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?
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. But, for the most part, there are good reasons for homework.
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 your child is reading the next chapter in the social studies book. Or researching butterflies because that’s what the science class will be discussing tomorrow.
- Extension: Kids learn more about a topic than 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’s a limit to how much time your child needs to 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.
Download a homework contract to outline how and when you’ll help your child with homework.
For some kids, though, 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. You’ll help more if you speak with the school and teachers 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:
- Check in. Check in with your child after school to find out how much homework was assigned, what it is, and when it’s due. This gives you a chance to talk with your child about what support and supplies to plan for. It also lets your child know you think homework is important.
- Check up. When you check on how your child’s doing, it means you’re close enough to answer questions, brainstorm solutions, and offer encouragement. If your child needs help with the directions and steps of the homework, you can sit down together to work through it. Some kids, though, may want a little space to make it through on their own.
- Check over. Checking over means looking at your child’s homework when it’s finished. Your job here isn’t to fix mistakes, but to make note of possible issues. You can point it out if your child hasn’t followed the directions, has missed a few problems, or has made the same error over and over. If you’ve been checking up, though, it’s not as likely that your child will have done the whole assignment incorrectly before you notice it.
It’s also a good idea to keep in touch with your child’s teacher. Be aware of the homework policies, like whether late papers 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.
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 from the Understood Community.
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.
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.