At a glance
Homework lets kids practice skills, prepares them to learn new things, and expands on ideas introduced in class.
Many schools use the “10-minute rule” — that’s 10 minutes per grade level.
There are ways to help with homework without doing it for your child.
Getting kids to do their homework can be a hassle in any household. It’s even more challenging if your child struggles with the work.
Homework challenges can leave parents and caregivers with questions. For example, how much help can I give my child without taking away from the learning experience? Why does my child even have homework — and so much of it? What is my role in the homework process?
Here are answers to common questions about homework.
What’s the point of homework?
When you watch your child struggling with homework, it’s natural to wonder if those assignments are really necessary. That’s a question parents and teachers often debate.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), teachers shouldn’t give homework just to give homework. The assignments should serve one of three purposes:
- Practice: Kids use a new skill they just learned or work on a skill that they need to review.
- Preparation: Kids get ready for something they’re going to learn. Maybe kids are reading about butterflies because that’s what the science class will be discussing tomorrow.
- Extension: Kids learn more about a topic that was covered in the classroom. They’re doing something like developing a project for the science fair or writing a poem in the same style as one they read in class.
How much homework is too much?
There are guidelines for how much time kids should spend on homework. The NEA recommends something called the “10-minute rule.”
Based on this rule, students should spend about 10 minutes per grade level on homework every night. That means a second grader will usually be able to finish in about 20 minutes. A sixth grader should be able to get homework done in about an hour.
For some kids, it’s not always that simple. When kids have trouble with reading, writing, math, focus, or organization, homework can take longer. Still, keeping up shouldn’t mean they have to spend all their time on homework or lose sleep to finish.
You may be tempted to jump in and help. But avoid doing your child’s homework. Instead, use the “10-minute rule” to decide when it’s time to stop — even if your child hasn’t finished all of their work. Then speak with the teacher about finding ways to get it done, or reducing the amount of homework that’s coming home every night.
Learn more about signs your child may have too much homework.
How can you help with homework?
There are many ways you can ease your child’s homework stress. Begin by helping your child create a homework station and learn how to use a homework planner to organize and manage time.
You can also use this three-point “check” system for homework.
1. Check in. Check-ins give you a chance to talk with your child about what homework support they might need. They also let your child know you think homework is important.
Check in with your child at a consistent time each day that works for your family’s schedule. Talk about the homework together: where to find assignments, where and when to work, and what your child can do if stuck on a problem or task. Discuss any long-term projects and make a plan for when the work will get done.
2. Check up. Find a time that works for you and your child to talk about how the homework is going, and if there are any tricky assignments.
Some kids may want a little space to work through challenges on their own. But if your child needs help with the directions and steps of the homework, you can work through it together. You can also give them tips on how to handle trouble spots independently.
3. Check over. Checking over means looking at your child’s homework when it’s finished. You can ask your child to leave out the completed homework so you can check it when you’re available.
Your job here isn’t to fix mistakes, but to make note of possible issues. Maybe you notice that your child hasn’t followed the directions. Or maybe your child didn’t finish a few problems. Talk about these issues with your child.
A homework contract can outline how and when you’ll help your child with homework. Download the contract and work on it together with your child.
How can teachers help with homework?
It’s a good idea to keep in touch with your child’s teacher about homework. Teachers are your partners in the homework process.
Talk with the teacher about homework policies, like whether late assignments are accepted. Once you know the expectations, you have a place to start if you need to speak with the teacher about making accommodations for your child.
If your child has trouble with an assignment, you can send a friendly email to let the teacher know. The teacher might be able to share why the task was challenging. The teacher may also suggest tools and strategies that can help.
You may think your child likes it when you step in and take over the homework. But learning to do it independently will teach your child important skills — not to mention the value of perseverance.
- Get more tips about how to help kids who learn and think differently approach homework.
- And check out a few homework station ideas.
Set up a homework station and show your child how to use a planner. These changes can make homework less of a struggle.
If your child is spending more than 10 minutes per grade level on homework, touch base with the teacher. It might make sense to reduce your child’s workload.
Use a check in, check up, and check over system. This can help you be a positive part of the homework process.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Shira Moskovitz, MA is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fifth-grade special education inclusion teacher in Sunnyside, New York.