Homework and Families


In many busy families, homework has become a source of stress between parent and child,and has created friction between parents and teachers. Many parents are tired of the teary battles at the kitchen table, and the nagging they have to do to get the homework completed. The NEA and the PTA have both endorsed the "10-minute rule", that the maximum amount of homework children should have each night is 10 minutes per grade level per night. That is, a 2nd grader should have no more than 20 minutes, a 6th grader no more than 60 minutes, and a 12th grader no more than 2 hours. (For general information, see "What parents need to know about homework" under Downloads/Handouts).

schoolwrk figureIf your child is spending much more time than that on homework, you may want to schedule a conference with your child's teacher. An excellent source of guidance for parents of overworked students is Bennett and Kalish's book, The Case against Homework: How homework is hurting our children and what we can do about it . It was written by two moms who successfully advocated for their child's right to reasonable homework. They give many valuable tips for parents who need help talking to teachers. The book is widely available in most major bookstores. Sara Bennett's website www.stophomework.com also contains valuable help for parents.

Some parents complain that they are overwhelmed themselves and have no time or patience to supervise homework. They shouldn't have to! Homework that cannot be done without help is not good homework! Parents should be less involved in the actual homework task and more involved in communicating to the teacher when their child is unable to complete homework. (See "Mom and Dad aren't taking algebra this year" under Downloads/Articles)

Homework sometimes adds a heavy load to children already overburdened with too many outside activities or family responsibilities. Parents should consider limiting outside activities, but must also lobby their child's school for reasonable amounts of homework.( See "Homework Bill of Rights" under Downloads/Unpublished Writings)

A new documentary "Race to Nowhere" asks us to reexamine the stress our middle school and high school students face with over-the-top demands on their time and energy, including excessive homework. To learn more about the film, to locate a screening near you, or apply to host your own screening, visit
www.racetonowhere.com.

If you are a parent reading this section, I am eager to hear from you. When I work with teachers, your stories really help them to understand the dilemmas families face when it comes to homework.