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Rule #10
Make Certain That
Your Kids Have No
Exercise, Fun or Free Time

I have been pretty clear that I am no great fan of most homework.

Just consider the fact that when your kids are doing homework, they are NOT doing other things. Life is always a trade off: when youíre sleeping, youíre not working, etc. But our children only have a few hours after school and before bedtime. (You know how I feel about bedtime!) If they spend all or most of these precious hours slaving away doing homework, they are giving up kid time.


You do remember kid time?

  • playing
  • hanging out with friends (the good kind),
  • riding a bike, climbing a tree,
  • helping a parent cook dinner,
  • browsing the aisles at a store,
  • reading a book just for fun,
  • laying on the grass looking at the clouds,
  • attending a scout meeting,
  • talking to your best friend on the phone,
  • coloring,
  • building a model,
  • playing a game,
  • taking a nap,
  • getting a rug burn,
  • trying on your momís makeup,
  • digging a hole to China,
  • building a fort,
  • kicking a soccer ball,
  • watching a movie,
  • looking at your favorite TV show,
  • spinning in circles until youíre dizzy,
  • washing the dog,
  • riding a horse,
  • fighting with your sister,
  • arguing with your brother,
  • roller skating,
  • going down a slide,
  • eating a snack,
  • learning how to knit,
  • talking to Grandpa on the phone,
  • doing absolutely nothingÖ

Children need free/play time to develop physically, emotionally, socially, and academically. We crack the homework whip because we want them to do well in school, but they need a break from school in order to do well in school! When we take away our kidsí play, we are actually making it more difficult for them to thrive and be happy, little learners.

Remember those good intentions turning out badly?

Iím not telling you anything you donít already know. You know that kids need a break. Adults need a break from work, donít they? We feel sorry for grown ups that work all day and then drag home briefcases of work. We understand that a 45 year-old executive needs to turn off from ďwork mode,Ē and relax. Yet, we ask children to work all day at school and then do hours of homework. Come on, now!

How do you feel when you have had time off: rested, refreshed, invigorated, ready to jump back in and get going? Donít we want our children to feel the same way? And, they can- if we give them some time off.

As far as I am concerned, once they leave school, students should be free- totally free- from it until the next morning. I will give you the occasional project; and, if older students must do a few minutes of homework once in awhile, okay, theyíll live. The problem is that kids are getting a lot more than a few minutes of homework. Theyíre getting hours and hours of homework and not enough free play. They even have assignments over summer vacation!

Itís too much. Just because they are able to make it through a full day of school and come home and suffer through hours of homework and studying does not mean that it is right or good for them. After all, kids had the ability to work in factories and coal mines, but we put a stop to it because it was wrong.

Parents complain to me that if their children just came in and got focused, their homework would be done in minutes, and then they could have kid time. Yes, that is true. They could come home after an entire day of reading, tests, math, sitting still, raising their hands, not licking the glue stick, reading again- after all of this hard work and restraint your kids could sit right down and do twenty-five math problems, read a story, write in their reading journal, put twelve words into sentences, and get started on the diorama of a Maidu village. Of course they hem and haw, procrastinate and take breaks! Wouldnít you?

How many adults do their taxes in January? Not too many. Itís hard to get started on such a tedious, boring task. We donít have our parents standing over us, yelling at us to do our taxes. Itís up to us to be self-motivated, and what do we do?

Put it off until tomorrow, a.k.a. April 14th.

For many kids, homework is like doing their taxes every night.

Can they get a little sympathy now, for crying out loud?

Letís not even talk about the effect non-stop school has on our childrenís attitude about school and learning. There is a reason they arenít excited to go to the salt mines school the next day. If you want your children to have a positive attitude towards school, make sure they have some time away from it, and that includes homework. Let them relax after school, on weekends, holidays and vacations. Allow these times to be restorative, and your kids can return to school full of energy and with a positive attitude.

If we push, push, push, they will burn out, burn out, burn out.

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.
- Leo Buscaglia

Can You See the Future?

Why, oh why, must we go through so much as parents?

Sometimes I envy creatures that give birth and swim or waddle or slink away. Those parents have no worries, no guilt, no blame. On the other hand, they also donít get to enjoy their progeny. Plus, I want to see how these kids turn out!

Donít we all want our children to grow up to be happy and healthy adults, life-long learners, strong readers, great scholars- and totally able to take care of themselves? I do not want to have to take care of my children when they are adults- or watch them struggle financially. I want my kids to earn more than enough money to afford whatever (honest, legal) lifestyle they choose. The fat checks I will tuck in birthday and holiday cards will, hopefully, be for extras- not rent and groceries.

If things go as planned, my two rugrats will be successful and flu$h in their chosen careers. And, these careers will be possible because they got the training, the degrees, whatever schooliní and learniní required. I do not want them to have to settle for jobs they hate because they were pushed so hard as kids that they couldnít handle another minute of school when they were older.

Hereís another thing: I do not want my grown children living with me. Iíd like them to live next door, or maybe around the corner if they need some space. They can bring my grandkids over for Sunday dinner and Tuesday ice cream and Thursday toy runs. But, please, no living in my basement!

Of course, if you are determined to keep your kids at home, doing their laundry, trying to convince them to go for that job at the gas station after they take that high-school equivalency prep class- be my guest.

Iím hoping, dreaming, praying and furiously working to make my ideal future a reality, but I do realize that there are no guarantees in life. I can try my best, but I cannot be positive that my children will grow into happy, self-fulfilled and independent adults- or that I will be around to see how any of it turns out. Itís a sobering thought.

What I do know is that there are things I can do now so that they:

☺love school

☺become self-motivated learners

☺are proud of themselves

☺get great college application recommendations from their teachers

☺want to live on their own when theyíre 40

Good Luck!

I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign on the door that says 'Checkout Time Is 18 Years.'
- Erma Bombeck