The Homework Ate My Family

KIDS ARE DAZED PARENTS ARE STRESSED Why piling it on is hurting students

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There are other ways of soothing nerves. Both parents and students must be willing to embrace the "work" component of homework--to recognize the quiet satisfaction that comes from practice and drill, the steady application of concepts and the mastery of skills. It's a tough thing to ask of many American parents. "You want your children to be happy, and you pray for their success in the future," says Laura Mandel. "But does homework bring either of those goals? I don't think more homework will make a more successful adult." Maybe not, but wisely assigned homework may help make a more successful, well, child. "It is all about learning responsibility," says Janine Bempechat, an assistant professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. "When you have homework on a regular basis, you learn persistence, diligence and delayed gratification."

Molly Benedict, for one, seems to be swallowing the bad medicine with surprising equanimity. "I don't have a lot of time to do just whatever," she admits. "My friends and I think it's a lot of work. But we've adapted well." Kids like Molly have learned it's a rough world, and homework is only part of it. But who knows? If teachers and parents start approaching homework with a little less heat and a little more care, kids may still have time left to be kids. Or whatever.

--With reporting by Michele Donley and Sheila Gribben/Chicago, Deborah Fowler/Houston, Laird Harrison/San Francisco, Jodie Morse/Boston and Todd Murphy/Portland, Ore.

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