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How much homework is too much?

Grade-by-grade guidelines for what kids can reasonably be expected to do.

By GreatSchools Staff

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The lowdown on homework

In the wake of No Child Left Behind, some U.S. schools are putting more emphasis on homework. But the push for higher academic standards has left many parents wondering about the value of their children's assignments — especially if the grownups are the ones who end up frantically finishing reports or art projects. Just how much homework should kids be doing anyway?

Adding to the confusion, the sheer number of schools with varying curricula can pose a challenge for parents looking for consistency. Even within a single district or school, homework expectations can vary widely depending on the whims of teachers. While some first-graders are slaving away for two hours each night, fourth-graders might be getting by with almost no outside work. So what role does homework play in learning? And how much is too much — or too little?

According to Harris Cooper, a homework expert and psychology professor at Duke University, homework is valuable to a point, and researchers have found that some kinds provide more benefits than others. Homework may be most useful as a way to develop study habits and practice skills that can be acquired through repetition, he says. Think spelling, vocabulary, multiplication tables, number placement, and grammar rules for foreign languages: "The biggest homework effects do come from these kinds of skill areas."

As for what constitutes an appropriate amount, one easy-to-remember tip is Cooper’s "10-minute rule," which calls for 10 minutes of homework per day per grade and is endorsed by the National Education Association. Looking for more grade-by-grade guidelines? GreatSchools weighs in with this primer on how much homework is best.

Comments from readers

"As a teacher and a mother, I sympathize with many posters! For those saying that the USA is "losing ground" on the international scene, do you realize that other countries only test their elite? We test everybody! It will definitely affect the group scores if the top 5% of one place is being compared to *everybody* from another place! For those saying teachers don't know about the average worker? Well, I agree with you about the teachers that some of you are referring to! However, I also know teachers who stay up until midnight every night, working on school-related projects that *they* have been assigned! That's right! Teachers get homework, too! And as a mom, I would love more time with my children, just as you would. I don't claim to have the solution, but when my students tell me that their assignment is taking them longer than I/they anticipated (or if they have real conflicts from other activities), I allow extra time, including during class time--modifying ! and changing my lesson plans to reasonably accommodate. I don't really want the homework to interfere with church or family obligations. "
"so this is good but not good enough "
"I agree with the person that wrote on the date 2/22/11. Not that home life is the only factor in our schools education. I just moved to another city and the school that my oldest daughter now goes to only gives reading as homework. Her old school was way more advanced than this one. I have to give her extra homework so I know she's not missing anything...Please don't complain about how much homework you are getting. My first year in college was an eye opener. Learn it now so you won't be looking crazy then. I graduated college but I now realize how much time I wasted not getting the things that would help me down the line. "
"i get seven pages daily "
"It is not just the homework, it's the added extra work they make the kids do to each and every page. rewrite every question, page# beside each answer, complete sentences, circle all #s and underline important detail, you would think that this would be in just ELA but they have to do this for math and in math they get 2 sheets to do a day and than they have to show how the got the answer in a different form on a separate sheet of paper, as if she doesn't have enough to do...... "
"Im in the 6th grade and i have 4-8 hours of homework almost everyday!!! I am fed up waking up at 4:30 in the morning to finish my homework! I have to wake up at 5:45 in the morning everyday for school and i have to put up with this?!?!?!? This needs to stop kids don't even have time to play and go have fun outside! The last time i went to play outside was 4 weeks ago!!! Please stop giving us too much homework were just kids!!!!!!! "
"You have to be kidding! My child is in 4th grade and this whole year is getting so much homework that it takes from 3pm to 10-10:30, there are nights that she has been up to 12:30. For social studies: she gets homework sheets that have 20+ long questions and she has to restate each question, prove or disprove each one, complete sentences, on a separate sheet of paper and on the work sheet she has to circle and underline the main topic and keywords. by the time she is done she has rewritten 3-4 full sheets of SS homework...... Math: math sheet front and back, rewrite each question on separate sheet in its new form and she is in fractions and algebra and to top it off she has a weekly math sheet she works on daily. Something with Science and ELA. my daughter has no play time, The teachers are forcing the student and parent to pick between exercise and play or hours and hours of nightly homework. NOT to mention they have a big book report at the same time. my child told me that all the kids are getting in trouble because they can't get it done. My child hates to get in any kind of trouble and chooses to stay up into the wee hours to finish rather than take time out to play and not get it finished. I agree to home work but this is beyond homework....7 hours at school and than at least 7 hours of homework. Non of the parents want to rock the boat because in many cases for a lot of parents our children have paid the price for our concern.... "
"I agree that the homework is ridiculous these days. How can anyone truly comprehend the material when they have to worry about finishing it quickly so they can do other subjects. You stop worrying if the work is even right and you stop giving it your best shot -- it eventually becomes a very mechanical thing. "
"I am without doubt lost when it comes to homework. My son is in the first grade in a spanish immersion program that now has me very concerned. I starting to question the program because of the homework. My so comes home every day with at least 3 papers sometimes more and sometimes 2-sided. Again, let me remind you it's spanish, no one in my household speaks spanish. I've spoken with the teacher on many occasions and she tells me that she explains to the children every night before they go home how to complete the assignments. "Are you kidding"...this is my 6 year old son. When he gets out of school he want to relax a little bit before it's time to get ready for the next day. Did I mention that never are there instructions sent home in english. Which simply means that I have to spend my evening google translating which doesn't always translate properly. I am very lost and frustrated with not being able to get help or direction as to what I can do to help. I think the teacher ! is very old fashion and is into the paper work thing. His kindergarden teacher told me to help him with english at home and he would do well, which he did. Now that were in 1st grade, I told his teacher that I was helping his with english because I couldn't help him with spanish and she told me that I was probaly confusing him. Can anyone help me with ANY suggestions. My son had been VERY excited about school and now he sees how overwhelming it is in the evenings, he told me "Mom if you want me to change schools I will". I'm so sad, he's a great child and I don't was to discourage him. PLEASE HELP> "
"This is ridiculous! I am a 7th grade student who has between two and three hours of homework per night. I am in advanced reading & language arts, and we easily have one hour per night, especially on the weekends. Teachers need to back off with the homework. How are we supposed to study with 2 hours of hw, two afterschool sports, and three tests the next day? The earliest I go to bed is 11:00, because I am up late finishing up hw & studying. Teachers are making us dispise school before we really get started. "
"I'm in high school. I get up at 7, leave at 7:30.However, when I get home... I have SOOO much homework. I have to stay up at 1:00 a.m. trying to finish my homework! D':< "
"I am a sophomore in high school, and I have about 2-3 hours of homework everyday. Waking up at 5:45 (Bus comes at 6:20), going to school, staying until 4/4:30 because of lacrosse, and coming home and doing 3 hours of homework is ridiculous. By the time all of my homework is finished, its 8PM and I haven't even eaten dinner yet. And, on top of these homework assignments, I also need to read 1200 pages of outside reading every quarter (followed by a literary analisys of what I read), and by the end of the year, i need to have committed to 75 hours of community service. I am in all of the advanced placement classes, but if it were up to me, and not my parents, i would choose the standard classes. I heard they have it SO much easier. All of the stress this work has been putting on me is taking its toll. I've slipped into depression, and my social life is lacking. I'm 15 years old damnit! Why should i have to be dealing with all this?? I was told these would be the best years of ! my life. Honestly, i am really considering dropping out of highschool. You have no idea how stressful all of this is. A close friend of mine took his own life last year because of it. And recently, one of my bestfriends tried to commit suicide, but it didnt work. I dont know who to go to, or what to do. I justn need help, and i dont know what needs to be done to obtain it. "
"Seriously? You start this article in the wake of No Child Left Behind as if the NCLB Act was some sort of natural disaster. My initial thought was this must be written by the NEA, only to find the NEA mentioned several paragraphs later as endorsing the approach of 10-minutes per day of homework per grade level. After the initial cheap shot at NCLB, there was no other reference to it, or even mention of NCLB and how this Act somehow related to the subject of the article, homework and more specifically, what is the appropriate amount of homework? So, how exactly does the NCLB Act relate to the appropriate amount of homework?"
"No wonder that the our kids score so bad internationally -- with parents complaining about homework and so much free time to spend in front of the TV or to play video games it is easy to understand the 30th place in the world on science. I am for more homework; my son is in first grade on a very good school in California (with an API score over 900) and finishes entire homework on Monday by himself in one hour or so."
"My 6 yr old daughter who is in the 1st grade has more homework than my 14 yr old son. We do homework for 2 to 3 hrs per night and studying on the weekends as well just to try to keep up with the pace of the school system. There are times we cant get all the work done on time. This is not only frustrating for my daughter but for me as well. We get up at 5:30 for school so by the time we get home after I get off work, usually by 6 pm or so and try to cook dinner and do homework we are exhausted by 8:30 or 9. By the end of the week she is exhausted and burnt out. I know with the cut backs at the schools it is hard for the teachers as well but do they not all realize that there are many parents who do not have their cush hours and can be home by 3 to start all this homework they hand out??? She is in first grade... not high school... the amount of homework is only making her dislike school."
"My daughter is only 11 years old in 6th grade. It takes her 4-6 hours to do homework. If she has a test she starts worrying and if she gets a bad grade she starts crying and I suggest she should not worry so much because its only a test, but she does not listen. I love my daughter and I don't want her to ever suffer in something. Now I will try to talk with her teacher and ask why she has so much homework."
"Interesting to read the post on here compared to some other sites and my experiences with educators.I have found other sites on this subject where the post must be made by 'the educational elite' Those people say all this homework is good and use as family time. Well it would be nice one day if the 'elite' and educators could walk in a working man shoes . I have twenty years as a railroad man. I love my family and enjoy my job but guess what.. out here in the real world I work weekends. I work nights.My weekends are Tuesday and Wednesdays. No summers arbitrarily off. My wife also works only part time so as to have time to be around the children. It would be great if she did not have to work at all but here in Illinois here on a $7000 real estate tax bill $5000 goes to fund the local school.That is over $500 per month on top of income taxes.She works to pay the tax bill.Kinda ironic!! I am not amused on the nights I am home and my 6th grader has got 4 to 6 hours of homework and when you talk to school administrators they she 'needs to work faster' I would love to get more involved at school board meetings but guess what they schedule those at night when I work."
"I would question this 'research' done by so-called experts and anything that is recommended by the lobbyist union NEA. All the money, time, and experimentation that has been going on for 50 years points to the fact that nothing is working. Children continue to lose ground or remain static. Now this idea that academics and grades are not important is permeating academia. Charter schools have a totally different philosophy. Hard work, memorization, homework, and well-educated teachers are making great strides in teaching children how to become educated, responsible adults. That is an experiment that the unions fight with everything they have. But, they are losing! Thanks to dedicated teachers and determined parents, changes are coming."
"My daughter has up to 3 hrs a night of homework in 1 subject (Algegra). I feel this it totally over the top for one subject. We are contacting the teacher. I now understand why people home school their children. This is out of control! There is no time for family or for her other subjects. Studying for tests are impossible. She is not in bed before 11:30 and has to be up by 6:15. It's not enough sleep for a 12 year old. The same teacher gives homework every night inluding weekends."
"I'm a little bit confused. Are you saying that even if my child's teacher assigns much more homework than is appropriate, I should simply not make my child do the work? How do the teachers on this site feel about that stance? Personally, I think homework in kindergarten and first grade are totally counter-productive, but my son's teacher does not seem to agree."
"Please send this article to all the parochial schools in Illinois!! My son is a 3rd grader, and there are times that he gets 2 hours of homework. If he has tests the next day, and we want to put in some study time, the homework is even longer. It is not every night, but I think even the few times a month he has this amount is completely unacceptable. He is so stressed afterwards, that he can't sleep well for awhile. Kids need to play and relax after school, not slave over homework. I wonder if the teachers are not teaching everything in school. By the way, my son gets mostly A's and B's, so it is not like he is not a smart child and just takes too long to do simple things."
"i think us middle schoolers have way too much home work. my older brother and i are in middle school. we spend a long time on our home work so there is less time to play out side. parents say kids need to go out side and play. the truth is we dont have time because we have too much home work."
"I'm a junior in high school and my school says that each class can't assign more than 45 minutes of homework per night - but most teachers ignore this. So, I take six classes so I usually have about four hours of homework every night - and that's if I'm lucky. Up to two hours isn't realistic. Then again, I go to one of the hardest independent schools in the nation..."
"My children are in high school (11th) and one just graduated last year and they have maybe 30 - 40 minutes of homework a week. If they spend more than 20 minutes an evening doing work, they get testy and argumentative. They get As and Bs on classroom work in class but get Ds and Fs on the tests. The counselor says this is normal that a lot children don't test well and that we put too much pressure on them when we ask them if they studied for tests. School is much different than I remember it."
"Also, when checking with the teacher on the amount of homework ask how much time is allowed in class to start the work. I know in my school most students finish their work in class because they use their time wisely. Most of our classes, especially English and Math because they have longer class periods, the last 20 minutes are to start their work. Most get it done but those that don't use the time have more to do at home."
"I'm in the 7th grade and I have up to 2 hours of homework/studying a day. I have after school commitments and that sometimes take up to hours at a time and your telling me that I need to stay up till midnight studying and doing homework and then get up at 6:55 in the morning to go back to it. That's just crazy. What about friends? Am i not allowed friends either?"
"I am in the 7th grade and I have up to 60-90 minutes of homework for only 4 classes. Then I have to study for tests and quizzes for like an hour or two and then get up early the next morning and do the same thing again for 4 different classes. I also have after school priorities that I have to attend. And I also would like some time to hang out with my friends more often than I do."
"I'm in the 7th grade and I have up to 2 hours of homework and after school commitments. Sometimes it can take me till midnight to get everything done and your telling me I have to get up at 6:55 to go back to it. That's just crazy. What about a thing called friends and fun?"
" This is very true but in reality kids have to much homework to do in the time expected! Kids should only have a little bit of homework per day I am doing homework from 4:00p.m. to 10:00 p.m."
"So the bottom line being, it is appropriate for my seventh grade daughter to have 4 hours or more of homework a night. 70 mins per subject adds up to about that which is ridiculous and means she's doing homework from the moment she gets home to the time for bed. When is my child suppose to unwind and be a child???"
"I would encourage any parent that feels their child's homework load is unreasonbale to conference with the teachers about it. It may clear up some misconceptions on both sides. Teachers need to hear these concerns and balance feeback with the demands to attain a certain level of student achievement amd what is really helping children learn. We shouldn't forget that this country is in an uproar about student achievement. I believe this article alludes to some great general guidelines on how much and what kind of homework is helpful. It's not helpful if parents don't expect children to have homework or they don't feel at least a little responsible for coaching their child through their homework. Parents who don't coach and challenge children at home shouldn't be surprised when their children aren't successful in college or a technical school someday."
"Ten minutes per grade is enough. Kids need time to be kids, to play. All this cramming education down children's throats is really turning them off to school. Several solutions are: schedule a daily study hall period where kids can do their work under the guidance of a professional, OR we can lengthen the school day or year. Some of the kids in this area of CA get off at 2- and have every other Tuesday off for 'Teacher In-Service' day. "
"My first-grader (November birthday - 7 years old)is grasping all concepts really quick (reading, math and social studies)and moves through homework and assignments very quickly and recites most things verbatim. Should I insist he slow down or let him move at his extremely fast pace?"
"As a teacher, I can see the concerns that some parents may be having when their child is struggling over homework. Especially when their son/daughter has been hard at work for over an hour! THe homework load really should depend on the age/grade-level a a child, because as research shows (and parents observe) young children really can't sit for longer periods of time as do older children. I'm a fourth grade teacher, and I believe that my students need homework to reinforce what they have been learning in my class. I've slowly eased up on the amount of homework, because I've learned that if they can master 5 math problems, for example, then there really is no need to assign 20! If they know it, they know it. Nevertheless, I do believe it's necessary for them to learn how to be responsible and to learn to develop healthy study habits."
"I am in 8th grade and I almost have to laugh. On here it says up to 90 minutes is okay for homework. Well, I have been working on homework for the past 4 and a half hours. It's uncalled for. I get good grades, but it wears me down after losing sleep in order to finish assignments on cramped nights."
"The same rule should apply to our children as adults - leave the work at work - therefore leave the schooling at school. Aside from reading and maybe flash cards or simple spelling, all other major assignments should be done in the classroom. Our children need time to rest their minds and be 'fresh' for the next school day. All of this 'cramming' is not benefiting and causing much stress in our children too early. I also beleive what may be too much for one child may not be enough for another, all children are different and their tolerance levels different... we have to find a medium for all...I am so close to refusing assignments and am very frustrated with the school system right now...what can we do?"
"this was helpful to me thanks for information"
"I do agree a little homework is ok but for 2nd graders, when it's 2 hrs PLUS in the evening after coming home from school, it's ridiculous! There is too much that these teachers expect us to do that makes me wonder what really is being taught during school hours. We parents have too much already to handle with family life, that it doesn't afford us time to be a home teacher as well. Homework needs to be reduced so that these children can be children once school is over. It wears me out as a single parent."
"I have to wonder why my first grade child is asked to do approximately an hour's worth of work after school and my high school student is averaging four to five hours of work per night. What is pushing their teachers to eliminate my children's lives outside of school? I see no benefit to the loss of other opportunities for their time. It is particularly interesting to me that, when we lived in a small town in Oregon, their homework load was reasonable and logical but now that we have moved to a large, urban area in California, their homework load has become completely unreasonable. Are teachers in this area trying to push too much? Probably."
"Your choice of words casts teachers in an unfavorable light. I would imagine that homework does not get assigned based on any teacher's 'whim'!"
"two hours of homework in high school is a bit too much it puts stress on the student, they become irrible and cranky cause some of the hw takes a lot of problems that puts a damper on other subjects, for instance math in 9th grade is very intense. "