Too Much Homework

What is going with the homework the kids get from school? We have a second-grader and a kindergartener, and both have homework. The second-grader has homework four nights a week, and the kindergartener gets homework three nights a week. When I graduated from college, I saw my degree as a “get out of homework free” card. If I so chose, I never had to do homework again. Yet here I am, helping the kids get through their homework three-to-four nights each week.

I’m dubious of the value of homework. I imagine it helps reinforce what was learned in the classroom on a given day. But why so much of it? My son’s second-grade homework, for example, usually is composed of three parts. There is either a math or reading assignment. That probably takes 10-15 minutes. Then there is a “self-reading” assignment, where he is supposed to read to himself, or a stuffed animal, or his sister for 20 minutes. Then there is practicing and reviewing the week’s spelling words each night. That is another 10-15 minutes. All told, it can easily add up to 45-60 minutes of homework each night.

The National Education Association and the Nation Parent-Teacher Association endorse a standard known as the 10-minute rule. The rule is pretty simple: 10-minutes of homework per grade level. A second-grader should have about 20 minutes of homework each night. My second grader ends up with 2-3 times that much.

Does Kindergarten count as a grade level? If so, then a second-grader should expect 30 minutes of homework each night. My son’s assignments still far exceed this standard. My daughter, who is in Kindergarten, probably does take 10-15 minutes to do her homework assignment.

I have no memory of homework in Kindergarten, first, or second grade. No long ago, my mother sent me boxes of schoolwork from my childhood. There is no obvious homework that I could find for K through second grades. In third grade, I started having math homework.

We have our kids do their homework as soon as they get home from school, and we listen to their complaints with sympathy. They are tired. They’ve been working all day. Why do they need to spend so much time doing more homework? As a parent, I try to make excuses. As a former student, I seethe, and ask myself the same question.

One valuable aspect of the homework is that it ensures that one of us works with the kids to make sure they understand their homework, and to go over it with them when they are finished. It keeps us involved in their schoolwork. But there are certainly other ways to stay involved without subjecting a seven-year old who has already spent more than 7 hours in the class room to an additional hour of homework each night.

I could be biased. I didn’t always do my homework when I was in school. I did enough of my homework to make sure I got the gist of the lesson. After that, it seemed redundant. Why do 50 math problems when I could be the last 3 (always the hardest), make sure I knew how to do them, and move on?

Kelly tells me that this is obnoxious behavior, and that I shouldn’t pass this lesson in efficiency on to the kids.


  1. I’m glad it isn’t just us. Our daughter is in first grade and she always seems to have homework. She doesn’t spend quite as much time on it as your kids seem to but it seems like a lot of homework for a 6 year old. Our son is 9 and he seems to have less homework than his sister (although it’s possible he under-reports his homework).

  2. two points for your consideration.
    1. As you know with the writing and walking, forming habits is important and the habit of having some fixed homework per school day will hopefully lead to less of a shock in high school. so its probably good to develop the habit early.
    2. The best homework is when the lesson is “flipped”…. so that students read/explore/discuss/research at home and bring in that knowledge for expansion in the lesson. This is *so much* better than “practice this / revise that” because it kickstarts lessons and appeals to children’s curiosity.

    I agree that the amount sounds too much for that age.

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