Remember those days at the kitchen table working on math problems with eraser shreds everywhere?
Homework can be challenging: both to start and complete. The environment we work in though makes a huge difference!
It takes a nice growth mindset, time management skills, and mentorship to be most successful!
Executive Functioning Implications
Let’s first talk about what executive functioning is! Executive Functioning is defined as “the collection of cognitive skills (inhibition, working memory updating, task-set switching, attention) that give rise to goal-directed behavior (Science direct). Many of these tasks are localized largely (not entirely though) to the prefrontal cortex. It makes sense. Homework requires a lot of these cognitive skills. Without task-set switching, we can’t move on to the next task or homework problem. Without attention, we can’t focus on the homework we are doing. Working memory enables us to hold onto key information while using it when we do homework. Inhibition prevents us from acting on our impulse like getting up to do something else or checking our phone.
When executive functioning challenges arise, it can be very challenging to get that homework done! Executive functioning skills don’t fully develop until the prefrontal cortex is developed in the mid 20s, and then they can be strengthened beyond that. Therefore, for kids, those skills aren’t fully developed leading to greater challenges getting things done. On top of that, some kids have larger executive functioning difficulties than others. This could be due to typical variations or weaknesses, or due to a difference such as ADHD or Executive Function Disorder.
The Environment Makes a Big Difference on Homework
When the brain can’t serve entirely as an “executive” to help control and maintain focus to get things done… it may require external control. This could be supplied with a caregiver or mentor or structures and systems put into place. Positive reinforcement can work really well, as well as schedules and set times for getting things done. Even a timer can be super helpful. There is also the Pomodoro Method which uses a certain set of time for work with breaks in between based on a timer.
The environment plays a large role. Distraction-reduced environments are super helpful, as it is harder to get distracted if there are fewer distracting things.
When getting things done is challenging, remember that the executive is in control! When the executive isn’t optimally functioning, external systems can be put in place.
Best of luck! You got this!