Do our kids have too much homework?

by: Marian Wilde | Updated: January 31, 2024

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Are kids getting too much homework?

Many students and their parents are frazzled by the amount of homework being piled on in the schools. Yet many researchers say that American students have just the right amount of homework.

“Kids today are overwhelmed!” a parent recently wrote in an email to GreatSchools.org “My first-grade son was required to research a significant person from history and write a paper of at least two pages about the person, with a bibliography. How can he be expected to do that by himself? He just started to learn to read and write a couple of months ago. Schools are pushing too hard and expecting too much from kids.”

Diane Garfield, a fifth grade teacher in San Francisco, concurs. “I believe that we’re stressing children out,” she says.

But hold on, it’s not just the kids who are stressed out . “Teachers nowadays assign these almost college-level projects with requirements that make my mouth fall open with disbelief,” says another frustrated parent. “It’s not just the kids who suffer!”

“How many people take home an average of two hours or more of work that must be completed for the next day?” asks Tonya Noonan Herring, a New Mexico mother of three, an attorney and a former high school English teacher. “Most of us, even attorneys, do not do this. Bottom line: students have too much homework and most of it is not productive or necessary.”

Research about homework

How do educational researchers weigh in on the issue? According to Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation, there is no evidence that kids are doing more homework than they did before.

“If you look at high school kids in the late ’90s, they’re not doing substantially more homework than kids did in the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s or the ’40s,” he says. “In fact, the trends through most of this time period are pretty flat. And most high school students in this country don’t do a lot of homework. The median appears to be about four hours a week.”

Education researchers like Gill base their conclusions, in part, on data gathered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.

“It doesn’t suggest that most kids are doing a tremendous amount,” says Gill. “That’s not to say there aren’t any kids with too much homework. There surely are some. There’s enormous variation across communities. But it’s not a crisis in that it’s a very small proportion of kids who are spending an enormous amount of time on homework.”

Etta Kralovec, author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning , disagrees, saying NAEP data is not a reliable source of information. “Students take the NAEP test and one of the questions they have to fill out is, ‘How much homework did you do last night’ Anybody who knows schools knows that teachers by and large do not give homework the night before a national assessment. It just doesn’t happen. Teachers are very clear with kids that they need to get a good night’s sleep and they need to eat well to prepare for a test.

“So asking a kid how much homework they did the night before a national test and claiming that that data tells us anything about the general run of the mill experience of kids and homework over the school year is, I think, really dishonest.”

Further muddying the waters is an AP/AOL poll that suggests that most Americans feel that their children are getting the right amount of homework. It found that 57% of parents felt that their child was assigned about the right amount of homework, 23% thought there was too little and 19% thought there was too much.

One indisputable fact

One homework fact that educators do agree upon is that the young child today is doing more homework than ever before.

“Parents are correct in saying that they didn’t get homework in the early grades and that their kids do,” says Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and director of the education program at Duke University.

Gill quantifies the change this way: “There has been some increase in homework for the kids in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. But it’s been an increase from zero to 20 minutes a day. So that is something that’s fairly new in the last quarter century.”

The history of homework

In his research, Gill found that homework has always been controversial. “Around the turn of the 20th century, the Ladies’ Home Journal carried on a crusade against homework. They thought that kids were better off spending their time outside playing and looking at clouds. The most spectacular success this movement had was in the state of California, where in 1901 the legislature passed a law abolishing homework in grades K-8. That lasted about 15 years and then was quietly repealed. Then there was a lot of activism against homework again in the 1930s.”

The proponents of homework have remained consistent in their reasons for why homework is a beneficial practice, says Gill. “One, it extends the work in the classroom with additional time on task. Second, it develops habits of independent study. Third, it’s a form of communication between the school and the parents. It gives parents an idea of what their kids are doing in school.”

The anti-homework crowd has also been consistent in their reasons for wanting to abolish or reduce homework.

“The first one is children’s health,” says Gill. “A hundred years ago, you had medical doctors testifying that heavy loads of books were causing children’s spines to be bent.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. There were also concerns about excessive amounts of stress .

“Although they didn’t use the term ‘stress,'” says Gill. “They worried about ‘nervous breakdowns.'”

“In the 1930s, there were lots of graduate students in education schools around the country who were doing experiments that claimed to show that homework had no academic value — that kids who got homework didn’t learn any more than kids who didn’t,” Gill continues. Also, a lot of the opposition to homework, in the first half of the 20th century, was motivated by a notion that it was a leftover from a 19th-century model of schooling, which was based on recitation, memorization and drill. Progressive educators were trying to replace that with something more creative, something more interesting to kids.”

The more-is-better movement

Garfield, the San Francisco fifth-grade teacher, says that when she started teaching 30 years ago, she didn’t give any homework. “Then parents started asking for it,” she says. “I got In junior high and high school there’s so much homework, they need to get prepared.” So I bought that one. I said, ‘OK, they need to be prepared.’ But they don’t need two hours.”

Cooper sees the trend toward more homework as symptomatic of high-achieving parents who want the best for their children. “Part of it, I think, is pressure from the parents with regard to their desire to have their kids be competitive for the best universities in the country. The communities in which homework is being piled on are generally affluent communities.”

The less-is-better campaign

Alfie Kohn, a widely-admired progressive writer on education and parenting, published a sharp rebuttal to the more-homework-is-better argument in his 2006 book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing . Kohn criticized the pro-homework studies that Cooper referenced as “inconclusive… they only show an association, not a causal relationship” and he titled his first chapter “Missing Out on Their Childhoods.”

Vera Goodman’s 2020 book, Simply Too Much Homework: What Can We Do? , repeats Kohn’s scrutiny and urges parents to appeal to school and government leaders to revise homework policies. Goodman believes today’s homework load stresses out teachers, parents, and students, deprives children of unstructured time for play, hobbies, and individual pursuits, and inhibits the joy of learning.

Homework guidelines

What’s a parent to do, you ask? Fortunately, there are some sanity-saving homework guidelines.

Cooper points to “The 10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which suggests that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so on.

Too much homework vs. the optimal amount

Cooper has found that the correlation between homework and achievement is generally supportive of these guidelines. “We found that for kids in elementary school there was hardly any relationship between how much homework young children did and how well they were doing in school, but in middle school the relationship is positive and increases until the kids were doing between an hour to two hours a night, which is right where the 10-minute rule says it’s going to be optimal.

“After that it didn’t go up anymore. Kids that reported doing more than two hours of homework a night in middle school weren’t doing any better in school than kids who were doing between an hour to two hours.”

Garfield has a very clear homework policy that she distributes to her parents at the beginning of each school year. “I give one subject a night. It’s what we were studying in class or preparation for the next day. It should be done within half an hour at most. I believe that children have many outside activities now and they also need to live fully as children. To have them work for six hours a day at school and then go home and work for hours at night does not seem right. It doesn’t allow them to have a childhood.”

International comparisons

How do American kids fare when compared to students in other countries? Professors Gerald LeTendre and David Baker of Pennsylvania State University conclude in their 2005 book, National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling, that American middle schoolers do more homework than their peers in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan, but less than their peers in Singapore and Hong Kong.

One of the surprising findings of their research was that more homework does not correlate with higher test scores. LeTendre notes: “That really flummoxes people because they say, ‘Doesn’t doing more homework mean getting better scores?’ The answer quite simply is no.”

Homework is a complicated thing

To be effective, homework must be used in a certain way, he says. “Let me give you an example. Most homework in the fourth grade in the U.S. is worksheets. Fill them out, turn them in, maybe the teacher will check them, maybe not. That is a very ineffective use of homework. An effective use of homework would be the teacher sitting down and thinking ‘Elizabeth has trouble with number placement, so I’m going to give her seven problems on number placement.’ Then the next day the teacher sits down with Elizabeth and she says, ‘Was this hard for you? Where did you have difficulty?’ Then she gives Elizabeth either more or less material. As you can imagine, that kind of homework rarely happens.”

Shotgun homework

“What typically happens is people give what we call ‘shotgun homework’: blanket drills, questions and problems from the book. On a national level that’s associated with less well-functioning school systems,” he says. “In a sense, you could sort of think of it as a sign of weaker teachers or less well-prepared teachers. Over time, we see that in elementary and middle schools more and more homework is being given, and that countries around the world are doing this in an attempt to increase their test scores, and that is basically a failing strategy.”

Quality not quantity?

“ The Case for (Quality) Homework: Why It Improves Learning, and How Parents Can Help ,” a 2019 paper written by Boston University psychologist Janine Bempechat, asks for homework that specifically helps children “confront ever-more-complex tasks” that enable them to gain resilience and embrace challenges.

Similar research from University of Ovideo in Spain titled “ Homework: Facts and Fiction 2021 ” says evidence shows that how homework is applied is more important than how much is required, and it asserts that a moderate amount of homework yields the most academic achievement. The most important aspect of quality homework assignment? The effort required and the emotions prompted by the task.

Robyn Jackson, author of How to Plan Rigorous Instruction and other media about rigor says the key to quality homework is not the time spent, but the rigor — or mental challenge — involved. ( Read more about how to evaluate your child’s homework for rigor here .)

Nightly reading as a homework replacement

Across the country, many elementary schools have replaced homework with a nightly reading requirement. There are many benefits to children reading every night , either out loud with a parent or independently: it increases their vocabulary, imagination, concentration, memory, empathy, academic ability, knowledge of different cultures and perspectives. Plus, it reduces stress, helps kids sleep, and bonds children to their cuddling parents or guardians. Twenty to 30 minutes of reading each day is generally recommended.

But, is this always possible, or even ideal?

No, it’s not.

Alfie Kohn criticizes this added assignment in his blog post, “ How To Create Nonreaders .” He cites an example from a parent (Julie King) who reports, “Our children are now expected to read 20 minutes a night, and record such on their homework sheet. What parents are discovering (surprise) is that those kids who used to sit down and read for pleasure — the kids who would get lost in a book and have to be told to put it down to eat/play/whatever — are now setting the timer… and stopping when the timer dings. … Reading has become a chore, like brushing your teeth.”

The take-away from Kohn? Don’t undermine reading for pleasure by turning it into another task burdening your child’s tired brain.

Additional resources

Books Simply Too Much Homework: What Can We do? by Vera Goodman, Trafford Publishing, 2020

The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, Crown Publishers, 2007

The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn, Hatchett Books, 2006 The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovec and John Buell, Beacon Press, 2001.

The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents by Harris M. Cooper, Corwin Press, 2001.

Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide to Solving Common Homework Problems by Sydney Zentall and Sam Goldstein, Specialty Press, 1998.

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Adolescent girl doing homework.

What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too much.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

The National PTA and the National Education Association support the “ 10-minute homework guideline ”—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students’ needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

The guideline doesn’t account for students who may need to spend more—or less—time on assignments. In class, teachers can make adjustments to support struggling students, but at home, an assignment that takes one student 30 minutes to complete may take another twice as much time—often for reasons beyond their control. And homework can widen the achievement gap, putting students from low-income households and students with learning disabilities at a disadvantage.

However, the 10-minute guideline is useful in setting a limit: When kids spend too much time on homework, there are real consequences to consider.

Small Benefits for Elementary Students

As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time (Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). A more effective activity may be nightly reading, especially if parents are involved. The benefits of reading are clear: If students aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school (Fiester, 2013 ).

For second-grade teacher Jacqueline Fiorentino, the minor benefits of homework did not outweigh the potential drawback of turning young children against school at an early age, so she experimented with dropping mandatory homework. “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home,” Fiorentino writes . “This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.” She encouraged her students to read at home and offered optional homework to extend classroom lessons and help them review material.

Moderate Benefits for Middle School Students

As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework. Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students (Cooper et al., 2006 ). Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores (Roschelle et al., 2016 ).

There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus. The researchers recommend that “homework should present a certain level of challenge or difficulty, without being so challenging that it discourages effort.” Teachers should avoid low-effort, repetitive assignments, and assign homework “with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.”

In other words, it’s the quality of homework that matters, not the quantity. Brian Sztabnik, a veteran middle and high school English teacher, suggests that teachers take a step back and ask themselves these five questions :

  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Have all learners been considered?
  • Will an assignment encourage future success?
  • Will an assignment place material in a context the classroom cannot?
  • Does an assignment offer support when a teacher is not there?

More Benefits for High School Students, but Risks as Well

By the time they reach high school, students should be well on their way to becoming independent learners, so homework does provide a boost to learning at this age, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework (Galloway, Conner, & Pope, 2013 ).

Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.

Teachers should also keep in mind that not all students have equal opportunities to finish their homework at home, so incomplete homework may not be a true reflection of their learning—it may be more a result of issues they face outside of school. They may be hindered by issues such as lack of a quiet space at home, resources such as a computer or broadband connectivity, or parental support (OECD, 2014 ). In such cases, giving low homework scores may be unfair.

Since the quantities of time discussed here are totals, teachers in middle and high school should be aware of how much homework other teachers are assigning. It may seem reasonable to assign 30 minutes of daily homework, but across six subjects, that’s three hours—far above a reasonable amount even for a high school senior. Psychologist Maurice Elias sees this as a common mistake: Individual teachers create homework policies that in aggregate can overwhelm students. He suggests that teachers work together to develop a school-wide homework policy and make it a key topic of back-to-school night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year.

Parents Play a Key Role

Homework can be a powerful tool to help parents become more involved in their child’s learning (Walker et al., 2004 ). It can provide insights into a child’s strengths and interests, and can also encourage conversations about a child’s life at school. If a parent has positive attitudes toward homework, their children are more likely to share those same values, promoting academic success.

But it’s also possible for parents to be overbearing, putting too much emphasis on test scores or grades, which can be disruptive for children (Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2015 ). Parents should avoid being overly intrusive or controlling—students report feeling less motivated to learn when they don’t have enough space and autonomy to do their homework (Orkin, May, & Wolf, 2017 ; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008 ; Silinskas & Kikas, 2017 ). So while homework can encourage parents to be more involved with their kids, it’s important to not make it a source of conflict.

Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

Mother helping son with homework at home

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

High angle view of young woman sitting at desk and studying at home during coronavirus lockdown

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When Your Child Has Too Much Homework

  • How Much Time Is Ideal?
  • Time Management
  • Set Up a Homework Corner
  • Have a Homework Routine

Are you concerned about the amount of time your child spends on homework each evening? Perhaps you feel like your child is spending a lot of time on their homework, and they are not getting anything out of it.

If your child is overwhelmed by homework, you can help them by examining their habits to find the source of homework trouble. Once you have identified the root of the problem , you can guide your child to a solution.

1) Find Out How Much Time Your Child Should Be Spending on Homework

While there are no set rules on exactly how much homework a child should have, there are some guidelines to help you decide if the amount of homework is too much or just right. 

The most common guideline is the 10-minute rule, which states that a child should have about ten minutes of homework per night for each grade they are in.

With this rule, a first-grader would average 10 minutes of homework, a second grader would have 20 minutes per night, and so on.

The 10-minute rule is recommended by the National PTA and the National Educators Association. Keep in mind that it is a guideline—some high school classes and advanced work classes may have more homework than the general guideline.

Often, teachers will send home a letter explaining their homework policy in the first weeks of school. This policy will often include more personalized guidelines, including how much time homework should take each evening.

2) Check How Well Your Child Uses Their Homework Time

If you realize your child is spending more time on their homework than expected, you will need to do some troubleshooting to solve the problem. Is your child or teen sitting with their homework out, yet they are doing something else, like texting friends or watching a TV program. Check to make sure they are focused on their work during the time they are working.

You want to check this first hand.

Your child or teen may simply not be aware of how distractions can impact their homework time.

If you find your child is not focused on homework, use the following suggestions to help them stay focused during homework time.

3) Make Sure Your Child Has a Homework Corner at Home

Your child or teen will benefit from having a specific place where they can work on their homework. The area should be someplace that is comfortable to work, allows for an age-appropriate amount of parental supervision, and access to any needed supplies or resources.

Completing homework in a specific place will help reinforce habits.   Your child will get used to doing their work in that specific spot.

4 ) Have a Regular Homework Routine to Prevent Procrastination

Sometimes, school-age children will put off doing larger homework assignments rather than trying to complete them a few days before they are due. Rather than spending 10 to 20 minutes for several evenings on the large assignment, they will have to spend hours to get the work done.

Having a regular homework set time in their daily schedule will give them the time to work on their assignments on most days. Tweens and teens will need to make sure they keep track of the different due dates in their different subjects.

Work Straight Through or Take Breaks?  

Remember that 10-minute rule stated earlier? That rule would lead to an eighth-grade student doing 1 hour and 20 minutes of homework each night. High school students can expect even more time on homework.

If your child needs a break and tries to push through, they often find it difficult to maintain focus. They may be seated at the table, but their work will slow down or stop altogether.

Some children and teens are able to sit down and work straight through until their daily homework is completed. Others may find they need to take a short break every 40 minutes.

Some children or teens may also experience a condition that affects their ability to focus for long periods of time. Examples include ADHD, depression , and anxiety .

Children and teens who struggle with focusing for long periods of time will need to keep their abilities in mind when they plan to do their work. They may benefit from a distraction-free area, splitting homework time between before and after school or another creative arrangement that accounts for their needs.

5) Check for Reasons You Need to Follow up With the Teacher

Sometimes homework overload is not something that can be solved only at home.

Your child does not know how to do the assignment. If your child or teen does not know how to do the work, they may take a very long time trying to complete it. Sit down with your child and watch them try to do their work. Do they understand the directions for the assignment? Are they missing skills they need to complete the work?

If it is the first time your child has struggled to understand how to do the homework, encourage your child to discuss the problems with the teacher in the next class session. If your elementary or middle school child is starting to fall into a pattern of struggling with work, you will want to be included in the conversation over the struggle with the material. If your child is in high school, use your knowledge of your teen to decide if they should handle it completely on their own.

You want to let the teacher know quickly if your child cannot do the homework so that the teacher can help address any gaps in knowledge early.

Nationwide schools are adopting rigorous curricula that build from grade to grade. Missing a skill in one grade level can lead to missing building blocks for following years.

Fortunately, teachers can find ways to address gaps in learning. The earlier a teacher is aware of a gap, the faster the gap can be addressed before it becomes a larger gap in learning.

Your child takes an excessive amount of time to complete their homework. Perhaps your child does sit down every evening in a distraction-free area and focuses on their school work, only an assignment that should 10 minutes actually takes 40 minutes. Your child might be working hard and know what to do, but they are very slow, especially compared to other kids in their class.

This may be caused by a learning disability . Children with dyslexia may struggle to learn to read and then read very slowly.   Children with dyscalculia, a disability in math , may take an exceptionally long time to complete work involving numbers, estimation, and math.   Fortunately, there are teaching and learning methods that can help children with these issues once they have been diagnosed.

Your child has multiple assignments due at the same time. This is a situation that you may only expect in high school when you know your teen will have several different subjects and teachers, each with their own calendar of assignments. Teachers may assign a large project with a due date right before or after a break, believing it would be convenient for everyone to have it due. Sometimes school calendars have other days, like the midpoint in a quarter, that seems ideal to have work due.

It's often the convenience of certain dates in the schedule that can cause multiple assignments to be due in middle school. Children in elementary school who see different teachers throughout the day in an effort to individualize to skill level may be surprised to find themselves caught with too much work due at the same time.

Ideally, teachers will plan out large assignments far in advance of the due date so that even if multiple subjects require work to be turned in on the same day, children can plan ahead and work slowly. Sometimes, this doesn't happen.

Teachers are often somewhat isolated from one another in schools, each working in their own classrooms, so teachers may not even know that they are assigning work that will all be due at the same time.

If your child has a truly unreasonable amount of work due at once, talk with the teachers involved. Some schools have set policies limiting the number of large tests or projects that can be due on a single day. Even if your child's school does not have a specific policy, teachers may be able to change due dates or come up with a plan that will allow your child to get the work done without being overwhelmed.

A Final Word From Verywell

Learning to get homework done regularly can help your child develop a growth mindset, where they know that their hard work will lead them to learn and opportunity. Finding ways to overcome difficult periods in school will also help your child or teen learn that they can find ways to meet challenges and be successful in school.

National Education Association. Research spotlight on homework. NEA reviews of the research on best practices in education .

Xu J. Why Do Students Have Difficulties Completing Homework? The Need for Homework Management . J Educ Train Stud . 2013;1(1):98-105. doi:10.11114/jets.v1i1.78

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Concerns and Conditions With ADHD .

Hulme C, Snowling MJ. Reading disorders and dyslexia . Curr Opin Pediatr . 2016;28(6):731-735. doi:10.1097/MOP.0000000000000411

Kaufmann L, Mazzocco MM, Dowker A, et al. Dyscalculia from a developmental and differential perspective .  Front Psychol . 2013;4:516. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00516

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.

How Much Homework Is Enough? Depends Who You Ask

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Editor’s note: This is an adapted excerpt from You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education ( Viking)—the latest book by author and speaker Sir Ken Robinson (co-authored with Lou Aronica), published in March. For years, Robinson has been known for his radical work on rekindling creativity and passion in schools, including three bestselling books (also with Aronica) on the topic. His TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” holds the record for the most-viewed TED talk of all time, with more than 50 million views. While Robinson’s latest book is geared toward parents, it also offers educators a window into the kinds of education concerns parents have for their children, including on the quality and quantity of homework.

The amount of homework young people are given varies a lot from school to school and from grade to grade. In some schools and grades, children have no homework at all. In others, they may have 18 hours or more of homework every week. In the United States, the accepted guideline, which is supported by both the National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association, is the 10-minute rule: Children should have no more than 10 minutes of homework each day for each grade reached. In 1st grade, children should have 10 minutes of daily homework; in 2nd grade, 20 minutes; and so on to the 12th grade, when on average they should have 120 minutes of homework each day, which is about 10 hours a week. It doesn’t always work out that way.

In 2013, the University of Phoenix College of Education commissioned a survey of how much homework teachers typically give their students. From kindergarten to 5th grade, it was just under three hours per week; from 6th to 8th grade, it was 3.2 hours; and from 9th to 12th grade, it was 3.5 hours.

There are two points to note. First, these are the amounts given by individual teachers. To estimate the total time children are expected to spend on homework, you need to multiply these hours by the number of teachers they work with. High school students who work with five teachers in different curriculum areas may find themselves with 17.5 hours or more of homework a week, which is the equivalent of a part-time job. The other factor is that these are teachers’ estimates of the time that homework should take. The time that individual children spend on it will be more or less than that, according to their abilities and interests. One child may casually dash off a piece of homework in half the time that another will spend laboring through in a cold sweat.

Do students have more homework these days than previous generations? Given all the variables, it’s difficult to say. Some studies suggest they do. In 2007, a study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that, on average, high school students spent around seven hours a week on homework. A similar study in 1994 put the average at less than five hours a week. Mind you, I [Robinson] was in high school in England in the 1960s and spent a lot more time than that—though maybe that was to do with my own ability. One way of judging this is to look at how much homework your own children are given and compare it to what you had at the same age.

Many parents find it difficult to help their children with subjects they’ve not studied themselves for a long time, if at all.

There’s also much debate about the value of homework. Supporters argue that it benefits children, teachers, and parents in several ways:

  • Children learn to deepen their understanding of specific content, to cover content at their own pace, to become more independent learners, to develop problem-solving and time-management skills, and to relate what they learn in school to outside activities.
  • Teachers can see how well their students understand the lessons; evaluate students’ individual progress, strengths, and weaknesses; and cover more content in class.
  • Parents can engage practically in their children’s education, see firsthand what their children are being taught in school, and understand more clearly how they’re getting on—what they find easy and what they struggle with in school.

Want to know more about Sir Ken Robinson? Check out our Q&A with him.

Q&A With Sir Ken Robinson

Ashley Norris is assistant dean at the University of Phoenix College of Education. Commenting on her university’s survey, she says, “Homework helps build confidence, responsibility, and problem-solving skills that can set students up for success in high school, college, and in the workplace.”

That may be so, but many parents find it difficult to help their children with subjects they’ve not studied themselves for a long time, if at all. Families have busy lives, and it can be hard for parents to find time to help with homework alongside everything else they have to cope with. Norris is convinced it’s worth the effort, especially, she says, because in many schools, the nature of homework is changing. One influence is the growing popularity of the so-called flipped classroom.

In the stereotypical classroom, the teacher spends time in class presenting material to the students. Their homework consists of assignments based on that material. In the flipped classroom, the teacher provides the students with presentational materials—videos, slides, lecture notes—which the students review at home and then bring questions and ideas to school where they work on them collaboratively with the teacher and other students. As Norris notes, in this approach, homework extends the boundaries of the classroom and reframes how time in school can be used more productively, allowing students to “collaborate on learning, learn from each other, maybe critique [each other’s work], and share those experiences.”

Even so, many parents and educators are increasingly concerned that homework, in whatever form it takes, is a bridge too far in the pressured lives of children and their families. It takes away from essential time for their children to relax and unwind after school, to play, to be young, and to be together as a family. On top of that, the benefits of homework are often asserted, but they’re not consistent, and they’re certainly not guaranteed.

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More than two hours of homework may be counterproductive, research suggests.

Education scholar Denise Pope has found that too much homework has negative impacts on student well-being and behavioral engagement (Shutterstock)

A Stanford education researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter.   "Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education .   The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students' views on homework.   Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year.   Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.   "The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students' advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being," Pope wrote.   Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.   Their study found that too much homework is associated with:   • Greater stress : 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.   • Reductions in health : In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.   • Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits : Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were "not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills," according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.   A balancing act   The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.   Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as "pointless" or "mindless" in order to keep their grades up.   "This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points," said Pope, who is also a co-founder of Challenge Success , a nonprofit organization affiliated with the GSE that conducts research and works with schools and parents to improve students' educational experiences..   Pope said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.   "Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development," wrote Pope.   High-performing paradox   In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. "Young people are spending more time alone," they wrote, "which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities."   Student perspectives   The researchers say that while their open-ended or "self-reporting" methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for "typical adolescent complaining" – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe.   The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.

Clifton B. Parker is a writer at the Stanford News Service .

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Is Homework Good for Kids?

Research suggests that homework may be most beneficial when it is minimal..

Updated October 3, 2023 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

  • Why Education Is Important
  • Find a Child Therapist
  • Research finds that homework can academically benefit middle and high schoolers, but not elementary students.
  • There are non-academic benefits to homework, but too much work may interfere with other areas of development.
  • Research suggests students should be given about 10 minutes of homework per grade level.
  • Parents can help with homework by encouraging a growth mindset and supporting their child's autonomy.

In recent years, homework has become a very hot topic. Many parents and educators have raised concerns about homework and questioned how effective it is in enhancing students’ learning. There are also concerns that students may simply be getting too much homework, which ultimately interferes with quality family time and opportunities for physical activity and play.

Research suggests that these concerns may be valid. For example, one study reported that elementary school students, on average, are assigned three times the recommended amount of homework.

What does the research say? What are the potential risks and benefits of homework, and how much is “too much”?

Academic vs. Non-Academic Benefits

First, research finds that homework is associated with higher scores on academic standardized tests for middle and high school students, but not elementary school students . A recent experimental study in Romania found some benefits for a small amount of writing homework in elementary students but not math homework. Yet, interestingly, this positive impact only occurred when students were given a moderate amount of homework (about 20 minutes on average).

Yet the goal of homework is not simply to improve academic skills. Research finds that homework may have some non-academic benefits, such as building responsibility , time management skills, and task persistence . Homework may also increase parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling.

Yet too much homework may also have some negative impacts on non-academic skills by reducing opportunities for free play , which is essential for the development of language, cognitive, self-regulation , and social-emotional skills. Homework may also interfere with physical activity ; indeed, too much homework is associated with an increased risk of being overweight . As with the research on academic benefits, this research also suggests that homework may be beneficial when it is minimal.

What is the “Right” Amount of Homework?

Research suggests that homework should not exceed 1.5 to 2.5 hours per night for high school students and no more than 1 hour per night for middle school students. Homework for elementary school students should be minimal and assigned with the aim of building self-regulation and independent work skills. Any more than this and homework may no longer have a positive impact.

The National Education Association recommends 10 minutes of homework per grade and there is also some experimental evidence that backs this up.

What Can Parents Do?

Research finds that parental help with homework is beneficial but that it matters more how the parent is helping rather than how often the parent is helping.

So how should parents help with homework (according to the research)?

  • Focus on providing general monitoring, guidance, and encouragement, but allow children to complete their homework as independently as possible. Research shows that allowing children more autonomy in completing homework may benefit their academic skills.
  • Only provide help when your child asks for it and step away whenever possible. Research finds that too much parental involvement or intrusive and controlling involvement with homework is associated with worse academic performance .
  • Help your children to create structure and develop some routines that help your child to independently complete their homework. Research finds that providing this type of structure and responsiveness is related to improved academic skills.
  • Set specific rules around homework. Research finds an association between parents setting rules around homework and academic performance.
  • Help your child to view homework as an opportunity to learn and improve skills. Parents who view homework as a learning opportunity (that is, a “mastery orientation”) rather than something that they must get “right” or complete successfully to obtain a higher grade (that is, a “performance orientation”) are more likely to have children with the same attitudes.
  • Encourage your child to persist in challenging assignments and emphasize difficult assignments as opportunities to grow. Research finds that this attitude is associated with student success. Research also indicates that more challenging homework is associated with enhanced academic performance.
  • Stay calm and positive during homework. Research shows that mothers’ showing positive emotions while helping with homework may improve children’s motivation in homework.
  • Praise your child’s hard work and effort during homework. This type of praise is likely to increase motivation. In addition, research finds that putting more effort into homework may be associated with enhanced development of conscientiousness in children.
  • Communicate with your child and the teacher about any problems your child has with homework and the teacher’s learning goals. Research finds that open communication about homework is associated with increased academic performance.

Cara Goodwin, Ph.D.

Cara Goodwin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in translating scientific research into information that is useful, accurate, and relevant for parents.

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ARTS & CULTURE

Do kids have too much homework.

Across the United States, parents, teachers and administrators alike are rethinking their approach to after-school assignments

LynNell Hancock

Student with homework

Homework horror stories are as timeworn as school bullies and cafeteria mystery meat. But as high-stakes testing pressures have mounted over the past decade—and global rankings for America’s schools have declined—homework has come under new scrutiny.

Diane Lowrie says she fled an Ocean County, New Jersey, school district three years ago when she realized her first grader’s homework load was nearly crushing him. Reading logs, repetitive math worksheets, and regular social studies reports turned their living room into an anguished battleground. “Tears were shed, every night,” says Lowrie, 47, an environmental educator, who tried to convince school district administrators that the work was not only numbing, but harmful. “Iain started to hate school, to hate learning, and he was only 6 years old,” she told me in a recent interview.

A 2003 Brookings Institution study suggests that Iain’s experience may be typical of a few children in pressure-cooker schools, but it’s not a widespread problem. Still, a 2004 University of Michigan survey of 2,900 six- to seventeen-year-old children found that time spent each week on homework had increased from 2 hours 38 minutes to 3 hours 58 minutes since 1981. And in his 2001 and 2006 reviews of academic studies of homework outcomes, Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, found little correlation between the amount of homework and academic achievement in elementary school (though higher in middle school and high school). Cooper supports the influential ten-minute homework rule, which recommends adding ten daily minutes of homework per grade beginning in first grade, up to a maximum of two hours. Some districts have added no homework on weekends to the formula.

The question of how much homework is enough is widely debated and was a focus of the 2009 documentary Race to Nowhere , a galvanizing cri de coeur about the struggles of kids in high-performing schools. “I can’t remember the last time I had the chance to go in the backyard and just run around,” a teenage girl laments in the film. “I’ve gone through bouts of depression” from too much homework, another confesses. A bewildered-looking third girl says: “I would spend six hours a night on my homework.”

The results of international tests give the homework skeptics ammunition. David Baker and Gerald LeTendre, professors of education at Penn State, found that in countries with the most successful school systems, like Japan, teachers give small amounts homework, while teachers in those with the lowest scores, such as Greece and Iran, give a lot. (Of course the quality of the assignment and the teacher’s use of it also matter.) The United States falls somewhere in the middle—average amounts of homework and average test results. Finnish teachers tend to give minimal amounts of homework throughout all the grades; the New York Times reported Finnish high-school kids averaged only one-half hour a night.

Sara Bennett, a Brooklyn criminal attorney and mother of two, began a second career as an anti-homework activist when her first-grade son brought home homework only a parent could complete. The 2006 book she co-wrote, The Case Against Homework , is credited with propelling a nationwide parent movement calling for time limits on homework.

Last year, the affluent village of Ridgewood, New Jersey, was shaken by two young suicides, causing school officials to look for ways they could ease kids’ anxieties. Anthony Orsini, principal of Ridgewood’s Benjamin Franklin Middle School, eliminated homework for elective courses and set up an online system that lets families know how long many homework assignments should take. “We have a high-powered district,” says Orsini. “The pressures are palpable on these students to succeed. My community is not ready to eliminate homework altogether.”

The trend, instead, is to lessen the quantity while improving the quality of homework by using it to complement classroom work, says Cathy Vatterott, a professor of education at University of Missouri at St. Louis and author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs (2009). Cynthia Schneider, principal of World Journalism Preparatory school in Queens for 570 sixth through twelfth graders, plans to encourage all students to read for pleasure every night, then write a thoughtful response. There are also initiatives to “decriminalize” not finishing homework assignments.

As for Diane Lowrie, who left Ocean County because of too much homework, she says Iain, now 10 and heading for fifth grade in Roosevelt, New Jersey, is less stressed out. He recently spent 40 hours working on a book report and diorama about the Battle of Yorktown. “But,” says his mother, “it was his idea and he enjoyed it.”

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Student Opinion

Should We Get Rid of Homework?

Some educators are pushing to get rid of homework. Would that be a good thing?

too much homework in 5th grade

By Jeremy Engle and Michael Gonchar

Do you like doing homework? Do you think it has benefited you educationally?

Has homework ever helped you practice a difficult skill — in math, for example — until you mastered it? Has it helped you learn new concepts in history or science? Has it helped to teach you life skills, such as independence and responsibility? Or, have you had a more negative experience with homework? Does it stress you out, numb your brain from busywork or actually make you fall behind in your classes?

Should we get rid of homework?

In “ The Movement to End Homework Is Wrong, ” published in July, the Times Opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang argues that homework may be imperfect, but it still serves an important purpose in school. The essay begins:

Do students really need to do their homework? As a parent and a former teacher, I have been pondering this question for quite a long time. The teacher side of me can acknowledge that there were assignments I gave out to my students that probably had little to no academic value. But I also imagine that some of my students never would have done their basic reading if they hadn’t been trained to complete expected assignments, which would have made the task of teaching an English class nearly impossible. As a parent, I would rather my daughter not get stuck doing the sort of pointless homework I would occasionally assign, but I also think there’s a lot of value in saying, “Hey, a lot of work you’re going to end up doing in your life is pointless, so why not just get used to it?” I certainly am not the only person wondering about the value of homework. Recently, the sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco and the mathematics education scholars Ilana Horn and Grace Chen published a paper, “ You Need to Be More Responsible: The Myth of Meritocracy and Teachers’ Accounts of Homework Inequalities .” They argued that while there’s some evidence that homework might help students learn, it also exacerbates inequalities and reinforces what they call the “meritocratic” narrative that says kids who do well in school do so because of “individual competence, effort and responsibility.” The authors believe this meritocratic narrative is a myth and that homework — math homework in particular — further entrenches the myth in the minds of teachers and their students. Calarco, Horn and Chen write, “Research has highlighted inequalities in students’ homework production and linked those inequalities to differences in students’ home lives and in the support students’ families can provide.”

Mr. Kang argues:

But there’s a defense of homework that doesn’t really have much to do with class mobility, equality or any sense of reinforcing the notion of meritocracy. It’s one that became quite clear to me when I was a teacher: Kids need to learn how to practice things. Homework, in many cases, is the only ritualized thing they have to do every day. Even if we could perfectly equalize opportunity in school and empower all students not to be encumbered by the weight of their socioeconomic status or ethnicity, I’m not sure what good it would do if the kids didn’t know how to do something relentlessly, over and over again, until they perfected it. Most teachers know that type of progress is very difficult to achieve inside the classroom, regardless of a student’s background, which is why, I imagine, Calarco, Horn and Chen found that most teachers weren’t thinking in a structural inequalities frame. Holistic ideas of education, in which learning is emphasized and students can explore concepts and ideas, are largely for the types of kids who don’t need to worry about class mobility. A defense of rote practice through homework might seem revanchist at this moment, but if we truly believe that schools should teach children lessons that fall outside the meritocracy, I can’t think of one that matters more than the simple satisfaction of mastering something that you were once bad at. That takes homework and the acknowledgment that sometimes a student can get a question wrong and, with proper instruction, eventually get it right.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

Should we get rid of homework? Why, or why not?

Is homework an outdated, ineffective or counterproductive tool for learning? Do you agree with the authors of the paper that homework is harmful and worsens inequalities that exist between students’ home circumstances?

Or do you agree with Mr. Kang that homework still has real educational value?

When you get home after school, how much homework will you do? Do you think the amount is appropriate, too much or too little? Is homework, including the projects and writing assignments you do at home, an important part of your learning experience? Or, in your opinion, is it not a good use of time? Explain.

In these letters to the editor , one reader makes a distinction between elementary school and high school:

Homework’s value is unclear for younger students. But by high school and college, homework is absolutely essential for any student who wishes to excel. There simply isn’t time to digest Dostoyevsky if you only ever read him in class.

What do you think? How much does grade level matter when discussing the value of homework?

Is there a way to make homework more effective?

If you were a teacher, would you assign homework? What kind of assignments would you give and why?

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column . Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Jeremy Engle joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2018 after spending more than 20 years as a classroom humanities and documentary-making teacher, professional developer and curriculum designer working with students and teachers across the country. More about Jeremy Engle

Is Homework Good for Kids? Here’s What the Research Says

A s kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.

The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week , earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.

But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:

For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework each night. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.

But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station . “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”

A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.

New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.

The research

The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.

Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.

Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.

Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.

Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.

“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”

Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs , thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.

“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.

The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.

“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness.”

Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.

“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”

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The Worsening Homework Problem

My son does an average of five or six hours of homework every night. Is this normal?

A drawing of a person crushed by a stack of giant books

Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at [email protected].

Dear Abby and Brian,

My son, who is in ninth grade, is a really good student, but I’m worried he’s working far too much. He does an average of five or six hours of homework every weeknight, and that’s on top of spending most of the weekend writing essays or studying for tests. His school says that each of his five main classes (English, history, math, language, and science) can assign no more than 30 minutes a night and that electives can assign no more than one hour a week. That should look like something around three hours a night, which is a lot but at least more manageable.

On some nights, a math problem set can take him more than two hours, and then, after 8 p.m. and sometimes after 9, he turns to his English reading, science textbook, Spanish paragraph, or history outline. He’s working until after midnight and then up at 6 a.m. to get ready for school, beyond exhausted. Is this normal?

How much homework should students be assigned?

Margaret Denver

Dear Margaret,

Homework—when assigned in appropriate amounts and with the right goals in mind—is an indispensable tool for educators. But students should never be put in the position of having to choose between their academic success and their overall well-being.

To understand what constitutes the right amount of homework, we should be clear on what it’s meant to accomplish. We believe it should perform four basic functions. First, homework should be assigned in order to make the most of class time. In an English class, for example, teachers need to ask students to read at home in order to do the important work of leading in-class discussions. Second, at-home assignments help students learn the material taught in class. Students require independent practice to internalize new concepts. Third, these assignments can provide valuable data for teachers about how well students understand the curriculum. Finally, homework helps students acquire the skills needed to plan, organize, and complete their work.

Unfortunately, many schools assign homework for its own sake, in amounts that are out of proportion to these basic functions—a problem that seems to have gotten worse over the past 20 years . This isn’t necessarily intentional. Some of your son’s teachers probably underestimate the time it takes their students to complete assignments. But your description makes clear that homework has taken over your son’s life. That’s why he should make sure to tell his teachers that he’s been working past the nightly limits prescribed by the school.

Additionally, he should use those limits for his own well-being: If he can’t get through a math worksheet in half an hour, he should stop, draw a line after the final problem he was able to complete, and talk with his teacher the following day. That way he will be able to spread his time more evenly among classes, and his teachers will get a better sense of how long their homework is taking. Sometimes teachers aren’t aware of how much other work our students have on their plate, not to mention their extracurricular responsibilities. Fill us in! Most teachers would prefer to recalibrate our students’ workload than find ourselves responsible for keeping them up so late.

But the goodwill of individual teachers may not be enough to solve the issue. Schools have any number of incentives to assign a lot of work, one of which is the pernicious assumption that “good” schools provide as much of it as their students can pack into a day. If your son’s workload doesn’t get lighter after he talks with his teachers, contact the administration and explain the situation. Hopefully this will prompt a larger conversation within the school about the reasons to assign homework in the first place—and the reasons not to.

B y submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.

How Much Homework Is Too Much for Our Teens?

Here's what educators and parents can do to help kids find the right balance between school and home.

Does Your Teen Have Too Much Homework?

Today’s teens are under a lot of pressure.

They're under pressure to succeed, to win, to be the best and to get into the top colleges. With so much pressure, is it any wonder today’s youth report being under as much stress as their parents? In fact, during the school year, teens say they experience stress levels higher than those reported by adults, according to a previous American Psychological Association "Stress in America" survey.

Odds are if you ask a teen what's got them so worked up, the subject of school will come up. School can cause a lot of stress, which can lead to other serious problems, like sleep deprivation . According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need between eight and 10 hours of sleep each night, but only 15 percent are even getting close to that amount. During the school week, most teens only get about six hours of zzz’s a night, and some of that sleep deficit may be attributed to homework.

When it comes to school, many adults would rather not trade places with a teen. Think about it. They get up at the crack of dawn and get on the bus when it’s pitch dark outside. They put in a full day sitting in hours of classes (sometimes four to seven different classes daily), only to get more work dumped on them to do at home. To top it off, many kids have after-school obligations, such as extracurricular activities including clubs and sports , and some have to work. After a long day, they finally get home to do even more work – schoolwork.

[Read: What Parents Should Know About Teen Depression .]

Homework is not only a source of stress for students, but it can also be a hassle for parents. If you are the parent of a kid who strives to be “perfect," then you know all too well how much time your child spends making sure every bit of homework is complete, even if it means pulling an all-nighter. On the flip side, if you’re the parent of a child who decided that school ends when the last bell rings, then you know how exhausting that homework tug-of-war can be. And heaven forbid if you’re that parent who is at their wit's end because your child excels on tests and quizzes but fails to turn in assignments. The woes of academics can go well beyond the confines of the school building and right into the home.

This is the time of year when many students and parents feel the burden of the academic load. Following spring break, many schools across the nation head into the final stretch of the year. As a result, some teachers increase the amount of homework they give. The assignments aren’t punishment, although to students and parents who are having to constantly stay on top of their kids' schoolwork, they can sure seem that way.

From a teacher’s perspective, the assignments are meant to help students better understand the course content and prepare for upcoming exams. Some schools have state-mandated end of grade or final tests. In those states these tests can account for 20 percent of a student’s final grade. So teachers want to make sure that they cover the entire curriculum before that exam. Aside from state-mandated tests, some high school students are enrolled in advanced placement or international baccalaureate college-level courses that have final tests given a month or more before the end of the term. In order to cover all of the content, teachers must maintain an accelerated pace. All of this means more out of class assignments.

Given the challenges kids face, there are a few questions parents and educators should consider:

Is homework necessary?

Many teens may give a quick "no" to this question, but the verdict is still out. Research supports both sides of the argument. Personally, I would say, yes, some homework is necessary, but it must be purposeful. If it’s busy work, then it’s a waste of time. Homework should be a supplemental teaching tool. Too often, some youth go home completely lost as they haven’t grasped concepts covered in class and they may become frustrated and overwhelmed.

For a parent who has been in this situation, you know how frustrating this can be, especially if it’s a subject that you haven’t encountered in a while. Homework can serve a purpose such as improving grades, increasing test scores and instilling a good work ethic. Purposeful homework can come in the form of individualizing assignments based on students’ needs or helping students practice newly acquired skills.

Homework should not be used to extend class time to cover more material. If your child is constantly coming home having to learn the material before doing the assignments, then it’s time to contact the teacher and set up a conference. Listen when kids express their concerns (like if they say they're expected to know concepts not taught in class) as they will provide clues about what’s happening or not happening in the classroom. Plus, getting to the root of the problem can help with keeping the peace at home too, as an irritable and grumpy teen can disrupt harmonious family dynamics .

[Read: What Makes Teens 'Most Likely to Succeed?' ]

How much is too much?

According to the National PTA and the National Education Association, students should only be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. But teens are doing a lot more than that, according to a poll of high school students by the organization Statistic Brain . In that poll teens reported spending, on average, more than three hours on homework each school night, with 11th graders spending more time on homework than any other grade level. By contrast, some polls have shown that U.S. high school students report doing about seven hours of homework per week.

Much of a student's workload boils down to the courses they take (such as advanced or college prep classes), the teaching philosophy of educators and the student’s commitment to doing the work. Regardless, research has shown that doing more than two hours of homework per night does not benefit high school students. Having lots of homework to do every day makes it difficult for teens to have any downtime , let alone family time .

How do we respond to students' needs?

As an educator and parent, I can honestly say that oftentimes there is a mismatch in what teachers perceive as only taking 15 minutes and what really takes 45 minutes to complete. If you too find this to be the case, then reach out to your child's teacher and find out why the assignments are taking longer than anticipated for your child to complete.

Also, ask the teacher about whether faculty communicate regularly with one another about large upcoming assignments. Whether it’s setting up a shared school-wide assignment calendar or collaborating across curriculums during faculty meetings, educators need to discuss upcoming tests and projects, so students don’t end up with lots of assignments all competing for their attention and time at once. Inevitably, a student is going to get slammed occasionally, but if they have good rapport with their teachers, they will feel comfortable enough to reach out and see if alternative options are available. And as a parent, you can encourage your kid to have that dialogue with the teacher.

Often teens would rather blend into the class than stand out. That’s unfortunate because research has shown time and time again that positive teacher-student relationships are strong predictors of student engagement and achievement. By and large, most teachers appreciate students advocating for themselves and will go the extra mile to help them out.

Can there be a balance between home and school?

Students can strike a balance between school and home, but parents will have to help them find it. They need your guidance to learn how to better manage their time, get organized and prioritize tasks, which are all important life skills. Equally important is developing good study habits. Some students may need tutoring or coaching to help them learn new material or how to take notes and study. Also, don’t forget the importance of parent-teacher communication. Most educators want nothing more than for their students to succeed in their courses.

Learning should be fun, not mundane and cumbersome. Homework should only be given if its purposeful and in moderation. Equally important to homework is engaging in activities, socializing with friends and spending time with the family.

[See: 10 Concerns Parents Have About Their Kids' Health .]

Most adults don’t work a full-time job and then go home and do three more hours of work, and neither should your child. It's not easy learning to balance everything, especially if you're a teen. If your child is spending several hours on homework each night, don't hesitate to reach out to teachers and, if need be, school officials. Collectively, we can all work together to help our children de-stress and find the right balance between school and home.

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Homework: How Much is Too Much?

We’ve settled into our regular school routines and I’m sure we’re all, on one level or another, dealing with our kids’ homework.  Our regular guest blogger Barbara Marques brings us her personal insight to homework struggles at home and then lends her professional experience as a teacher to give us some hints and tips in how to handle that daily workload.

  By Barbara Marques

When my oldest daughter was in first grade, we were spending more than an hour a night on math, reading and spelling homework.  By September of her second grade year, we were already up to over two hours a night!

The Daily Drama

stack of books

At homework time, my daughter’s sweet personality would change before my eyes. She became frustrated and angry – and things only went downhill from there. At one point, I contacted her teacher and kindly suggested that she back off on the homework. I was faced with an interesting irony.  As a teacher, I firmly believed in the value of homework and assigned it nightly. As a parent, I was overwhelmed by the volume assigned to my child!

How Much is Too Much Homework?

Just how much homework should elementary students have? The National Education Association (NEA) endorses the following guidelines:  10-20 minutes of homework for 1 st graders, ten minutes per grade level for 2 nd through 12 th graders (for example, 20 minutes for a 2 nd grader or 50 minutes for a 5 th grader). 

The Important Functions of Homework

As a teacher, I know that elementary school homework has many important functions. For example, there is power in repeated practice (just ask any math or reading teacher). Homework also helps young children develop study skills, organization (using a daily planner) and accountability. As parents, we can view homework as an opportunity to work one-on-one with our children and communicate that education matters. It allows us to see firsthand where our children struggle.

How to Deal with Too Much Work

If your elementary child is spending more than an hour a night on homework, a parent-teacher conference is in order. In my case, my daughter’s homework struggle was an indicator of a bigger problem – dyslexia – which may have been overlooked for another couple of years if I hadn’t gone in to talk with the teacher about how long it was taking us to get through a chapter book in the 2 nd grade.  

The Procrastination Factor

homework

Sometimes teachers genuinely overdo it with homework – sometimes our kids just make it seem that way.  A distracted child (mine included) can take a 20 minute assignment and stretch it out over an hour or longer. (Try to sitting in the same, quiet room with them to keep them on task.)  Add a little procrastination to the mix – like they’ve had two weeks to read a chapter book and create a shoebox diorama, but didn’t start until 8:00 tonight – and a valid homework can suddenly seem excessive. 

There are Guidelines

Most school districts have implemented guidelines on how much homework should be assigned. When I taught middle school, we were asked to keep homework time down to 15 minutes per core subject.  As a general rule, the educational benefit of any work your child’s teacher sends home should equal the time spent on it – if not, they’re just doing busy work. If your district has no guidelines in place, consider speaking up at the next school board meeting.

Barbara Marques is a former Texas math and social studies teacher and the mother of two elementary school-aged daughters.

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Are Young Kids Doing Too Much Homework?

Kindergartners and first-graders are bringing home 30 minutes of assignments a night. there are a few problems with that..

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When I toured a public elementary school last spring, one question in particular seemed to make the principal squirm. Do the kindergartners get homework, I asked? Yes, he replied, explaining that it can help to solidify concepts—but he quickly conceded that some parents weren’t at all happy about it.

The debate over elementary school homework is not new, but the tirades against it just keep coming. This fall, the Atlantic published a story titled “When Homework Is Useless”; you might have also seen the Texas second-grade teacher’s no-homework policy that went viral on Facebook around the same time. “Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performances,” the teacher wrote to class parents.

OK, but I had questions. If the issue really is this black-and-white, why do elementary school teachers still assign homework? How much homework are elementary kids getting, how much is too much, and how is “too much” even determined? What should parents do if they want to put an end to it?

What I discovered, after lots of digging, is a more complex issue than you’d expect. Young students are indeed getting more homework than they used to. But what’s not clear is exactly how this heavier workload is affecting their well-being. Homework has only been evaluated through the myopic lens of how it influences academic performance (spoiler: in elementary school, it doesn’t seem to). And while researchers have all sorts of ideas about how it might affect kids more generally, these possibilities haven’t been tested rigorously. The upshot, then, is that we really don’t know what homework in elementary school is doing to our kids—but there’s reason to think it can do more harm than good, particularly among disadvantaged students.

First, let’s take a close look at the science on how homework affects school performance. By far the most comprehensive analysis was published in 2006 by Duke University neuroscientist and social psychologist Harris Cooper, author of The Battle Over Homework , and his colleagues. Combing through previous studies, they compared whether homework itself, as well as the amount of homework kids did, correlates with academic achievement (grades as well as scores on standardized tests), finding that for elementary school kids, there is no significant relationship between the two. In other words, elementary kids who do homework fare no better in school than kids who do not. (Their analysis did, however, find that homework in middle school and high school correlates with higher achievement but that there is a threshold in middle school: Achievement does not continue to increase when kids do more than an hour of homework each night.)

Cooper doesn’t interpret the elementary school findings to mean that homework at this age is useless. For one thing, he says, we can’t make causal conclusions based on correlational studies, because things like homework and achievement can easily be influenced by other variables, such as student characteristics. If a kid is really struggling in school, he might spend twice as long on his homework compared with other students yet get worse grades. No one would interpret this to mean that the increased time he is spending on homework is causing him to get worse grades, because both outcomes are driven by whatever is giving him academic trouble. Likewise, a really motivated student may be more likely to finish all of his homework and get higher grades, but we wouldn’t say the homework caused him to get better grades if his motivation was the main driver. Correlations can give us hints about causal relationships (or in this case, a lack of causal relationship), but they don’t prove them.

(It’s worth mentioning that Cooper’s analysis also included a few small interventional studies that tracked outcomes between kids who had been randomly assigned to receive homework each night and those who had not; these studies did suggest that homework provides benefits, but these studies, Cooper and his colleagues noted, “were all flawed in some way that compromised their ability to draw strong causal inference.”)

There are, of course, many other ways that homework could affect a young child—in both good ways and bad. Cooper points out that regular, brief homework assignments might help young kids learn better time management and self-regulation skills, which could help them down the line. Regular homework also lets parents see what their kids are working on and how well they’re doing, which could tip them off to academic problems or disabilities. “For a 6-year-old to bring home 10 minutes of homework is almost nothing, but it does get them to sit down and think about it, talk to Mom and Dad, and so on,” Cooper says.

On the other hand, homework can also be a source of stress and family tension. For kids from low-income families, especially, homework can be tough because kids may not have a quiet place to work, high-speed internet (or computers for that matter), or parents who are available or knowledgeable enough to help. A 2015 study surveyed parents in Providence, Rhode Island, and found that the less comfortable parents were with their kids’ homework material, the more stress the homework caused at home. “I’ve talked to parents—a lot of parents, actually—who feel very burdened by the fact that kids have to do homework at night, and the parents feel responsible for getting it done, and that starts to dominate the home life,” says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early-childhood education specialist at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the author of Taking Back Childhood .

Homework could also take kids away from other enriching activities like music, sports, free play, or family time. “It’s sort of an opportunity cost issue,” says Etta Kralovec, a teacher educator at the University of Arizona South and the co-author of The End of Homework . “I’m a fifth-grader, and I either can go play with my friend or hang out with my grandmother—or I can go home and do a worksheet for math. Those are the kinds of choices that kids have to make.” One eighth-grader told me that when he was in sixth grade, he had so much homework he couldn’t participate in the sports or music classes he wanted to. Cooper points out, however, that homework could also take the place of television or video games, which might be a good thing (but is yet another complicated topic ).

Then there’s the argument that as elementary school has become more rigorous in recent years—a result, many say, of No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top Fund , both of which made schools much more accountable for low test scores—the last thing overworked, exhausted young students need is more work when they get home. “We’re seeing rates of school phobia and unhappiness and angst about school among young children at higher rates than ever before,” says Carol Burris, a former high school principal who is now the executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education. “I think that giving them a break after 3 o’clock in the afternoon is an awfully good idea.”

But the crux of the problem is that, while all of these points are potentially legitimate, no one has studied how homework affects children’s well-being in general—all we’ve got are those achievement findings, which don’t tell us much of anything for elementary school. How likely is it that regular homework will help first-graders manage their time? Will it do so to a degree that offsets the added family stress or the loss of much-loved soccer practice? Is 20 minutes of homework OK, but 30 minutes too much? This research hasn’t been done, so we don’t know.

The other big question—also tough to answer—is how much homework elementary school kids are actually getting. There are some highly publicized estimates of average homework time derived from a standardized test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is given annually to most American students. It includes the following question for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old test takers: “How much time did you spend on homework yesterday?” Compared over time, the answers suggest that 9-year-olds have more homework today than they used to, but not by a ton. Yet many researchers question the validity of these answers, because, they say, students aren’t typically given much homework the night before a standardized test anyway. And the data from this questionnaire—along with the data from a 2007 MetLife survey of third- to 12 th -graders that is also frequently quoted as evidence that homework levels remain flat—don’t tell us what’s happening with young elementary school kids.

But in the 2015 study in Providence I mentioned earlier, researchers did attempt to answer this question. They had 1,173 parents fill out a homework-related survey at pediatricians’ offices and found that the homework burden in early grades is quite high: Kindergarten and first-grade students do about three times as much homework as is recommended by the “10-minute rule.” What’s the 10-minute rule, you ask? It’s a standard, adopted by most public schools around the country (more on this later), recommending that students spend roughly 10 times their grade level in minutes on homework each night—so first-graders should be spending 10 minutes on homework and fifth-graders 50. (By this rule, kindergarteners shouldn’t be getting any homework.) Considering these numbers in combination with their findings on how homework can increase family stress, the researchers concluded, “the disproportionate homework load for K–3 found in our study calls into question whether primary school children are being exposed to a positive learning experience or to a scenario that may promote negative attitudes toward learning.”

That’s just one study, conducted in one city, so it’s hard to generalize from it; clearly, we need more data. But another national online survey suggests that homework time for the younger grades has been increasing over the past three years. Annual teacher surveys conducted by the University of Phoenix reported that in 2013, only 2 percent of elementary teachers assigned more than 10 hours of homework per week. This figure quadrupled to 8 percent in 2015. On the bright side, though, several elementary schools in recent months announced that they have stopped assigning homework entirely.

Let’s now revisit that 10-minute rule. It is a recommendation backed by the National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association that teachers have been using for a long time—but it is not based on any research. When teachers saw Cooper’s analysis of the homework data and noticed that the amounts of homework that correlated with the highest achievements in middle school and high school were similar to their rule, they used it as evidence that their rule was appropriate. But here’s the thing: While the 10-minute rule implies that 10 minutes of homework a night per grade is appropriate even starting in elementary school , Cooper’s data do not support this conclusion.

In a nutshell, then, we don’t have evidence that homework is beneficial for young kids, yet studies suggest that they are doing more homework than even the pro-homework organizations recommend, and the amounts they’re getting also seem to be increasing. So, if you’re a parent of a first-grader who’s getting 30 minutes of homework a night, what should you do?

“The first thing you should do is talk to the teacher and let the teacher know how long it’s taking the child to do homework,” Burris says. It’s best not to be confrontational—sometimes the teacher really has no idea that it’s taking so long and will make adjustments. Laura Bowman, the Virginia chapter leader at Parents Across America, a nonprofit organization for parents who want to strengthen public schools, explains: “I always feel that the initial conversation with the teacher is so important, and at that point a lot of teachers will say, ‘I did not realize how long it was taking, and if it’s going to take your child more than 10 minutes, then just do it for 10 minutes.’ ” Also, in early grades, homework should be really easy. “The assignments should be short, they should be simple, and they should lead to success,” Cooper says. “We want these kids to have a successful experience doing schoolwork on their own in another environment.”

If the teacher isn’t responsive, try the principal next, Burris suggests. Connect with other parents first to see if their kids are having similar experiences. “Go up the chain of command—if you have to go to a school board meeting, then you do, and you bring a few other parents with you, because there’s strength in numbers,” Bowman says. “The parent voice is a powerful one, and we all have to do what’s in the best interest of our own children.” Parents Across America has a handy toolkit for parents who want to organize other parents around a particular issue.

If you still can’t make headway, you can also tell the teacher that your child simply won’t be doing homework, or won’t be doing more than a certain amount. I know several parents who have done this without suffering any consequences other than a little side-eye from the teacher at school events. If this kind of confrontation makes you squeamish, get a letter from a pediatrician or psychologist that says it for you.

Bottom line is this: You’re the best judge of how homework is affecting your child. If you’ve got a second-grader who whizzes through his worksheets, then stick with the status quo, no harm done. But if your first-grader is struggling for an hour each night, or the homework is taking him away from other activities you feel are more important, take the above steps to remedy the problem. You want your kid’s earliest education experiences to be as positive as they can be; what happens in elementary school will forever shape his relationship with the classroom and his motivation to learn. We, as parents, have more power than we realize, and we should not feel ashamed to wield it for the sake of our children.

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How much homework is too much for your child?

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Homework helps your child reinforce what they learned in school but at a certain point, too much homework can be detrimental. A general rule of thumb is “ The 10-minute rule ,” which suggests that your child should have 10 minutes of homework for each grade they are in. Under this National PTA and National Education Association supported guideline, a first-grader would have 10 minutes of homework whereas a fifth-grader would have 50 minutes of homework. 

Research shows that doing additional homework beyond the 10-minute rule didn’t result in better grades in the classroom. A study of middle schoolers showed that kids who did more than 2 hours of homework per night weren’t doing any better in school than ones who were doing 1-2 hours of homework per night, which is more in line with the 10-minute rule.  

Assigning too much homework can lead to various risks such as increased stress, sleep deprivation, and overall burnout in your child. It’s important to be mindful of the amount of work your child does outside of school and avoid pressuring your child to do too much homework.

Instead of focusing on the amount of homework your child has, you should work to make the most of their homework time. 

Here are five ways to make the most of your child’s homework time: 

1. Establish a dedicated homework space. When your child has a dedicated homework space, they will be able to focus without distractions. Keep this area free from distractions like phones, TV, and loud music.

2. Set a time to do homework . Making homework part of your child’s routine will help them get into the habit of working on assignments daily. Work with your child to find out which time works best for them.

3. Make sure they do their own work. You can make suggestions and help out when your child gets stuck but ultimately, your child needs to learn to work independently . 

4. Help them break up their work. Ask your child about their assignments and help them break up bigger assignments into smaller pieces. 

5. Check-in with your child’s teacher. Maintaining good communication with teachers will help you understand your child’s progress and help you identify areas where your child may need more help. 

You may be wondering how do I optimize my child’s learning if I can’t just have them practice more? The most important thing is to optimize the time they have. You should also make sure they clearly understand the materials. Use videos, tools, or supplementary lessons to support what they are working on.

Another way to help maximize your child's homework time is through Math Genie online classes. We cover all the standards and have a tried and true course that has helped hundreds of students. Click the button below to sign up for a free online class. 

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How much homework to give (5th Grade)?

Discussion in ' Elementary Education Archives ' started by 3rdgrdteach , Aug 19, 2006 .

3rdgrdteach

3rdgrdteach Rookie

Aug 19, 2006

I will be teaching fifth grade for the first time in a private school. I have taught previously in 3rd and 4th grade in public school. In the past, I have assigned 10 minutes or reading per the childrens' grade level (30 in third, 4o in 4th), plus a paragraph reading response (so approximately 35-45 minutes total time for reading). My previous experience with math has been Saxon Math which provided nightly skills practice which took most students 10-20 minutes (depending on math ability) to complete. We would occassionally assign weekly assignments in social studies and science, but would usually give some class time to complete. All told, my students in the past had about one hour of homework each night. If I follow my previous guidelines, my fifth graders this year would be reading for 50 minutes and, after responding, an hour would be spent on reading homework alone! I will be teaching from the Everyday Math series, so the math homework doesn't look too time consuming. However, I am under the impression that some sort of science and social studies homework is expected, so I was planning on doing a weekly assigment (assigned Mon or Tues and due Thurs or Fri). I am also looking to use a spelling contract that students will be responible for on "their own time" (either when they finish classwork early or at home). With all of these pieces combined, these poor kids are looking at an hour and a half to two hours of homework a night and that seems like a lot for me to ask of a fifth graders. So upper grade teachers (and parents of students in the upper grades) I need your help. I was going to post on the 4-8 board, but this board seems to get more traffic, so here I am. So here is my question, am I asking too much from my fifth graders and if so, what can I do to modify my homework plan? ANY suggestions/feedback is welcome. TIA!  

atoz

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MrsC

MrsC Multitudinous

Our general guideline in 10 minutes homework per grade level--so the grade 5 students would have no more than 50 minutes of total homework per night. They were also encouraged to do 15 minutes of pleasure reading each night. In my opinion, more than this is too much.  

NYSTeacher

NYSTeacher Companion

I'm teaching 5th grade this year as well (my first year teaching)) and I plan on giving about an hour of homework. I wasn't really sure if all the 5th grade clases (there are 6 of us) will be giving the same amount/same stuff, etc. I planned on origianlly doing 45 minutes but after talking to a fellow teacher I've decided: An hour of homework each night (Monday - Thursday): 30 minutes of reading/reader's response spelling math worksheet then usually something else, whether it be Scieince, Social Studies, Health, etc. But it should take students no more than a hour to complete.  

hescollin

hescollin Fanatic

We have 15 to 20 minutes of library reading each night. We are an AR school. Spelling words. 6 activities to go with books for book reports each grading period. All other homework is to be completed in the classroom. Homework is considered busy work. Students need to relax and enjoy family and being kids.  

goopp

goopp Devotee

I'm teaching 5th grade for the 1st time, too. The teacher next to me gives about 1 hour of homework a night. With everything else they do, I figure if I give an hour of homework, the parents are going to do most of it, which defeats the purpose. My students have to read 400 minutes per month, so I tell them that if they read 20 minutes a day, they will get it without a problem. I give them a sheet with various spelling activities, and they are responsible for doing at least 10 of them in 2 weeks. Some will do 1 per night, others will do them all the first or last night...they need to learn to budget their time, so I let them decide. They usually have a math worksheet, and sometimes science/health/social studies. Even with reading 20 minutes, the homework should take them 40 minutes to an hour. A lot will depend on their learning level. We've only been in school a week, but no one has complained yet...once they get into fall football, soccer and basketball I'll know if I'm asking too much, and if they will have time to get it all done. If they aren't going to do it themselves at home, I'd rather use it as classwork. I spend too much time planning activities and worksheets to have a parent do them.  

Teach2Inspire

Teach2Inspire Comrade

I also give about an hour of homework Monday - Thursday. This would include Spelling, Math, and Reading 20 minutes and having a parent sign their reading log each night. In my Welcome Back letter, I also explain to the parents that there will be several occasions thoughout the year when there will be addtional work. A state report, 4 book report/or alternative book report activities, and a science project.  

Upsadaisy

Upsadaisy Moderator

I'm with the rest. A total of about one hour should be plenty.  

Ann2006

Ann2006 Cohort

Anything more than that really will defeat the purpose. Students may rush through work and not get the practice they need from the assignment. They have plenty of time in the future for tons of homework!!!! Not yet.  

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  1. Too Much Homework

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  2. HOMEWORK HAVOC: How Much Homework Is Too Much??

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  3. Do our kids have too much homework?

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  5. Do Teachers Give Too Much Homework : How Homework Can Help Students Learn

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  6. New Study Finds Excessive Homework Harms Kids

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COMMENTS

  1. How Much Homework Is Too Much?

    By the fourth and fifth grade and certainly in middle school, many of our children have hours of homework, test preparation, project writing, or research to do every night, all in addition to the ...

  2. Do our kids have too much homework?

    Bottom line: students have too much homework and most of it is not productive or necessary." Research about homework How do educational researchers weigh in on the issue? According to Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation, there is no evidence that kids are doing more homework than they did before.

  3. What's the Right Amount of Homework?

    There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus.

  4. Should Kids Get Homework?

    Education Should Kids Get Homework? Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say. By Sarah Wood | March 11, 2022, at 9:34 a.m....

  5. Signs your child may have too much homework

    Expert reviewed by Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT Sometimes, even with good habits or a homework contract in place, kids who learn and think differently may have more work than they can handle. The list below can help you figure out if your grade-schooler or middle-schooler is struggling with the homework load. Kids with too much homework might:

  6. What Parents Can Do When a Child Gets Too Much Homework

    The most common guideline is the 10-minute rule, which states that a child should have about ten minutes of homework per night for each grade they are in. With this rule, a first-grader would average 10 minutes of homework, a second grader would have 20 minutes per night, and so on.

  7. Why Homework is Bad: Stress and Consequences

    In 2013, research conducted at Stanford University found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of ...

  8. How Much Homework Is Enough? Depends Who You Ask

    In 1st grade, children should have 10 minutes of daily homework; in 2nd grade, 20 minutes; and so on to the 12th grade, when on average they should have 120 minutes of homework each day,...

  9. More than two hours of homework may be counterproductive, research

    A Stanford education researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter. "Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," wrote Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a

  10. Is Homework Good for Kids?

    There are non-academic benefits to homework, but too much work may interfere with other areas of development. Research suggests students should be given about 10 minutes of homework per grade level.

  11. Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?

    As for Diane Lowrie, who left Ocean County because of too much homework, she says Iain, now 10 and heading for fifth grade in Roosevelt, New Jersey, is less stressed out. He recently spent 40 ...

  12. How much homework is too much?

    Many districts follow the guideline of 10 minutes per grade level. This is a good rule of thumb and can be modified for specific students or subjects that need more or less time for assignments. This can also be helpful to gauge if you are providing too much (or too little) homework. Consider surveying your students on how much time is needed ...

  13. An Age-By-Age Guide to Helping Kids Manage Homework

    Third to fifth grades. Many children will be able to do homework independently in grades 3-5. Even then, their ability to focus and follow through may vary from day to day. "Most children are ...

  14. Is homework a necessary evil?

    Even when homework is helpful, there can be too much of a good thing. "There is a limit to how much kids can benefit from home study," Cooper says. He agrees with an oft-cited rule of thumb that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level — from about 10 minutes in first grade up to a maximum of about two hours in high ...

  15. Should We Get Rid of Homework?

    Oct. 26, 2022 Do you like doing homework? Do you think it has benefited you educationally? Has homework ever helped you practice a difficult skill — in math, for example — until you mastered...

  16. Is Homework Good for Kids? Here's What the Research Says

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  18. How Much Homework Is Too Much for Our Teens?

    In that poll teens reported spending, on average, more than three hours on homework each school night, with 11th graders spending more time on homework than any other grade level. By contrast ...

  19. What's the right amount of homework for my students?

    Too much homework can negatively impact students in ways you might not expect. Understanding these impacts will make you a better, more effective, and more empathetic teacher to your students. Let's begin by looking at some of the ways that homework can negatively impact students.

  20. Homework: How Much is Too Much?

    The National Education Association (NEA) endorses the following guidelines: 10-20 minutes of homework for 1 st graders, ten minutes per grade level for 2 nd through 12 th graders (for example, 20 minutes for a 2 nd grader or 50 minutes for a 5 th grader). The Important Functions of Homework

  21. Are grade-schoolers doing too much homework?

    They had 1,173 parents fill out a homework-related survey at pediatricians' offices and found that the homework burden in early grades is quite high: Kindergarten and first-grade students do ...

  22. How much homework is too much for your child?

    A general rule of thumb is " The 10-minute rule ," which suggests that your child should have 10 minutes of homework for each grade they are in. Under this National PTA and National Education Association supported guideline, a first-grader would have 10 minutes of homework whereas a fifth-grader would have 50 minutes of homework.

  23. How much homework to give (5th Grade)?

    How much homework to give (5th Grade)? Discussion in ' Elementary Education Archives ' started by 3rdgrdteach, Aug 19, 2006 . 3rdgrdteach Rookie Joined: Jun 21, 2005 Messages: 47 Likes Received: 0 Aug 19, 2006 I will be teaching fifth grade for the first time in a private school. I have taught previously in 3rd and 4th grade in public school.