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Kids are overloaded with homework, and it has to stop

Amy Hatch began her career as a print journalist, and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Urbana, Ill. with her husband and two children.

My kids have more homework than I had in college

Every day after school we enact the same drama.

My daughter opens her backpack and out spills a giant pile of papers, stress and tears. She's in fourth grade, but if you looked at her daily assignment planner, you'd think she was attending an Ivy League university — that's how much homework she has.

My child copes with both obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe anxiety, but even "typical" kids are suffering from what one friend of mine refers to as being treated as "smaller adults" when it comes to homework.

I'm a huge proponent of education, to the point that I agreed when my husband suggested he quit his job several years ago to pursue his doctorate four years after finishing up his master's degree. We pay twice our mortgage each month in private-school tuition to ensure our kids get the best possible education available to them where we currently live. My daughter is twice-exceptional (she is both intellectually gifted and has special needs) and my son has been described by his first-grade teacher as "gifted, times two."

We put a high value on schoolwork. However, I'm ready to lead a revolution against the current (horrible, punishing) trend of piling on the assignments outside of school hours. That, plus our culture's go-go-go attitude when it comes to activities like sports and the arts, is making my family miserable.

I can and did put a stop to the insanity when it comes to extracurricular clubs and sports, limiting both kids to activities that meet only twice a week, and for this I am often praised by my peers for my parenting wisdom. When it comes to homework, though, I'm without a champion — or so I thought.

After one particularly grueling session of homework, which included not only three pages of language arts, seven pages of spelling and three pages of geometry but also two-thirds of a long-term social studies project, I vented on Facebook about the toll it was taking on my kid, and on me.

Cajoling, bribing and sometimes even hollering, our before-dinner hours are spent locked in a battle of wills that leaves us both wrung out and exhausted. And for what? Will she really remember what the landforms of Antarctica are? And does she even really need to?

I asked a question similar to that and my friends added their voices to my chorus of, "Please, make the homework stop." We all recall elementary and middle school, and none of us spent more than 30 minutes a night on homework. Surprisingly, we're all successful adults anyway. Go figure.

The insane amount of structure and dedication we expect from our kids is out of hand. Teachers do their best, but they are beholden to a system that places value on checking boxes instead of creativity. I know the men and women who teach my children love and care for them. That's why I'm not afraid to tell them we're just not going to do it anymore, and they can go ahead and fail me. I've already passed fourth grade.

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