Welcome to the “Navigating the Yearly Calendar” series! This is a monthly series where we will explore strategies and tools that intersect with the calendar and the rhythm of a school year.
There is a reason we as humans mark time. It is a vital part of our being that helps us make sense out of the world around us as well as our own existence. Marking time is not new; it dates back to the earliest of civilizations. However, in our fast-paced world, marking time can be complicated given all the simultaneous demands on our lives. Marking time has been further impacted by the COVID pandemic, during which, time as we know it, was disrupted. Even today, we are still grappling with the effects of this time disruption.
This series is designed as a reset of how we mark time as it relates to executive functioning skills. By looking at executive functioning on a monthly basis, we can help our children manage time, stuff, and information.
Executive Functioning in October:
October is the first month when we can see if the seeds for success that were planted in the beginning of the year have sprouted. It is a crucial month. October marks the first grading period where there is feedback on student behavior and progress. Additionally, patterns in test preparation, time management and timely submission of work become clear. Therefore, it is critical that changes are made if progress is not what was expected. For students who are not performing well, a strong course may be needed. The goal of October is to objectively evaluate how students are performing in the areas of organization, managing time and information, and taking action.
From an executive functioning point of view, October is the month to intentionally ensure that there is plenty of time set aside for “home” work during the week AND on the weekends. Generally, 2 hours need to be available after school Monday through Thursday to get homework done and 2 hours should be available on Saturday and Sunday to complete any work that didn’t get finished or to prepare for upcoming school week.
- Make course corrections if needed. If students are performing below a B in a class, have missing/late assignments, or performance below 80% on work, a course correction is needed. The course correction starts with ensuring that there is enough time in the schedule to get high quality work completed in a timely manner. This may mean pausing certain extra-curricular activities until the situation improves. It also often means that momentum is lost and work is started too late in the evening. A good rule of thumb is that the break after school and before homework should be no longer than 1 hour.
- Introduce or reintroduce the concept of borrowing time. The reality of life for children and teens is that for much of the week their days are spent divided between in school activities, extra curricular activities, and homework. The concept of “borrowing time” helps them understand that time spent on specific activities is dependent upon the time available to do these activities. For example, if there is soccer practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, then we “borrow” the time that would be used for homework and studying on those days and apply them to the other days (for example, Tuesdays/Thursdays). For those who have difficulty with time management, it is crucial to show them visually where borrowing time is used. In general, it is best practice to ensure when there are after school activities that the time that would be used for homework or studying is available at other times during the week.
- Check in on morning and evening schedules. One of the mistakes families make with setting up schedules is to assume that they are predictable routines well before this is accurate. The fact of the matter is routines can be interrupted pretty quickly by even changes in weather, time of dusk, etc. A schedule review and tweaking if necessary are really worth it.
- Recheck work spaces and supplies. It’s not uncommon for children who struggle with executive functioning issues to go through supplies more quickly than others. Instead of getting upset, have extra supplies on hand. It’s also worth spending a few minutes with your child straightening up the workspace on a regular basis.
- Check in with the professional providing support. Ensuring that support is happening is vital, yet it is only part of the solution. It is important that you, as a parent, are aware of progress and areas of concern from the point of view of the professional. Additionally, if you have not done so, ensure that there is communication with professionals and teachers to maximize progress.
Wishing you and your child a successful month as you continue to navigate cooler weather, busy schedules, and watch the sprouts appear from the seeds of success that were planted what seems like a long time ago.