Homework: How Much Is Too Much?
know some parents who are muttering a lot about our district giving out too
much homework. Are they just whiners? Or is there something to what they say?
The old rule of thumb used to be
that a child had to get all his or her homework done before TV, and certainly
before dinner. But now, with after-school sports, lessons and activities, and
working parents who can't supervise 'til after the sunset hour, that's becoming
more and more difficult to achieve.
old rule of thumb also seemed to be that a teacher in grade school would rarely
give more than a half-hour of total homework per evening. But once kids get
into middle school and high school, that could be a half-hour per class - times
with today's increasing emphasis on group projects, which are notorious
time-wasters since the kids mess around so much, it's easy to see how cries of
"too much homework" might be ringing out in many homes and neighborhoods.
even a book out about it: The Case
Against Homework (Nancy Kalish and Sara Bennett, Crown). Critics say that
without enough down time, kids aren't able to let lessons really sink in and
connect with their existing bank of knowledge; instead, they're always
stressing out over the next homework assignment.
the other hand, there are plenty of parents who are advocating for MORE
homework, not less. A 2003 study by the Brookings Institution showed that among
study participants, only 5% of children are doing two or more hours of homework
per day, across the country.
a complaint: is the homework introducing new material instead of helping the
child go over "old" or already-introduced information and stretch thinking and
connections? Teachers who don't use good time management in class may resort to
that, but it's not what we're paying teachers to do.
is always a good goal. According to a review of 60-some studies on homework
between 1987 and 2003, there's no link between increased homework in
elemetnetary school and higher test scores, and for secondary-level students
from 6th through 12th grades, those who do homework for
90 to 120 minutes a night do the best. Those who work longer actually have less
impressive test scores, according to the reviewer, Harris Cooper, director of
education at Duke University, Durham, NC.
helps to give your child's teacher the benefit of the doubt: maybe your child
is obsessing and over-doing the homework to the point of perfectionism. Talk it
over with your child's teacher and find out.
make sure your child hasn't fallen into the familiar trap of procrastination. A
lot of complaining and excessive hours of homework may be traced right to that
childish (OK, all ages are prone to it!) tendency to put off 'til tomorrow what
you'd be much better off doing today.
your child is really getting into a mess, you can always call your district
office and find out what the homework policy is. The elected school board
should have an official policy which states how many hours, as a rule of thumb,
kids should have in the way of homework at various grade levels. Many districts
also direct teachers not to give homework on Wednesday night or schedule big
tests on Thursdays, since so many Christian students have religious classes and
activities on that night of the week which should take first precedence.
share this tidbit: if homework is too "hard," kids will hate it. And if
homework is too much of the same thing - say, nothing but reading or nothing
but group drama projects - kids will hate it. Smart teachers will spread out
the homework content and style. And smart parents will support them.
say that not enough parents supervise homework, except for a few, who actually
DO the homework; both styles are bad for kids. See the paragraph under "Nightly
Dilemma" in this survey report: http://www.publicagenda.com/press/press_release_detail.cfm?list=15