Balancing Act: Homework insanity merits questioned

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The words slip off the tongue of the dad who triages a math assignment from his corner office or the mother who darts home from work to review dozens of spelling words: Stop the homework insanity!

I've uttered those words myself, often late at night after my daughter is melting down from hours of math problems on top of essays and chapter outlines. Ask almost any parent, and they will tell you that the volume of homework that fills their kid's agenda is overwhelming.

To rebel, books and websites have been dedicated to the Stop Homework movement, urging letter-writing campaigns and teacher confrontation.

Is the homework insanity we complain about as working parents the key to preparing our kids for the workplace of the future?

One father I know convincingly argues that homework, even volumes, is critical preparation for career success. "It's not realistic for us to raise kids to think they're going to work 9 to 5, leave and they're done," he said. "These kids are going to need to be well prepared to handle all the meetings and projects and emails that come at them in the workplace."

Clearly, there are new rules we play by in the workplace today. If you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life, you have to work harder and smarter. Workplace experts say the next generation of workers will need to be innovators, problem solvers, open-minded risk-takers with the ability to learn new things, adapt to new work situations and maintain high productivity.

Tell that to Debbie Regent, a mother of two girls, 14 and 10, who says homework stress is ruining her life. After a day of work as a campaign executive with the Jewish National Fund, she arrives home to several hours of homework supervision.

"There is a value to reinforcing what you learned that day through homework. There is not value in torturing a kid with five pages of math problems, when they have other classes with homework assignments as well."

Cristy Leon-Rivero, vice president of marketing and human resources at Miami-based Navarro Discount Pharmacy, says homework teaches responsibility, work ethic and time management -- critical skills for workplace success.

"I think it boils down to one word -- discipline," said Ms. Leon-Rivero, a mother of three. "We're teaching our children from a young age that they have responsibilities and that their actions carry consequences and hard work will lead to results."

Meanwhile, countless reports reveal the twenty-somethings entering the workplace today put a higher value than other generations on work-life balance. It makes me wonder: Is this push-back? Are the next generation of workers burned out from years of homework insanity and college pressure by the time they land a job?

Alyssa Alonso, a 24-year-old Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., police dispatcher, says she and most of her friends will admit, even if they love their jobs, "life outside of work is way more important." Many have entered professions where they're expected to respond to email or client calls at all hours and take home paperwork.

"We have the work ethic and we're prepared to handle it," she said, "but we want to avoid it as much as possible."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC. She can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com.


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