A question that gets asked by parents all the time is ‘how much homework is too much or too little for my child?’ On the one hand you don’t want your child to be doing so much homework that they don’t have time to do normal, everyday ‘kid things’, but you also want them to be doing enough homework to be consolidating the skills they are learning at school. Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule, but the following factors will help you decide on what’s right for your child:
1. The schools homework policy
Probably the most important factor that will determine the amount of homework your child should be doing will be the schools homework policy. Before you enrol your child in a school, it’s very important to read their policy and make sure you’re on the same page. Some schools will have very high expectations in regards to the amount of homework completed each night, whereas other schools will advocate for limited amounts of homework. Make sure you choose a school that fits in with your beliefs and ideals. If you’re a parent who thinks that children should be spending minimal time on homework and more time playing outside, don’t choose a school whose homework policy states that children should be doing a minimum of 2 hours homework per night.
2. The age of your child
How old your child is will determine how much homework they need to do. Time spent on homework should increase as your child gets older (and this should also be reflected in the schools homework policy). For example, on average, most schools would recommend Prep children spend anywhere between 5-20 minutes per night on homework (this will vary depending on the child’s individual needs). However, a child in Grade 6 may be required to spend 30-60 minutes (or more!) per night on homework.
3. The type of homework
More and more schools are becoming increasingly innovative in terms of the homework they give out. Many schools will set homework that focuses on real life situations, such as paying for items at the supermarket, calculating the distance travelled from school to home, measuring ingredients for dinner, playing board games with the family, researching on the internet and more. Generally when schools hand out these alternative forms of homework, it will be expected that they will take longer than reading a quick 5 minute ‘reader’ book.
4. The individual needs of the child
The schools homework policy applies to all children, however individual homework schedules should be given when children either need additional assistance with particular areas (generally spelling, reading, writing or maths) or when they are found to need additional extension in order to challenge them (and so they don’t become bored!). If this is the case, your child may need to spend more time than others in the class on homework.
5. The child’s motivation
Generally a schools policy sets out the minimum standards for time spent on homework each night. If you have a super motivated child, or one who shows a particular interest in a subject then there’s nothing wrong with asking them if they would like to spend longer on their homework. Sometimes children will become so engrossed in a particular topic or subject that it’s important to let them explore it further. This doesn’t mean that they need to do extra homework every single night though!
6. How interesting the homework is
If you’re lucky enough to have a school that sets really interesting and thought provoking homework, that’s great! If not, try and make it interesting for your child. For example, if they’ve been sent home with instructions to learn their doubles for maths, then try playing maths card games where they have to double the answer. Similarly, use internet sites that let children play games and make crosswords with their spelling words rather than just writing them down.
Essentially, the ‘right’ amount of homework is dependent on so many factors. Be guided by the schools homework policy and then let your gut and your child’s interests guide you. Promote learning in everyday situations that aren’t necessarily seen as homework… this is by far one of the best ways for children to learn!