conduct of the classroom or campus is not permitted,” the policy states.

This below was on the list as well for all children:

Hair is to be clean and well-groomed. Unusual coloring or excessive hairstyles that may include “tails,” “designs,” “puffs,” etc. are prohibited.

So does that mean a girls can’t wear pony “tails”? Or those cute little “puffs” that African American little girls have in their naturally tight curly hair? Or if you take your daughter to one of the hair wrapping places and they get “designs” with the thread? You mean that’s is not allowed either? WOW. Thoughts anyone?

Understand your child’s IEP

 Patricia S. Phelan runs The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan – a practice dedicated exclusively to the field of special education law and advocacy.  Ms. Phelan has been practicing law for eighteen years and is an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  For guidance about your child’s rights under the law, please contact Ms. Phelan by email at or telephone at 845-398-3273.  For more information about The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, go to

Once you have read your child’s IEP, follow these simple steps to better understand the IEP. First, copy the IEP. File the original in a binder you have set aside for that purpose.

Working with the copy, highlight each heading, separating the eight categories. Then look to see if the IEP says one thing in one place and the opposite in another. Highlight any inconsistencies. Also highlight anything that seems different from your recollection of what was said at the IEP meeting. Write notes in the margins.

Other areas you might want to highlight include:

  • Any reference to parent training.
  • Anything to be done by the parent.

It is crucial to a child’s educational success that parents are on board with what is occurring at school. Parents must also take steps outside of school to carry over what their children learn in school.

Summarize your IEP

Once you have reviewed the IEP in this manner, take out a plain piece of paper. You are going to summarize your IEP for a quick-reference guide.

  • Services and Programs

Make a list of all services and programs your child will receive according to the IEP. Include how often your child will get this service (frequency). Write down how long the service will last each session (duration). Say how many children to teachers will be in your child’s group (ratio). (For example: speech and language – 2 times a week x 30 minutes; 3 students: 1 therapist). This will give you a simple list of what services your child should be getting.

After school starts, you should speak with the teachers to make sure your child’s services are actually taking place as directed in the IEP.

  •  Parent Responsibilities

Make a list of any specific tasks that you are given. These might include parent training, reviewing homework, etc.

  • Child’s Goals

Write a brief description of each goal your child will work on. Mark down which teacher is supposed to tell you about your child’s progress toward each goal. Number these goals consistently with the numbers in the IEP so they are easy to correlate.

This brief list gives you a quick reference to what your child should be working on at school.

You can communicate from time to time with your child’s teachers.

You should have an open relationship with them. Be careful, however, not to be too intrusive. Balance is important. Ask the teachers for any information they may have to help your child meet his or her goals outside of school.

Let the teachers know if you have any questions or concerns about how your child is doing. This approach will help you make sure your child continues to advance on each goal even before you receive formal progress notes.

If your child does not seem to be advancing, you should ask to meet with your child’s teachers. If necessary, you can also ask for a formal IEP meeting to review the educational plan with the team.

Summarize the PLOPs

If you have not done so already, when you prepared for your child’s IEP meeting, make a list of his or her Present Levels of Academic Achievement, Functional Performance and Individual Needs (PLOPs).  As you learned in an earlier Part of this Series, this is a summary of your child’s academic, social, physical, and management needs (supports needed to help your child learn). 

In order to help you to record your child’s PLOPs, download a PLOPs tracking form from my web sight (

This is a valuable tool to use not only to determine if your child’s IEP is accurate, but also to hand to people working with your child to summarize your child’s strengths and needs.

Determine whether your IEP is Accurate

The IEP was created at a team meeting. That meeting probably happened weeks or months before you received the document in the mail. It is important to make sure that the recommendations the team made during the IEP meeting are correctly stated in the written IEP.

Parents should take the following steps:

  • Review any notes you took during the IEP meeting.
  • Compare the notes with the written IEP.
  • If you taped the meeting, dig out the tape, review it, and compare it to the written IEP.
    • Be aware that you are allowed to tape in many states. There is nothing under either Federal or New York law that says you cannot openly tape an IEP meeting.
    • Check with your school district, however, to see if they have a policy about taping.  If they do, politely ask for a copy of the policy, in writing.  Even if your school does have a policy against taping, they still must allow you to tape if their policy does not let you sufficiently participate in the IEP process.
    • If you do tape, give the school district advance notice.
  • After the IEP meeting, you may have wisely written a “thank you” letter politely explaining what was agreed to. Now is the time to compare your copy of that letter with the written IEP. If you did not write a letter, remember to do so next year! Always say thank you.
  • Consider speaking to others who were at the meeting. Ask them what they remember. Compare their recollections to the information in the written IEP.
  • Compare the PLOPs form you created with the description of the PLOPs on the IEP.

If you are completely happy with the IEP at this stage, write a short note thanking the chairperson of your meeting. It is a good practice to document successes as well as problems.

On the other hand, if you have any concerns about the written IEP, you must explain them in a letter to the school district. Your concerns might focus on whether the IEP is written correctly. You might also be concerned about the level of services recommended.

Letter to the District

Here are some guidelines for a letter, should you need to send one:

  • Explain that you received the IEP.
  • Thank the school district for its attention to your child’s educational needs.
  • State that you hope to continue to work together with the district on your child’s needs.
  • Explain that after reviewing the IEP, you have some concerns.
  • Specify your concerns.
  • Suggest a solution for these problems. You might request that the district simply correct mistakes in the written IEP. But you also might need another meeting to change the services recommended.
  • Ask that this letter become part of your child’s educational file.
  • Address the letter to the chairperson of the meeting. If the director of special education did not chair the meeting, address it to the director, as well.
  • Make plans to deliver this letter by hand to each recipient.
  • Before you deliver the letter, copy it. The duplicate is your “file” copy.
  • On the back of your file copy, write the day and time of delivery.
  • Try to personally hand the letter to each intended recipient.
  • If you must give it to someone else, make note of the name of the person who receives it and keep it for your files. (Also describe what this person looks like and what he or she is wearing.) Be sure to ask this person to give your letter to the person for whom it is intended.

The goal is for you and your school district to be able to quickly fix any concerns you have. If obstacles arise, ask yourself whether your concerns are significant to your child’s special education program. If they are, you might consider consulting with a special education attorney. An attorney can effectively help you figure out your options and advocate for your child’s needs.

In my next blog, I will address some organizational strategies to help you keep good records of your child’s performance.

For additional resources, including helpful books and links to other web sites, I encourage you to access my web site at             

  *I would like to thank Pete and Pam Wright for their assistance in editing certain portions of this blog.

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