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by Janine DeFao
After a summer off from the nightly grind of homework, you and your child may be bracing for another year of tearful fits or late-night cramming.
The debate over homework is also taking place on a larger stage, with parents, educators and advocates for children weighing in on the value of out-of-school assignments, questioning their usefulness and asking how much is too much. Many public and private schools across the country are reassessing homework policies or even waiving homework in exchange for free reading time.
Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, a renowned researcher on the effects of homework, supports the “10-minute rule,” which advises 10 minutes of homework a night multiplied by the child’s grade level. Thus, a first-grader would have 10 minutes of homework per night, a second-grader 20 minutes, and homework time would increase by grade level up to two hours for a high-school senior. The National PTA and National Education Association (NEA) endorsed the 10-minute rule in the mid-1990s, but it’s not widely followed.
If you believe that your child is receiving more homework than he can reasonably handle, talk to his teacher. But before you complain that he’s spending three hours a night on homework, make sure that it’s time “on task,” and not spent texting, chatting on the phone or surfing the Internet.
If your child is consistently struggling, her teacher may be willing to make accommodations, from setting time limits for at-home assignments to reducing the workload.
But if the problems seem widespread among your child’s classmates, Alfie Kohn, a Boston-based longtime critic of homework, competition and rewards for kids, advises researching your school’s homework policy and organizing with other parents to speak with school officials about what changes can be made.
Challenge Success, a Stanford University School of Education project that advocates for positive change in the education system, offers these tips for parents:
Janine DeFao is an associate editor with Dominion Parenting Media.
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