Do Your Kids Have Too Much Homework? 5 Tips on How to Tell and What to Do

I hate homework more than my children hate homework, and I hope you understand I’m not maligning my kids’ Homework-Hating Potential by telling you so.

I mean, sure, not all my kids are consistent about hating homework, especially my deliriously enthusiastic, trend-bucking 1st graders who seem for now to actually enjoy it, but I like to think even they carry some sort of latent homework-hating potential, if only from my side of the gene pool.

I tell you all of this to expose my bias before we begin lest you think I’m trying to give homework a fair shake, which I’m, well, not. But perhaps it’s best if I tell you why I hate homework so you don’t think I completely reject all forms of standard education. Because I actually love our local education district, and particularly the fact that my children are subjected to it. I LOVE SCHOOL is what I’m saying, and especially that MY CHILDREN GO THERE to sit at the feet of RAD TEACHERS who – get this – TEACH THEM THINGS. These people and their systems are not perfect, nor do they magically have the answer to every educational dilemma our family faces (damn it), but they still make me unreasonably happy because they work with us and are dedicated to their craft and make a difference in our world; I’m grateful for them every day.

Homework, though?

Well, not to be dramatic, but I support the death penalty for homework and, after it’s executed, I will volunteer to drag its carcass from the building, dig its unmarked grave, and bury it so I can be the first to spit on it.

The reason I hate homework is this: homework seems to benefit only one type of child from one type of family; a type that becomes more and more rare as time goes on. Homework is designed for families with a maximum of 2 children from a 2-parent home wherein one parent is a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver and also has some kind of formal training in education. For example, my high schooler, who I would argue needs some homework so she can learn college study skills and time management, also needs a parent who can teach effective study techniques; something her father and I patently fail at doing, not because we don’t have study techniques, but because we are truly terrible at imparting our knowledge in a way that makes sense to our children. In other words, we just suck at helping with homework.

Also, for homework to be effective, the children shouldn’t have any learning disabilities and should be at least somewhat self-directed and intrinsically motivated to learn.

Also-also, the children shouldn’t have more than one extracurricular activity or siblings with any.

Also-also-also, the children shouldn’t have any medical disabilities or other issues that require after-school care or treatment.

Also-also-also-also… well, you get the idea.

Last week, I lost my homework poo in a great, big homework poo explosion.

We were three weeks into school, and I just completely lost it because Greg came home in the early evening, assessed the volume of homework facing us and casually mentioned that Aden, our 6th grader, had several hours ahead of her.

“Hey, Beth,” Greg said, holding a stack of teacher blog printouts and poor test scores and science worksheets and math problems, “Aden has hours of homework tonight.”

And I said, “No.”

And Greg the Rule Follower said, “What?”

And I felt my eyes go wide and crazy as I said, “No.”

And Greg said, “What?” which meant I don’t think you can just say No here, Beth.

And I said, “No. No. Just NO. I can’t… We’re not… It’s just… NO.”

And Greg looked at me like I’d lost my mind, so I took a deep breath and explained, “She went to school from 7:45-2:20 today. She went to homework club after school from 2:20-3:45. She rode the bus from 3:45-4:30. She just got home 45 minutes ago. She does that every day. That’s 39 hours of school she’s already doing every week. She’s 11, and school is her full time job. She has diagnosed developmental delays and communication disorders. She loves school right now, Greg. She loves reading. She’s progressing and learning in all subjects, even though it’s slower than the charts say she should be. She sneaks books into bed at night. She’s amazing. I just can’t make her do more. No matter what common core dictates about retaking all these tests, I can’t do it in good conscience. I can’t kill her love of learning by giving her more school work after she’s put in a full day. So no. NO. No, no, no. No homework tonight. Homework can’t help her right now.” 

And Greg held the stack out to me and said, “Then what do we do?”

Which is the question, isn’t it?

If homework’s not working, then what do we do?

How do we know? What do we do? What can we do? And how do we do it?

ID-10067330Because, of course, as I was hyperventilating about Aden’s homework, I had other things running through my mind, too. Like 4 other kids’ homework, and dinner to get on the table, and a kid to run to dance class, and allergy shots to schedule, and a kid with a fever, and youth group permission slips to complete, and picture day forms, and 1st grade sharing to find, and a grocery list to create, and dear God, I’ve had to pee for 4 hours now.

Homework doesn’t happen in isolation, after all; it has to work for the whole family.

We’ve had kids in school for 30 cumulative years, though, and we’ve learned a thing or two in that time, mostly from teachers who pulled us aside as we were busy Powering Through and Not Giving Up and BLINDERS ON, KID! FULL SPEED AHEAD! They saw us flailing, tossed a figurative arm around our shoulders and said, “Psst… did you know it doesn’t have to be like this?” or “Psst… did you know there are other options?” or “Psst… why didn’t you tell us you were drowning sooner? We’re here to help you.

So I’ve polled a few of my favorite teachers about this conundrum – what do we do when homework is just too much? – and, just in case you’re at the end of your homework rope, too, here’s what the teachers had to say.

5 Tips on
How to Tell When Your Kid Has Too Much Homework

and What to Do About It

1. Know WHY Your Kid Has Homework: Teachers should be able to identify the purpose (learning target) for everything they assign. Homework should reinforce ideas and allow for the opportunity to finish odds and ends not completed in class. There is a ton of research that supports the fact the amount of homework given has no positive impact on student mastery of skills and could possibly have a detrimental effect. Homework should not be busy work or the time for new learning. If asked (and parents should ask if it’s unclear), a teacher should be able to articulate the purpose behind a homework assignment.

2. Know HOW MUCH Homework is Expected: “I’ve heard a formula of about 10 minutes per grade level per day. However, my early teaching years were in a working class neighborhood in Chicago. You could not count on the kids being able to do homework, and even now I’m not a fan. Some kids and families will obsess about it and others won’t or can’t.” Ask your child’s teachers how much homework is expected and when to call it quits even if they haven’t finished. For middle schoolers, for example, more than 60-90 minutes total is ridiculous, and 90 minutes every night is too much. Any more and it’s either busy work or they don’t get it.

3. Trust Your Gut and Honor Your Kid’s Experience: Homework isn’t always fun, and that’s OK. Some of the skills a child should learn from homework are time management, finishing projects, asking for help, working through frustration, and being responsible. Some learning comes from struggling through a process and triumphing over it, but perpetual struggle can crush your kid’s spirit; it’s your job to recognize when that’s happening and to guard against it. A teacher cannot and should not be responsible for knowing how it’s going at home. If a child is consistently frustrated or discouraged or angry, or if you’ve wondered for some time why homework isn’t working, trust your gut and honor your kid’s experience; ask for help. If the child gets stuck, including emotionally, it’s better to stop and send the teacher a quick note that the child plans to ask the teacher for help the next day.

4. Communicate Kindly and Clearly With Teachers: Teachers are friends, not food. (Name that movie.) No, but really. The vast majority of teachers are there because they want to be effective at helping your kid learn. They’re partners, not enemies, and should be treated as essential members of your team. Your goals are the same – growth and learning. Just like all growth, sometimes it’s painful. That’s OK; just be gentle with each other.

Don’t start a conversation with, ‘I don’t think my kid should have so much homework.’ Instead, ask about learning targets. Tell the teacher your kid is having a hard time. Tell the teacher how you feel. Ask what the teacher has noticed. Ask what the teacher recommends. Ask how the teacher has accommodated other students with challenges.

“As a teacher, I appreciate open honest conversation with parents. If a parent treats me as a partner in the kid’s learning process, I’ll bend over backwards to find what will work best. The best meeting I ever had, the parent scheduled in advance, brought me coffee and then grilled me to explain why their kid didn’t have an A+++. All teachers want to be respected. Good teachers welcome insight into their students. Who better than their parents to provide it?”

And if a teacher can’t help you, ask the administration who can.

5. Ask for Alternatives and Then Keep Communicating: There are often different ways a child can show mastery without epic amounts of homework. Ask the teacher if they have hours available during lunch or before or after school to assist kids who need extra help; schedule your child regularly with the teacher if necessary. If your child needs testing for learning disabilities or to be on an Individualized Education Plan, keep asking; check in weekly with your school to find out where your child is in that process. It takes longer than anyone likes to get kids special accommodations. That’s just part of it. Most importantly, don’t give up! Asking for alternatives and advocating for your child with a teacher are not one-time events or one-time fixes. A partnership with a teacher can and should continue throughout the year. Email. Check in. Ask how it’s going. And let the teacher know you appreciate his time.

……….

So, parents, how’re you doing with homework these days? Holding your poo together? Or not so much? If you have stories or additional tips, I’m all ears.

And P.S. I’m on the fabulous and funny Dadsaster podcast this week as they tackle parental involvement in schools. I might – *ahem* – confess to be just slightly less involved than the PTA president… and I might list all the things I’m supposed to be doing that I don’t, um, actually do. In other words, I did all my own stunts in the podcast so none of the stars would be harmed in the shoot. I give and I give. Give it a listen here.

……….

Stressed School Boy photo credit David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalimages.net
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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
35 comments
  1. Beth, I teach 5th grade…32 of the little dears, each day, rain or shine! You’re right on the money in this post. I want to validate your decision to get off the crazy train with your daughter, and recognizing the toll that HW was going to take on her happiness and your sanity. Mostly, I want to thank you for suggesting ways for parents to approach their kids’ teachers– like teammates working towards the same goals. I don’t hate HW, when it reinforces learning, and is meaningful…. I do hate dumb HW, not appropriately leveled or “busy work”.

  2. Very good article on too much homework in the Atlantic wherein the author tries to do his middle school aged daughter’s homework with her. Aargh I can’t paste! It’s by karl Taro Greenfield… try googling it. Sorry!

  3. OK, I am a pansy. I only have one child left at home, he has no disabilities of any kind and I HATE homework. He could be a bit lazy, but he likes to wait until I get home at 6:30 (and have dinner to make, and laundry to do, and grocery lists, etc. etc. etc.) And I try. I do. But I’m not sure I would make a very excellent school teacher. Because after I explain what surely anyone can see clearly now because I’ve carefully and slowly gone over it again and again and again and WHY AREN’T YOU GETTING THIS? Man, I hate homework.

  4. I have mixed feelings on this one. I too have 5 kids, and I too have 2 kids with special needs, so I totally get that. One of my daughters struggled just getting to school, let alone doing homework. Emotionally it was more then she could handle. By her senior year she is so behind we finally had to take her out of school all together.

    My son with ADHD has done an AMAZING job at school this year, loves it, behaves properly (big improvement) but man he is DONE when he gets home. We try really hard to work with him on homework but frankly, by the time we get through all the things we have to do as a family – you know like eat, bath, maybe even clean up a little – I often don’t have anything left to give either. I’ve talked to his teacher and she was great about modifying, and he does have an IEP but I am finding there are nights he (or I) just can’t do it. It’s a work in progress and I find if I just keep talking to his teacher thing work out pretty well for the most part. And, if his homework grade is low, but he is learning and loving school, I don’t care lol.

    One the other hand, my now college age daughter was forever blowing off important homework like English essays and is now finding college a bit daunting. And my other daughter needs the practice to learn how to write properly and to understand her math homework. And spelling… can’t they make pencils with spell check built in? Please?

    I hate to watch my sophomore drag through hours of homework she stresses about the entire time. It’s sad because it makes her want to quit her advanced classes, but she really is smart enough for them. She’s my puzzle. I never know if I should push her harder or start writing notes trying to get her excused from an assignment. And that kid works her butt off, so lazy isn’t an issue. SHe does get tired and burnt out too, just like everyone else. I wish there was a way to build grace into the homework system without it becoming abused by kids that don’t want to try.

    And man I feel for teachers. That’s hard work dealing with a big group of kids that may or may not even care about school. It’s all well and good to work with kids who are willing and making an effort, but can you imagine trying to motivate kids who just don’t care? Or trying to help those poor kids who don’t understand material and they have parents that just don’t care? I couldn’t do that. Nope. Not this kid. Props to teachers for dealing with 6th grade eye rolls and high school kids disrespect.

    I guess it’s very individual for each child and each family. I normally handle each child in whatever manner they need and don’t worry about siblings or peer expectations. I don’t force homework if it’s casing melt downs and anxiety attacks. I do talk regularly with teachers and I do spend a lot of time teaching the kids to advocate for themselves. Speak up if they don’t understand, ask for help on the essay they can’t get right, find out what they did wrong on the test so they can fix it, tell the teacher they have been sick and barely making it to school. I think if parents, kids, and teachers are talking a lot of the homework issues start to become manageable.

    So…there you go. On the fence, still confused, and just doing the best I can. Like the teachers, and my kids.

    1. I like you. 🙂
      I like your comment.
      Thank you — I too have 5 kids, and everyday brings a new challenge and I am just trying to instill in my kids an understanding of what would be a reasonable amount of time to invest, and learn to be responsible for what needs to be done. Then the balance where some days it’s just not gonna happen, and I’m so totally OK with that. I have more to say but I’m too tired to think and I’ve still gotta clean the kitchen and get the kids to bed, and finish the laundry and get in my workout. On second thought, skip the laundry and workout, the kids do have clothes to wear, and I forgot to eat lunch today so I guess a workout is ok to skip.
      I rattle on… great article Beth.

  5. I love the fact that my 1st grader’s homework is only to read at night for 20 minutes and record it. She is required to turn in 5 books a week. Each chapter in a chapter book counts as a book too. This is our 4th time through 1st grade at this school and this is a new policy. It used to be that they sent home 5 worksheets on Friday, due on Thursday. This was okay because it left flexibility on when it got done around sibling and their activities and my 1st graders have always enjoyed worksheets.

    My third grader always has a math worksheet and spelling homework, plus reading. I am generally okay with those and he does fine with it. My issue is that I am required to sign his reading log DAILY and his agenda DAILY and I suck at following up with him to sign them. I know what homework he has and what he is working on, but getting the time and space to sign can be a challenge. I sent a note into the teacher stating this because I didn’t want him penalized for my failure to find a pen and two seconds to sign it in the morning – nor did I want him signing my name, which he tried.

    My 6th grader is in a Math and Science Speciality program. Their classes are all extended/advanced. They have almost 90 minutes of class time. Almost all of his teachers say the only homework is studying for tests or completing what they don’t finish in class. My problem is the math teacher who sends a sheet of 20 review problems home on Monday due the following Monday. they can turn it in to be checked on Wednesday and have the weekend to correct it. Easy A, right? No, because she doesn’t accept late work, won’t let them go back to their locker if it is forgotten, and won’t take it early. So out of 3 weeks my son has 2 zeros and 1 100%. therefore his grade in her class right now is a D…

    8th grader has Spanish homework nightly but it is a high school level course and Algebra homework most nights. The rest is finishing what she didn’t or making up missed work.

    I think that kids need down time. They need to run and play and be active and socialize and just veg. Homework doesn’t seem to be a positive thing most nights and I haven’t seen it to be helpful generally. And I hate projects like Diorama’s and Envelope a character that either you help your kid with them or the work is “not strong enough”!

  6. As a high school teacher I always thought homework was usually unnecessary. Math drills, reading homework, spelling – those things that need some repetition — ok, do some. But by high school, I can’t understand it. If you make the argument you prepare them for college – not with worksheets! Not with “comprehension” assignments. With well thought out papers, debates, tests – yes. But most freshman in college feel utterly unprepared for what they are facing even if they were a rule following, do every piece of homework, and get straight As, kind of student. I hold my students to a high, high standard with multiple types of testing (verbal, standard, and essay) and I expect high level thinking and we work hard in class, but I don’t send home homework. If a student has homework it’s because they didn’t finish in class and/or they need the time to study and be prepared for the difficult class. My kids say my science classes save their butt in college. I work my tail off with the kids that want to succeed and the homework (and personal textbooks) have very little involvement in my class.

  7. Lots of people have expressed opinions and I realise not every school or family is the same. I teach in early childhood and realise that my kids are little and need down time but I also need them to be able to count to 20 and read a simple book each day and learn sight words and I don’t have the time to do that in my class for each child. Also other homework that I set is about encouraging children and parents to talk. The frustrating thing is when homework arrives back with nothing done and I watch the children struggle because they are falling behind. I don’t set homework to make a parents life hard but to help you as a parent be informed as to the skills that you might help your child with. Homework is a sensitive subject I guess

  8. I’m a teacher – I hate homework and would not assign it if not required by my campus and district. The footer on my grades homework reminds parents that it should not take more than 20 minutes. We would love it if they read longer – because we want them reading for pleasure.

    Our home work is read your library book, 5 computation problems – 1 problem solving problem, and study 10 spelling words. I keep a list of concepts we have taught, and a 2nd list of kids names. I spiral through all the math concepts, and use the children’s names for the word problems.

  9. I HATE homework as well and wish it dead. My daughter, after using all of her energy to keep her sever anxiety under control at school so she doesn’t tic and hyperventilate and squirm all day, does not have any coping skills left for homework when she gets home. Sometimes she just sees the homework paper and goes into a full-on anxiety meltdown and we have two hours of hysteria. At that point she can no longer write because her hands are shaking and she’s so mentally shut down that if you ask her what’s 0+1 she’ll say 4 or some other random number. It’s hellish and hard for the teacher to understand since she’s highly academically gifted and most days at school doesn’t show physical signs of her anxiety disorder, but like you said for many kids once they’ve put in a full day at their job, they shouldn’t/can’t do more without crushing their spirit. It’s not like she’s capable of doing other things after school either. She does absolutely no extracurriculars unless you count therapy appointments, and she really needs those after hours to relax wind-down and do the things she’s passionate about like writing and creating. Having said all that, until I had a child with an illness, I had no idea homework could wreak this much havoc, and I’m sure there are teachers that don’t know this either. Any teacher my daughter has had would be stunned if I videoed a homework meltdown and showed it to them because it is so extreme and she does remarkably well at school, but again that’s why there’s such a thing as a work day and then an evening to go home and relax.
    So what have we done? This year we increased her dosage of medication she takes and with the help of her therapist came up with a very specifc strategy for how homework is handled. Those two things have fortunately made a huge difference and things are much better now than the first 3 weeks of school. It’s still a balancing act though. Good luck, Beth! By the way her therapist specializes in childhood anxiety disorders and she too hates homework.

  10. Thank you! Homework is definitely designed for a time when one person stayed home all day (with no toddlers and one or two kids!). My daughter has ADD and can’t concentrate in After Care enough to do her homework. That leaves very little time once we get home. If the kids have sports or Scouts, forget it!

  11. If she spends over an hour at homework club…and works hard there…and STILL has hours more, that sounds like way too much. Is homework club even working? I teach and I also have a 19, 17, and 15 year old. I hate/like homework. I like that is provides practice for subjects kids need. I like that it provides an opportunity for one-on-one teaching -sorry- we teachers can’t do that during the day with 28 kids. As much as I want to, I just can’t take each child through the long division process step by step until they get it, or listen to them read for 20 min and have long drawn out conversations about literary themes. But as a mom, I hate when it is piled on as busy work that reinforces no particular skill. I hate when it makes my kid feel dumb or overwhelmed. I hate- absolutely hate- dioramas and artsy social studies projects that involve spending money at craft stores for limited educational benefit. My kids are now very independent homework doers, but for years and years, we spent 1- 1.5 hours every day doing one on one reading work with our dyslexic child after school. And that doesn’t even count his other homework or that of his brother and sister. He is graduating this year and college bound- that would NOT have happened without those painfully long, and sometimes torturous hours we put in. Yes I tried to keep it lighthearted and fun, but what 8 year old boy wants to stay inside when he could be playing football in the greenspace? As painful and time consuming as those years were though, it did pay off. He is successful now. And an amazingly hard worker.

  12. I’m currently homeschooling all of my children, but we have had kids in public school for various reasons. I also loathe homework. I think homework should be used for additional practice on a topic a child has already learned, such as multiplication tables. I also don’t have a problem with reading homework being given so that the class can discuss something the next day. A child should be able to do their homework mostly on their own, a parent shouldn’t have to teach a new topic in the 30 free minutes between dinner and bedtime.
    There have been a few times when I felt my kid was getting too much homework, or was getting homework on something they didn’t understand, or was just getting “busy work”. Once, my son was getting a lot of math homework. He clearly knew how to do the work but there were so many problems that it took forever to finish. I just had him do the first 10 or 15 out of 30 similar questions and then sent a note with the homework telling the teacher that “A has a good grasp of this material and worked all of these problems correctly, but simply didn’t have enough time to finish the entire sheet”. When my kid didn’t know how to do it I would explain it if I had the time but if I didn’t I would send a note telling the teacher that they weren’t clear on the material and needed to review in class. I never had a kid get bad grades on their homework.
    Sometimes I found that with younger kids the problem was that writing the answers took so long, so unless penmanship was part of the assignment I would let them dictate the answer to me and I would write it down.

    1. “When my kid didn’t know how to do it I would explain it if I had the time but if I didn’t I would send a note telling the teacher.” <-- This is a great tip! We've done the same thing in recent years and found teachers to be very receptive to this. My note usually says something like, "Aden tried but didn't understand this. I tried to help her and failed rather remarkably. Help!" I also like your tip on modifying homework.

  13. I have 2 kids with trauma histories, one diagnosed with PTSD, and one with Anxiety. And when the one w/anxiety has homework looming over her, its like the worst thing she can possibly imagine, and she literally cannot handle it. So I talked to the school, and they said, okay, lets do a 504, and she won’t have to do homework. And suddenly, she didn’t dread school anymore. And now, because she’s free to NOT do it, she can actually do it occasionally because its not such a big black cloud of scary anymore.

    And somehow, she’s still learning. A lot. If she can still learn with hardly any homework, then what’s the point of homework? That part I really don’t get, the assumption that homework is necessary. Why? Because it somehow teaches good work habits? If my boss gave me 3 hours of work to do AFTER work, I’d quit – why do we expect it of our kids? Sorry, total side rant.

    1. One of the teacher friends I consulted on this post said, “I don’t give homework because I like to be done with school when I go home, too. I try not to bring work home with me, and I try to make my students bring work home with them.” That sounds reasonable to me!

  14. Great advice, Beth. I really need it. Lost it this week with my youngest, who was slumping and whining and complaining about his work, and it’s hard to know when he doesn’t get it, or is just lazy. You’d think that my husband and I, both educators, would have more patience and know-how. But we suck at this. I see that Aden has homework club, too, which has been a gift to us. Kids at school a little longer, getting help from other people? And it’s a “club,” so it must be fun, right? Win-win, all the way around. At any rate, so much wisdom here. Glad others are struggling with this, too, because some nights, sitting at the kitchen table, I imagine all my sons’ friends are whip-smart and doing their work without complaint.

    1. Yes! I think we all imagine the same thing, Melanie! That we’re the only ones tearing our hair out.

  15. I totally get your homework rant. My oldest is only in first grade and I hate homework already. He doesn’t seem to mind it TG but I have trouble maintaining the schedule so that he does it every day. The poor kid is at school from 8-13:00 and goes to afternoon care. Sometimes he remember to do his homework there and sometimes he doesn’t. By the time he gets home at 5pm he is exhausted and his ADHD medication has worn off. I just feel cruel making him do his homework.

  16. OK, I don’t have five kids, and I still hate homework as much as you do! For five years I have muddled through with my son and it’s been hell for both of us. Like you it isn’t that I don’t know how to do it, it’s that I don’t know how to teach it to my child.

    I just met with the school last week to discuss homework. Since my son has a learning disability on top of emotional and behavioral issues homework was becoming a nightmare. We have agreed that homework will be limited to reading, spelling and math, and that it will only involve limited review of known information that he can do independently. No projects that have to be done at home. He really needs to be able to leave school at school at the end of the day.

    I’m still trying to get his IEP to state this. The draft of the change they sent home yesterday isn’t specific enough for my liking. I think I will just have to write it for them.

  17. Yes! Yes! Yes! The hours between 3:45 and 8:00 are hours I DREAD! I have a gifted 11 year old who I just can’t convince that it is OK NOT to understand something, and go to her teachers and say that she needs more help, and that she just can’t finish something. She is conscientious to a fault. My 9 year old has a learning disability. She requires (well, thinks she does) constant hand holding to get her .homework done. Thus can take upwards of 2 hours, on a good day. Her father tries to help her, but just doesn’t have the patience. And he wonders why we don’t eat until 8 some nights. Also, these kids are being taught things we never learned, and the things we learned are being taught differently!! How the hell are we supposed to help them???? My 9 year old has a hard time with subtraction; how can I help her when we do it two different ways???? AND! I have a kindergartener who really only has 10 minutes of work, IF he would sit and do. Evidently, a tantrum before, during and after is necessary to completing it.
    I want to cry every day at 4:00 pm, it’s that bad.

  18. Thank you, Beth. This is totally the model that we’ve followed with my 11-year-old twin sons with learning and behavioral issues and, mostly, the teachers have been right with us in making homework less of a fight. However, I just attended back to school night for my Pre-K daughter, where they told us that, in addition to the daily reading log that they have already sent home – where we must read the story that they send home from school that day, 7 days a week (reading the same book on weekend days) – they will be starting to give “homework” assignments. An example of their homework assignment? Go to the grocery store and make a list of all the fruits that you can find. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I could pull that off on a Saturday (maybe…), but on a weeknight? When I get home from work just in time to have dinner and put my kids to bed? Her Pre-K program seems to not so much understand the concept of a two-parent-working family…

  19. I am a seventh grade teacher, and I definitely don’t give tons of homework. That said, I have to admit it rubs me the wrong way to hear parents just say it doesn’t get done if it’s too much. Beth, you are so pro-teacher that I am trying hard not to be defensive. But may I offer my perspective?

    I understand there may be time where there is an unreasonable amount of homework and/or kids aren’t getting it. And I liked the tips about asking the teacher and communicating with kindness for sure. But, I also know that some middle schoolers procrastinate. Some go to homework club and talk and play and don’t actually do any homework. When I give them time to start homework in class, some of them sit there and waste time. (Not saying Aiden does these things; just common things I see). So, to the list of communicating with the teacher, I would also encourage parents to ask about your child’s work habits. Ask the after school program if your child actually works in there. Reconsider homework club if your child is just too social (as I would’ve been in middle school) and can’t focus on homework in a room full of peers. Ask if the students asks for help and is willing to come in before/after school.

    Also, please know that teachers get mixed messages. I have parents complain that I don’t give enough homework. Or that it’s too easy. I tend to ignore them and do my thing, but you aren’t the only voice we hear.

    And finally, yes, if a kid asks for help during lunch, I usually say yes. I am impressed by initiative and, like most teachers, really care about your kids. But remember that I am giving up my 30 minute lunch break to work. I don’t get a lot of spare time in my day, so that is a sacrifice. I too hold my pee for four hours sometimes, because I can’t leave to go the restroom. And if a teacher says no to lunchtime tutoring, don’t crucify them or assume the worst. One of my friends can’t tutor because she has a baby at home and has to pump every day during her conference period, lunchtime, and before she leaves for her 45 minute commute home. She’s still a wonderful teacher, who is willing to do what she can for her students, but a parent complained that she was “unwilling to help her child.”

    So, I guess I’m just repeating Beth’s advice: be kind to us.

    1. Well said Jessica! We do care about your children! We also have families that need us outside of school, and we need to rest during our lunch breaks to recharge for the entire group. That being said, the occasional extra help or small group session is workable!

      We don’t like grading busywork so we don’t like giving it either. Homework is supposed to be practice, and also serve as an assessment to see if students are learning and understanding what is taught in class. It’s not supposed to be torture. If a child is struggling, we want parents to be able to talk to us about it, and chances are, if your student is coming into school without completed homework, we already know there is an issue to address. Teachers make homework a part of a student’s overall grade because if we didn’t, it would almost never get done. Practice is required for mastery of a subject…it’s like learning to play an instrument.

    2. Jessica, as a 7th grade teacher myself, I agree with a lot you say. I occasionally give up lunch time, but it’s one of those things that can be a problem. We get barely any time to plan or assess, and teachers have a habit of giving up things, out of our dedication to our students and our profession, that we actually have a right to: a 30 minute student-free lunch is one of them.

      I think middle schoolers are great, but I’m not living with one. It’s important to know that their very deeply felt ‘truths’ (‘My teacher hates me’, ‘He didn’t explain that in class’, ‘He just gives us a ton of homework’, etc). is VERY subjective and often bears little resemblance to factual reality. One thing parents have to know is ALWAYS talk to the teacher (as Beth has done) before you jump to a conclusion about what’s going on in class. Most parents do, but a certain number still make assumptions before they ever contact me.

    3. Great tip, Jessica, to ask the teacher about your child’s work habits. Once poor work habits are identified, it’s a good idea to drill down on that. Is the child being lazy? Have a learning disability? Not understanding? Feeling too embarrassed to ask for help?

      I also really appreciate you sharing the story of your teacher friend. We absolutely all must remember that we are complex people dealing with complex people and that we all deserve the benefit of the doubt. So the teacher who can’t provide additional instruction at school deserves parents who assume the best about WHY. And the parents who can’t provide additional instruction at home deserve teachers who assume the best about WHY. And hopefully those parents and teachers can work together to find other solutions and learning resources for kids who need help.

  20. Thanks for this post! Now I just wish I had this info when I was a student like my daughter who thinks every little thing must be done perfectly and every day the school work would take from the arrival home to past bedtime!

    Now, the trick would be convincing my perfectionist daughter that she doesn’t need to get it all done!

    1. You and me both, sister! 🙂

  21. Thank you for this perspective. I am super anti-homework. I am all good with tying up loose ends and working on cool long term projects, but I feel that a lot of the time it is busy work. Less so as the kids get older, but very much so for little ones. Teachers are good people fighting the good fight. The teachers in our district are told to give a certain amount of homework. I think that’s weird. The amount of time should not be a goal, unless you are making sure it is not too much time, but the educational objective and how you get there should be the goal. Be well and good luck with holding the homework poo together. If all else fails, just don’t start flinging it! 🙂

  22. The “too many hours” thing was a problem here too. Only get this – it was with a CYBER SCHOOL. You know, the ones that are supposed to be more flexible and better for kids who don’t fit the mold (like my highly distractable and socially tone-deaf son). I had dealt with this unnamed cyber school when my daughter had some health problems, and I liked it then. This year they wanted 8 year old students to sit through 2 hours of chat room instruction and do 15 – 20 minutes of required educational games, then get to work on the 5 hours of coursework for the day, which I had to coach/push him through.

    I wrote the school about my concerns and asked if he could drop the chat room class time (which wasn’t a requirement for my daughter when she was there 4 years ago). The teacher looked at his testing scores, and because of the new standards instead requested that my boy show up in the chat room 45 minutes EARLY so she could work with him on his weak points.(She’s required to log more individual instruction with low-scoring students, so I don’t blame her.) And do 30 extra minutes of online learning games a day. That’s 9 hours plus a bit of school they wanted him to do a day.

    I pulled the plug. I’m homeschooling him. (It’s OK – it’s not for everyone, but it’s good for the two of us.)

    1. Ohhh we did cyber school one year. It was RIDICULOUS. They kept changing the rules – you don’t to do the online worksheets if you attend the class connect and pass the test” “no, wait you still have to do the online worksheet becasue marking it “done” still shows it as incomplete and the OLS (online system) must be at 80 %…” “OK, you don’t have to do class connects if you do OLS” “No, class connects are mandatory” “No, only certain CCS are mandatory,” “Oh, we forgot to tell you about mandatory “Study Island” and the blue ribbons you mus tearn there that count for 40% of your grade” – They acted like it was a five to six hour a day commitment on enrollment and it ended up being more like 9 hours if you did everything they said you HAD to do. And I had THREE kids. And I work full time – albeit in a home office. I was going NUTS.

  23. Bless you Beth. I am at home and I still have felt like I drown in homework from just the 2 kids I have currently in school! That was last year though, this year the teachers they have are not sending as much home. YAY!!! I can handle the need to read me a book, and some spelling, maybe even a bit of math if needed. If it looks like it will take more than half an hour to do, nope it doesn’t get done. I am a strong supporter of “let the kids play!” The animals do it, that’s how they prepare for life, playing is fun. Sometimes someone bites too hard or gets tackled by a bigger problem than they anticipated, that’s where they learn about hard work and sticking to it, but it only pays off if the goal at the end makes them happy. If homework can not be fun, if school can not be fun, then there are going to be problems.

  24. 4. Nemo

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