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When is the best time to do homework?

Marissa Burke
July 17, 2017

While the morning get-up-get-ready-get-to-school-and-work rush is bad enough, the afternoons can be just as tiring. Parents are exhausted from working and running around all day and kids are tired from being in school. And now it's time for homework.

Many parents have to listen to the heartfelt pleas of "Can I watch just a half hour of TV first? Pleassssse." Do you give in?

Is it better for kids to get right down to homework so they can relax the rest of the night or relax first and wait to tackle it until later in the afternoon or evening? This a common debate in many households on a nightly basis.

Our experts offer their advice on which option might be better for your family.

Option #1: Homework right after school

When the kids come home and head straight into homework, the work of the day is fresh in their minds. It can be easier to help them understand problems being asked or to recall suggestions from their teachers.

Homework right after school may also instill a sense of accomplishment and timeliness about work that needs to be done. Instead of procrastinating, homework is finished and the night ahead is clear.

Drew Edwards, author of "How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid," suggests, "the best time could be right after school, in the afternoon after a short break."

It may be hard for you or your after-school sitter to get kids to focus after being cooped up in school all day. As P.E. classes are shortened and art and music classes are cancelled, there is nowhere for kids to let off steam during the day. If you think your child could use 30 minutes to decompress after school, allow it. But when homework is finished, don't let mindless television take up the evening. Play a card or board game or color some pictures.

Option #2: A short break before homework

Some kids, like some adults, need time to shift from one task to another. The walk home after school may not be enough time to switch from the classroom to the family home and post-dinner may be the best time to start homework with your kids. Playing outside with friends who aren't in their class or just having time to relax in their own home before settling in to homework for the evening might be a better plan for some families.

Patti Ghezzi, an educational journalist and founder of the blog Get Schooled, thinks that "not all kids can focus on homework right after finishing a long day at school. Consider giving your child a chance to play and relax before starting homework."

Option #3: Homework after dinner

Homework after dinner may work best for your family too if there are two parents working outside the house. Helping with difficult assignments or test prep (if you can handle the pressure!) can be a time for bonding between parent and child. Lessons learned from mom or dad (who are the first teachers, after all) can have a huge impact in children's lives.

In the meantime, fill after-school hours by letting children "help" you in the kitchen making dinner as part of their down time, or try yoga or stretching, along with 30 minutes of exercise to get the final wiggles out. That way, homework can take center stage after dinner.

The pitfalls of doing homework after dinner, though, include an over-tired child who doesn't want to do homework — thus putting off bedtime.

If after-dinner homework isn't working, consider switching to right after school, but prepare yourself for a little foot dragging. Consider making a game-time decision when your child gets home from school. If math homework tends to be the most time consuming and your child informs you that's what's on tonight's agenda, completing it before dinner may be the way to go.

Time is of the essence when it comes to kids' schedules. They might be struggling through homework and juggling recitals, lessons and practice now, but soon you'll be spending hours helping them apply to college. The after-school craziness will be nothing but a happy memory you might actually miss.

Read next: What is an after-school nanny or sitter — and do you need one?

Marissa Burke is a freelance writer in Lakewood, Ohio. Her work can be found here.

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