How Much Homework Is Too Much?

Advocating for your child when homework wreaks havoc

My 11-year-old daughter recently came home in tears because she now has on average one to two hours of homework a night. She has other interests and activities beyond school, so piling on a few hours of “class work” at night feels daunting to her. And I get it! Kids need a break from academics. I understand that schools want to reinforce concepts that are being taught in the classroom. But I feel like I need to take a stance when the amount of homework threatens my child’s love and thirst for learning.

I need to take a stance when the amount of homework threatens my child’s love and thirst for learning.

There is no current research evidencing that homework before the middle school years contributes to a child’s learning. What we do know is that too much homework contributes to exhaustion, frustration, power-struggles with parents and, most importantly in my mind, the loss of interest in learning. Parents often feel helpless when children come home with large amounts of homework because they want their child to succeed in school, but they don’t know what to do when the homework is creating havoc in their home life.

I recently discussed this topic with a friend who is a leader and innovator in education. She shared with me how she approached this subject with her own daughter’s teacher. I loved the approach and asked her to forward me the email she sent the teacher. She gave me permission to share it with you (with names removed or changed) so that her approach can serve as a template for other parents when communicating with schools and teachers.

Here is the letter:

Hi Mrs. XXX,

Hope you are feeling better!

I’m writing to you about Mary’s homework. I jotted a note in the math facts practice notebook that you may or may not have seen. I remember reading on your website your philosophy around homework and about how long it should be taking your students to get through homework.

Mary has been spending quite a long time with her math homework. Last night was an hour and tonight I stopped her at 45 minutes. This is in addition to the other homework she had, as well as silent reading. Frankly, it’s too much time spent on homework.

My philosophy around homework in the elementary grades is that it should be done completely independently and no more than 30 minutes at grade 4. When I have to step in the power struggles begin and homework can turn into a nightmare. To prevent that, here’s what we do at our house: Mary reads independently and willingly about an hour every morning. I usually set a timer for homework in the afternoon. I sit next to her for support and offer when needed. When the timer goes off, she is done.

I also see she has work that she missed when she was gone. I am asking that you remove her name from the board; I feel like this is unintentionally shaming her for her absence. She intends to work through some of those pages over the weekend.

Please let me know if you have questions about our homework plan.



You are your child’s advocate. If you feel like homework is not working for your child and your family you have every right to address it. Don’t be afraid; you may find that your child’s teacher agrees with you.

Many times teachers assign homework because they think that is what the parents want or what they “should” do. Get clear on your policies and approach, be thoughtful about how you are going to communicate them and then have the conversation. 

Teachers are amazing people and want to be in partnership with parents. These partnerships can only exist when parents reach out to communicate. Go for it!

Originally published by GROW Parenting

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