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Since school has started, my inbox has been flooded with questions about homework from my non-educator friends. Homework should have an actual purpose and there are developmentally appropriate amounts of times for their grade level. That also means that not every single child is ready for that developmental stage. As a parent, you will need to communicate with teacher about what is happening at home in the homework department.
According to the National Education Association, over the last 50 years, most US students spend less than an hour a night on homework. But in the last 20 years, that time has increased in the lower grades. Researcher Harris Cooper set guidelines for homework of 10-20 minutes of homework for first grade and adding 10 minutes each year all the way through high school with the exception being high school students taking advanced courses. I thought most schools followed these guidelines, but according to my inbox, that is not the case.
What is the point of homework? Homework should be a form of practice or enrichment of what was taught during the school day. It should be short and purposeful. There is absolutely no reason for a student to have 90 math problems for homework or any other time, for that matter.
Homework should also be a form of communication between the classroom, the student and the parent. As a parent, you are seeing examples of what the students are working on and how your child is doing the work. If the homework your child is bringing home is new material, this is not appropriate homework.
Elementary children should reading every single night. The U. S. Department of Education America Reads Challenge states that students who read 20 minutes a day get exposed to 1.8 million words and will score better on achievement tests.
If homework is a problem in your home and is taking your sixth grader two hours to complete, it is important to start trying to get to the root of the issue. Start with what is happening at home. Try a few of these steps:
- Turn the television off and create a quiet space for homework.
- Have all the supplies readily available so there is no up and down once homework time has started.
- Give your child some free/down time once you get home.
- Have a healthy snack or eat dinner before homework.
- Set your expectations clearly.
- Do some of the work, take a break, do the rest
- Practice math facts or spelling words in the car (turn off the radio) or put them on an app to practice at times of waiting.
If you have tried to change things at home and homework is still a struggle, then it is time to meet with the teacher. When you meet with the teacher here are some suggestions of questions to discuss:
- How long should it take my child to do homework each night?
- Does that include reading time or not?
- State how long it is taking your child and ask if this is to be expected
- Ask if the teacher has some suggestions on how to shorten the amount of time homework is taking
- Ask for other suggestions on how to support your child
- Suggestion cutting back on the amount of problems your child is assigned
- Create an agreement between you, the teacher and your child about a more appropriate amount of homework for your child to be successful.
Homework should not be ruling your family’s life. Staying up late to finish homework leads to sleepy children that are not paying attention in class when new material is taught and they are caught in a vicious cycle. Keep an eye on the amount of homework your child has, the amount of time your child is spending on homework and stay in communication with the teacher to protect your child’s stress level and your family time.