Balancing homework and down time for all ages

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It's time once again for early mornings, school uniforms and lots of arguing over homework.

But local parents say it doesn't have to be that way. True - most kids just want to play after a full day of school, but if they don't get homework done shortly after school, it just might not get done.

Some parents have a homework-before-play policy, while others believe their children need a break before plunging into homework. As they say, different strokes for different folks.

Bluffton mom Denise Starykowicz allows her 8-year-old son, James, a certain amount of time to play before starting homework.

"James needs to get out some of his energy before jumping back into schoolwork," Starykowicz said.

If James has a lot of homework on a given day, his mother lets him split it up with play breaks.

Other parents - like Hilton Head mom of four Carly Strocko - give their children an after-school snack and require homework to be done immediately afterward.

"I hate to make them come home from school and immediately start doing homework," Strocko said. "But if they sit around too long, they really have no energy to do it."

No matter what the rules are at home, parents seem to agree that routine is important so kids know what to expect. Rewards also seem to be essential.

Andrea Hayes of Bluffton has two children who have already graduated high school and two more still at home - one in 10th grade and another in 12th.

Hayes' rule is that once the children reach middle school, it is their responsibility to take care of their homework without reminders.

"They know it has to be done. Period," Hayes said. "They have all done a sport, and my rule is you have to get good grades first, or I will not spend time and money on your sport if you have not done your 'job' as a student."

Bluffton mom Lynn Wiltse adheres to the homework-first policy, but this year will be different for her three children, who all attend River Ridge Academy. She said the school recently announced there will be no homework this year.

Other schools in the Beaufort County School District, including Red Cedar Elementary School and Bluffton Elementary School, discourage homework assignments, school district spokesman Jim Foster said. However, Foster said, teachers are allowed to assign homework if parents request it.

When Wiltse's children did have to complete daily homework, she sat down with them and did her own work.

"Same thing with reading," Wiltse said. "We all sat down and read (usually before bedtime), and I wanted them to see that I still read too, even though it's not part of my homework. I want them to see reading as enjoyable, not just something required."

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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