Homework is the assignment of a purposeful task that reinforces concepts that are covered during the school day. Accordingly, homework should not introduce new information to the learner. On the contrary, homework should be utilized as a tool to communicate the student’s current level of mastery to the learner, caregiver and teacher.
Let’s be real. We want our children to be assigned and learn how to successfully complete homework. HOWEVER, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling bogged down by my children’s homework. It never fails. The one night I intend to prepare a quick dinner and turn in early, I’m hit with the “Oh, Mom I forget to tell you about the project that’s due tomorrow.” (Insert completely overwhelmed and bewildered look here.) I recall being more excited than my children for the end of the school year one year. It seemed like our lives literally revolved around homework horrors filled with tears, frustration and sometimes even tantrums.
How much is too much?
The general rule of thumb for a “regular education course of study” is that the student should receive about ten minutes of homework times their grade level. For example, a fourth grader should have up to forty minutes (10×4=40) of homework to complete nightly. Exceptional children should receive homework according to their own ability levels.
Perhaps teachers are assigning more homework than they used to many years ago. This may be due to several factors:
- An increased focus on standardized test preparation during the school day. Many schools require teachers spend a great part of their day preparing for standardized assessments. However, there are still an average of 6.5 hours in a school day. By the end of the school year, students must be introduced to all of the required concepts aligned with Common Core Standards. If all of the required work cannot be crammed into the school day, along with the lunch period, physical education and recess, then some work may find its way into the book bag for completion at home.
- Competing against a global society. Years ago we were focused on competing with the class down the hall or the neighborhood school a few blocks away. Now, students are being compared to their global counterparts. Children are expected to be well-rounded beings. Male and female students, alike are being prepared to fare well in math, science, language arts, fine and performing arts and sports. Overall, this was not the case in previous generations. This generational shift of understanding the importance of preparing students to compete with overseas counterparts may have fostered a culture of “sending home” what couldn’t be completed by the class in the short school day.
- Overpopulated classrooms. Can children learn in a classroom of 30 students, yes. Is it ideal, no. In a classroom where 30 students and 1 teacher cover material for 40 minutes at a time, it may be a challenge for all involved in the learning process to completely understand the subject at hand. It is fairly obvious that one single teacher is able to spend more time individually working with a class of ten than a class of thirty. As a result, students may spend more time doing homework because they didn’t fully grasp the concept covered in class.
Homework, when assigned appropriately and meaningfully, is a great way to reinforce and assess student learning. There are simply but so many hours in a school day. If parents feel that their child is not being challenged by homework, they may benefit from having a conversation with the teacher regarding suggestions for additional and/or advanced work relating to the assignment. If the homework is taking too long to complete, parents may benefit from hiring a 1:1 tutor and/or speaking with the teacher to request additional time before/after school to ensure that the child has a basic understanding of concepts before completing homework assignments. Overall, students who learn to take and organize notes, master reading concepts for understanding and implement time management strategies when working on assigned tasks will ultimately develop better study skills. The combination of these extremely beneficial tools will; thereby, foster a home learning environment where the child will effectively and efficiently complete homework assignments.