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Why My Kid Doesn’t Have to Finish His Homework

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My son is in first grade and I already have a love-hate relationship with his homework. While at his school first graders are only expected to read or be read to for 20 minutes per night, I know that the inevitable hour or more of homework is in his, and my, future.

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Part of me likes that he has an after-school ritual for which he is totally responsible, except really he’s not responsible for it at all. He’s 7 and can barely remember where he put his shoes even when they’re on his feet. So technically he may have been assigned homework, but I’m pretty much responsible for making sure it gets done. Homework can often make for an unpleasant afternoon wrestling match between an exhausted parent and their equally exhausted child.

The National Education Association recommends that students spend an average of 10 minutes per grade on homework

In my son’s case, my husband or I would already be reading to our son every night, so his assignment is easy and manageable, but as kids get older, their homework responsibility grows. I remember spending hours on homework as a kid. I wonder what I gained from it, if anything at all.

A new book, “The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life” questions the validity of too much time spent on homework and suggests families should get to choose how much time their child spends on homework. Interesting, right?

You see The National Education Association recommends that students spend an average of 10 minutes per grade on homework, meaning a first grader should spend 20 minutes on homework while a seventh grader should spend seventy minutes doing homework. Most schools stick to these guidelines as the book suggests, but that doesn’t mean the students or their parents do too.

That’s because the average high-school student spends less than an hour on homework per day, but over double that on video games, TV or other screen devices. Homework can teach kids time management and organizational skills they’ll need to succeed later in life, but what kid wouldn’t choose to play Mario Cart over finishing that report on Spanish missions in California when given the chance?

So Mom and Dad become the homework police solely responsible for their child’s homework getting done.

I like the idea that their homework is more about the process than about the actual result.

The book’s solution is for every family to decide how much time their child should spend each day on homework. After that designated time period is done, even if the child hasn’t finished his or her homework, he or she can do whatever they want, including playing those video games for which they’ve been salivating all night long. Sounds like a good idea to me!

See the book suggests that most homework has built in busy-work that doesn’t actually benefit a child. So some of the time logged doing homework isn’t actually that helpful to a child’s learning. And while I’m dubious of a theory that says kids don’t have to finish their homework, I like the idea that their homework is more about the process than about the actual result. And let’s face it, grown-ups want to decompress with some screen time. Why can’t our kids?

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So from now on, I’m not getting into any video game-TV-homework battle with my kids. As long as they complete their responsibility, their homework, they are free to spend their time how they wish, doing what they want. I can’t promise my kids will be smarter, but I can promise I’ll be happier. I’m already tired of being a homework cop and it’s only year one.

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