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At this point in the school year, you are probably well into a homework routine with your child. That makes this the perfect time to evaluate that time, its challenges and successes, and whether or not a change is needed.

Is Homework Effective?

There are a number of studies and differing views about the effectiveness of homework, especially in early grades. For younger students, it can help develop important study habits and provide a connection between home and school. For middle schoolers, on the other hand, an average of one to two hours of homework each night can mean better performance in school.

Yet, there are also studies that tie homework to fatigue and negative perceptions about school and those that find no correlation between homework and higher test scores. Others show that having more than two hours of homework a night does not benefit older students. Moreover, it can limit the time they need to unwind and relax with family and peers.

We know that some types of homework are more effective than others. Frequent busy work, such as worksheets or drills, for example, tend to have little impact. This is especially true in situations where assignments are simply turned in, without educator feedback or review afterwards. Effective homework should have a clear purpose: practice, preparation and extension being among the most common. It should enhance learning, involve problem solving, creativity or application, and be differentiated based on individual student needs.

Ask Your Teacher

If you have concerns about the type of homework being sent home or your child’s ability to complete it, talk to the teacher. He or she may be able to help you and your child understand unclear tasks or clarify goals. A teacher can also set clear expectations to help determine if your child’s experience with the assignments is expected or if a learning challenge may be impacting results. If consistent differences between effort and outcome exist, it is important to  explore why.

How Much Is Too Much?

The National PTA and National Education Association (NEA) recommend 10 minutes of homework a night for each grade level, elementary through middle school. This means 10-20 minutes in first grade, 20 minutes in 2nd grade, and so on. This may increase in high school based on the specific classes taken.

Is your child’s homework routine meeting these guidelines? If not, does it stray occasionally or does it take three to four times as long on a regular basis? Do other students and parents seem to view the work load similarly? Or does your child’s frustration and completion time seem to differ substantially from what’s expected?

Is Homework Taking Too Long?

One cause for a lengthy, frustrating homework routine can be a discrepancy between the amount of time the teacher expects an assignment to take and the actual work involved for an individual to successfully complete it. Students with learning struggles often work 2 to 3 times longer than their peers to complete an assignment. If there are different teachers for each subject, are they coordinating assignments in order to ensure that multiple time- consuming projects or tasks aren’t due at the same time? Having insufficient information or directions can also lead to homework difficulty.

Talk to the teacher about how assignments are given and recorded. If the current plan, such as copying from the board, is not working, discuss alternatives. Many schools post assignments online, so that students and parents can double check criteria. Others require assignment notebooks. Some children will need a teacher or classroom buddy to help them review what they’ve written before heading home.

The More You Know

The more you know about your child’s learning style, class, and school expectations, the more prepared you will be to set up a successful routine. You will also be able to identify challenges that require modifications, additional support or intervention.