ASK THE EXPERTS

My Second-Grader Works Too Slowly

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

My second-grader works very slowly. We both work on her homework during the afternoon. She usually needs to do about three to four pages of homework. We start at 6:00 p.m. and she does not finish until 7:30 p.m. I don't know what to do for her to work at a faster pace. Am I being too pushy? When she asks me to give her a 10-minute break during that period of time, should I? She likes to work more with math and does it much faster than reading and writing. What can I do to help her improve her work pace?

Answer:

It is sensible to check yourself out on this one. Homework seems to be one of the biggest sources of frustration for everyone involved, and the debate about its efficacy has become heated. Some experts say we need children to do more because we are falling behind in education. Others say it is our curriculum that is the problem and that this won't be solved by giving more homework. To make it more complicated, some studies suggest that homework (before sixth grade) does little to improve academic success. No matter what your bias, homework is not going away. So it helps to be positive about it around your child.

The U.S. Department of Education offers these guidelines: kindergarten through second grade - 10 to 20 minutes each day; third through sixth grade- 30 to 60 minutes. However, I think there are so many factors involved, such as when and where the child does homework and how difficult it is based on the child's skill level, that these guidelines may not be very helpful. Check in with your child's teacher about her expectations and what she feels your daughter should be able to accomplish, based on how she completes her work in class. I like that your daughter is asking for what she needs. Try giving her a 10-minute break and see how she does with it. Avoid difficult transitions like watching television. Experiment with the order of her work. Some children do better doing what they like first and others like doing the easier part last. It is your daughter's homework so let her complete it at her pace. Then you can go over it with her to see how she did. Keeping children on task is helpful, but too much pushing can be counterproductive.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.