You’ve become a master at it. Had to. No choice. According to a recently released Salary.com survey, stay-at-home moms put in about 91 hours of work a week. And if you’re also employed outside the home . . . Well, you get the picture. Now think about kids. Most spend at least 35 hours a week in school, plus travel time. Next, add in extracurricular activities, homework and studying, not to mention all the time spent with family and friends, plus chores, eating and sleeping. Life is a juggling act for them, too—but for many, the balls aren’t staying in the air. For such children, which of these would you suggest?
_____ 1. Start in on your studies as soon as you come home from school.
_____ 2. Take a good, long break first and start your schoolwork after dinner
_____ 3. No TV for you until the weekend; we’ll tape your shows.
_____ 4. No, you can’t watch your favorite show tonight; now do your homework.
_____ 5, It’s fine if you want to work and listen to music. Might help you focus.
_____ 6. I don’t care what order you do your homework in—just do it!
_____ 7. No sense working on anything right now; you only have 10 minutes or so.
_____ 8. You can’t do well in school if you sign up for these extracurricular activities.
Truth is, one way or another, these are all false. Honest. Most kids need a break after school—the day is lengthy and often stressful—just not for hours on end. A bit of energizing physical activity, together with a healthy snack, like yogurt or peanut butter- smeared apples, and some end-of-day catching up with you is all it takes. Not coming home and instant messaging or plopping down in front of the TV. Afterward, experts agree that it’s time to hit the books—and order does matter. Advise your child to tackle her hardest subject first, and so on down the line, with short breaks, such as a phone call, in between, never in the middle of an assignment.
And every step of the way should be planned—each assignment, each study session, each break—be it a phone call, a jog around the block, a TV show. Yes, a TV show. A favorite one. Yes, right there in the line up. Not including it on the work schedule can breed resentment. For hour-long programs, though, watching half and taping half for later viewing is the way to go. Other than that, keep it quiet. Discourage the mixing of music and schoolwork. Lyrics distract—and a word or two can even end up in an essay! Worse yet, concentration consumes lots of energy; unconsciously tuning out music at the same time consumes even more. Exhaustion follows quickly.
And never underestimate the potential of ten minute spurts of activity. While we’re paying a few bills, folding laundry, or calling Aunt Sally, our kids can be organizing their notebooks, reading several pages in a novel, or flipping through flash cards as part of a test-prep review. So be assured, despite a couple hours of nightly homework, there’s still time for family, friends, and extracurricular activities. Keep your priorities straight. Sit schoolwork at the top of the agenda and help your child find his balance.