Yes, there is a limit to how much homework your child should do
So how much is too much, and what can parents do about it? Education Matters spoke to experts in the field to answer these questions.
How much homework should my student be doing?
LAUSD has suggested time allocations for students’ homework, and it suggests assigning homework only four days a week. The guidelines aren’t mandatory.
The middle- and high-school homework policy notes ”Special consideration must be given to students in honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, School for Advanced Studies (SAS) and highly gifted classes and programs.”
The California state Parent Teacher Assn. encourages local PTAs to work with districts to come up with homework guidelines.
What is the point of homework?
That depends on what grade your child is in. In elementary school, homework is mostly about establishing responsibility, said Katie McGrath, LAUSD’s director of elementary instruction. That includes teaching children to follow directions, learning how to be accountable for keeping homework safe, completing it, and turning it in.
Homework should reinforce lessons students have already learned in class. Perhaps, says Harris Cooper, a Duke psychology professor who studies homework, it includes a bonus question that takes the concept one step further -- preparing students for the next day’s lesson.
In middle school and high school, homework takes on the role of being important to academic achievement, Cooper said. Homework improves academic outcomes, up to a point. Research suggests that middle school students who complete 60 to 90 minutes of homework per night perform as well on standardized tests as the students who spend more time, Cooper said. In high school, that cutoff is at two hours of homework per night.
What’s the “10-minute rule”?
For years, teachers have been using the so-called “10-minute rule” to figure out homework targets. It’s the idea that with each grade of elementary school, a child’s average homework per night should increase about 10 minutes, said Cooper, who has researched this trend.
What do I do if there’s too much homework?
Parents can talk to or email teachers if there is consistently too much homework, or if it’s too difficult. If enough parents speak to the teacher, there might be a pattern that emerges that a teacher can address, either by covering the subject more in class or by assigning different homework. It could also be an opportunity to talk about tutoring or academic help options for a student.
It’s also OK to prioritize sleep and health over homework — LAUSD’s homework policy says that homework can count for only 20% or less of a student’s grade, so skipping an assignment in favor of being healthy once in awhile won’t affect the overall grade too much. Just address the underlying problem before it becomes a pattern.
What is a parent’s role?
Parents should be emotionally supportive and can help explain concepts, but stop short of solving a problem.
“It should really be the student’s responsibility to do homework with the parent playing a minor supporting role,” said Erika Patall, a University of Texas at Austin educational psychology professor who studies student motivation.
Parents can have a conversation with students at the beginning of the year to discuss when the students will do homework, where they’ll do it (it can be helpful to have a designated homework spot in the house, for example), and how students will best budget their time.
Researchers say it’s important for students to feel like they have autonomy and to feel responsible for their homework, as opposed to feeling like someone else is controlling them.
What can teachers do?
Like parents, it helps for teachers to give students a choice, Patall said. She has conducted research and found that when teachers gave students the option between two different assignments on the same topic, students performed better on that unit test and felt more competent and confident.
It also helps if students understand the purpose of homework. Listen to students’ feedback, and explain why this particular piece of homework is important, Patall said, and what role it plays in the lesson.
Is it normal to hate homework?
“Everybody hates homework,” said Janine Bempechat, professor of human development and psychology at Wheelock College in Boston. She interviews students about homework and educational experience.
That includes high-achieving and low-achieving students alike, Bempechat said.
Some parents hate homework too — kids parrot their parents’ behavior, so they’re less likely to react positively if their parent has a negative attitude toward homework.
And homework can be both lonely and exhausting, especially after six hours in school, Bempechat said. Parents can implement little reward systems for completing tasks, like 10-minute breaks to watch a YouTube video or ride a bike around the block.
Can my kid get homework help?
Yes. Depending on the time of day and the teacher, students or parents can email teachers with specific questions if they’ve exhausted other options. Don’t always expect a response, but the teacher will know that your kid is trying, and will be able to address the specific problem.
Here is a list of free tutoring programs throughout L.A. County. There are also homework hotlines that help students struggling with specific problems. Harvey Mudd College has a number that 4th- through 12th-grade students can call for help on science and math problems.
Reach Sonali Kohli on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli or by email at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com.
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