Parents Concerned About Too Much Homework

What should I do if my elementary school child is getting so much homework that family time hardly exists and he has little energy for anything else? He spends hours on his assignments every night. As far as I can see, he isn't slow at completing his tasks. There's just too much to do! Is all this homework really necessary for effective learning and healthy childhood development?

What’s needed here is some candid, open dialogue between parents, teachers, and school administrators. Don’t allow the situation to go unaddressed while your child falls behind academically. Don’t give feelings of confusion, frustration, and resentment a chance to fester and grow in your own heart and mind. Instead, make an appointment with the classroom teacher, the principal, a school counselor, and anyone else who may be able to help as soon as possible. Sit down with these people and lay your concerns on the table as clearly and honestly as you can.

Naturally, it’s going to be best if you come to this meeting with a positive attitude. That will set the tone for the entire discussion. Don’t get angry or point the finger of blame at anyone. Don’t “gang up” on the teacher by gathering signatures from other concerned parents. Instead, begin by expressing gratitude for everything the teacher has done for your child. Tell her that you are eager to act as a friend, a peacemaker, and an ally in the daunting task of educating the rising generation. Make yourself available to help in any way you can.

At this point it would be a good idea to say something like, “We value our family time, but Johnny’s had so much homework lately that we’ve had to make some pretty painful sacrifices in that area. It’s having a detrimental impact on the entire household. If we find ourselves forced to make difficult choices between family and academics, is there anything you want us to prioritize?” You can convey an attitude of respect, foster a sense of mutual cooperation, and forge a healthy working relationship with the teacher if you’ll simply ask him or her to offer a few helpful suggestions. How can you, together, achieve a healthy balance? What should be done to ensure that your child isn’t just “putting in his time?” Is there a way to tell whether he’s actually grasping the concepts he’s supposed to be learning? How can you keep him from developing a lifelong aversion to school and education in all its forms?

It might help to raise some pointed questions. Talk a bit about philosophies of education and the distinctive learning styles of individual children. Some kids are aural learners, others visual, others primarily tactile. Some get more out of a lesson that involves interactive play. Others actually enjoy spending time alone in a corner with a book. That’s not to mention that most elementary-grade children aren’t able to give undivided attention to any single subject for more than forty-five minutes or an hour at a time.

How does your school handle these logistical challenges? It would be a good idea to study up on these concepts yourself before going to the conference so that you can discuss them knowledgeably when you get there. All of this can have an important bearing on your efforts, in cooperation with school officials, to hammer out a workable course of classroom study and a reasonable regimen of homework for your child.

If your child is having a hard time buckling down to work, it might help to provide him with some realistic goals. Psychologically, he has to have a sense that the task is not impossible. He should always feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With that in mind, you might tell him that if he’ll sit down with his books as soon as he gets home from school and finish his homework by dinner time, he can have the rest of the evening free. If he fails to do this but you feel confident that he’s given it his best shot, perhaps you both need to find a way to relax with the situation. It won’t be the end of the world if he can’t get through all of his assignments. If the teacher has a problem with this, it may be time to schedule another conference.

It’s possible that after exploring all of these options you will come to the conclusion that there is something more serious going on. You might decide that there are physical or emotional reasons, like ADHD, for your child’s inability to complete his work. In that case, we recommend that you see a family counselor who is trained to diagnose such conditions and who can help you come up with a plan for dealing with the problem. Focus on the Family’s Counseling staff can provide you with a list of qualified professionals practicing in your local area. Our counselors would also be more than happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. Each is a committed Christian and a licensed family therapist. Don’t hesitate to call us.


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