At a glance
Some kids take longer than others to get homework done.
You can work with your child’s school to make homework more manageable.
Meeting with your child’s teacher in person is better for finding solutions than using email.
Do you think your child has too much homework? Many schools follow the National Education Association (NEA) rule of 10 minutes of homework per day, per grade level. But sometimes it takes kids much longer than that to get through their daily assignments. That’s especially true for kids who learn and think differently.
So how can you talk to teachers about your child’s homework load? Here are some suggestions.
Find the right way and time to communicate
Some teachers prefer to communicate by email. But that’s not always the best way to talk through problems and solutions.
A face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher might get you better results. It lets you share information and discuss strategies in real time instead of going back and forth over email.
If meeting in person isn’t possible, you can set up a phone call for when both of you have an uninterrupted half hour. (Try to find a time when your child won’t hear the conversation.)
When you set up a time to connect, be clear about what you want to discuss: that you’re noticing trouble at home with homework. That way the teacher can prepare and have a chance to observe your child’s homework habits before you meet.
Keep the focus on what your child is doing, not on what the teacher is doing or what the homework policies are. Be specific about what you’re noticing at home, but don’t be critical of the teacher.
For instance, saying “You’re giving so much homework that my child is spending hours trying to get it done” can sound like you’re blaming the teacher. Plus, it doesn’t give a clear picture of your child’s struggles.
Instead, try saying something like “For some kids the amount of homework may not be a problem, but my child is spending over 30 minutes on each subject every night.”
Here are some examples of ways to clearly describe what you’re seeing:
- “My child has trouble understanding the directions on worksheets and is spending an hour on them instead of 20 minutes.”
- “It’s hard for my child to organize ideas, and it takes our entire afternoon to get through all the short-answer questions.”
- “After two pages of math problems, my child loses focus. Finishing the whole packet can take two hours.”
- “My child is a very slow reader and has to stay up very late to finish the nightly reading assignment. Sometimes, it makes my child cry.”
If you’re not sure what the specific problem is, it’s OK to say so. You can talk through the problem together.
The ultimate goal is to find ways to make homework more manageable for your child. Ask the teacher what solutions have helped other kids in the past.
Bring your own ideas and questions to the table, too. Don’t be afraid to ask things like:
- “What’s the maximum amount of time kids should spend on homework each night?”
- “Can I sign off on unfinished homework if my child has worked a certain amount of time?”
- “Are there other ways for my child to learn or show understanding besides doing homework?”
- “How can we adjust the workload to meet my child’s learning needs? Can we spread out the math problems over time?”
- “Can my child get extra help in school? Is there an afterschool homework room, or do you have office hours?“
- “Is there a way to make sure my child understands what to do with an assignment before leaving school?”
If you want to try specific strategies or supports for your child, say so directly. It’s better to say “I’d like to ask you if you could make some changes for my child, like _________” than “I think my child needs something different.”
If your child doesn’t have one of these plans, you can still ask whether there are things the teacher can do to help. Many teachers are open to working with parents and caregivers to find homework solutions.
Once you’ve agreed on a plan, arrange to check in with the teacher in a few weeks to talk over progress. If there hasn’t been much, talk about possible next steps.
Learn more about steps you can take if your child is falling behind in school. And read about solutions to common homework challenges.
Give the teacher specific examples of what “too much homework” looks like for your child.
When you come up with a plan, suggest solutions and keep the focus on your child’s struggles.
Check in with the teacher after a few weeks to talk about whether the plan is working.
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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.
Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.