School Boards across North America generally agree on the same standards for homework: 10 minutes per grade (10 minutes in grade one, 30 minutes in grade three, etc.) If your child is doing significantly more homework than the recommended times there may be several different reasons. Your child may be struggling with the work, or may have difficulty focusing and working productively. Alternatively, the teacher may be assigning too much homework. What to do? First, try to avoid schoolyard discussions about the issue. Try to ascertain the reasons your child is spending so much time on their homework. Once you have figured this out, approach the teacher and let them know how much time your child is spending every night. He or she may have some suggestions or modifications.
The ideal solution would be for the parent and teacher to work together to devise a plan. If you are not getting help from the teacher, then you as a parent must make some decisions. If you decide that your child should not be doing all of the homework, discuss it with your child, the reasons why and the consequences of not doing homework. For most students the biggest consequence will be a negative comment on the report card. While it is always possible to take issues further – you could tell the teacher that you would like a meeting that includes the principal – you must always be wary of carrying an issue like this too far. Having a reputation around the office can have a much greater impact than a report card comment. Remember, all children in that class receive the same homework. If your child is truly struggling, focus on this as the issue, not the homework.
Keep in mind, it often takes you and your child the first few months to get in the routine so give yourselves some time to adjust!
Too little homework:
Some homework should always be assigned, but remember that reading a book counts as homework!! As a primary teacher I don’t assign any other homework until well into the fall and when I do assign homework it is flexible, directly related to learning outcomes and places an emphasis on student responsibility. If, however, you feel like your child needs more structured homework or repetition of things learned in class (spelling words, multiplication facts, etc) there are many excellent workbooks out there that you can purchase. Go to your local teacher’s store and they will be able to recommend a good book. There are also lots of websites where your children can play educational games or you can download worksheets. DON’T ask your teacher to generate more homework for your child. I once had a parent buy a workbook and then ask me to give it to their child because they would only do homework that the teacher assigned. While I understand that most children (mine included) are not overly enthusiastic when it comes to homework, it is still the parent’s responsibility to make them do it.
Your child makes a mistake on their homework:
This is a great question to ask the teacher on curriculum night. I personally feel that most parents cannot bear to let work be returned that is incorrect and therefore usually help their children correct it. For this very reason, I never include homework in the assessment process. Feel free to help your child fix their mistakes, as long as they are learning from those mistakes. If your child’s teacher asks you specifically not to correct homework, then please don’t – this will help the teacher assess in which areas your child may need help.
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Sue, urbanmoms.ca’s Education Expert, is a mother of 3 and a teacher for more than 10 years. Her experience in the classroom and as a mother provide a great perspective to help teachers and parents open up the lines of communication. Sue will be a regular contributor to the Urban Parents section of urbanmoms.ca.