Homework blues

Mar 21, 2011 at 3:06 p.m. ET

You have a hard and fast rule: No TV during homework time. But where do you stand on music? Do you allow your kids to blast the latest hits or do you insist on total silence?

Girl listening to music

Researchers from the early 1990s discovered The Mozart Effect®, which suggests that listening to Mozart's classical music enhances short-term brain function.

Educators have long known that music facilitates the learning of other skills, such as math, reading, science and even social skills. Nursery, pre-school and elementary kids tend to remember lessons that are set to music.

Listening to music while studying does not make you smarter, so to speak, but it does help your brain to work more effectively. The Mozart Effect shows that classical music improves spatial intelligence, making us better at math and problem solving skills.

Should your child listen to music during homework time?

It depends on the child

All children respond to outside distractions and interference differently, says Ali Iorio, president of Champion Parenting, Inc. "For some, music can be relaxing, but for others it might be more of a distraction," Iorio explains. "Parents need to learn what environment is conducive for their child to be most productive.

With younger children, it's trial and error. You can try playing some music while he works on his homework, but if you find that he's paying more attention to the tunes than to his times tables, then you know he's better off without the music.

IT depends on the homework

Your child may enjoy listening to music while working on simple math problems or writing out spelling words, but he may find music irritating when he's working on something more challenging.

On the other hand, when your child has a reading assignment, such as a story, a novel or a social studies chapter, she may find that music helps to block out other noises so she can better concentrate on the words in front of her.

It depends on the music

Some music is better suited to homework time than others. Your child will have a difficult time focusing on his work when he's jamming to rap, pop or country music with their storytelling lyrics. Subconsciously, we can't help but focus on the words of the song.

Music without lyrics is ideal for study time. The music acts as a buffer, shutting out the noise of voices, traffic, construction and other distractions. Music with lyrics, on the other hand, can itself be a distraction to kids, says Kristen Thompson, director and chief brain trainer at LearningRx Brain Training.

What's important is that the music be calm, not necessarily classical. Eileen Wolter writes the mom and music blog A Suburban State of Mom and finds that her 6-year-old son has particular study-time choices. "Everything from ambient music to a nice singer-songwriter does the trick," says Wolter.

What you said Do you allow your child to listen to music during homework time?

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