Homework: The Basics

This article answers common questions that parents, family members, and caregivers often ask about homework. The booklet also includes practical ideas for helping children to complete homework assignments successfully. See the complete guide for more ideas!

These tips were originally published in the U.S. Department of Education's guide, Helping Your Child with Homework.

Why Do Teachers Assign Homework?

Teachers assign homework for many reasons. Homework can help their students:

  • review and practice what they’ve covered in class
  • get ready for the next day’s class
  • learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference materials and computer websites to find information about a subject
  • explore subjects more fully than classroom time permits
  • extend learning by applying skills they already have to new situations
  • integrate their learning by applying many different skills to a single task, such as book reports or science projects.

Homework also can help students to develop good study habits and positive attitudes. It can teach them to work independently and encourage self-discipline and responsibility — assignments provide some children with their first chance to manage time and to meet deadlines.

In addition, homework can help create greater understanding between families and teachers and provide opportunities for increased communication. Monitoring homework keeps families informed about what their children are learning and about the policies and programs of the teacher and the school.

Does Homework Help Children Learn?

Homework helps your child do better in school when the assignments are meaningful, are completed successfully and are returned to her with constructive comments from the teacher. An assignment should have a specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched to a child’s abilities and help to develop a child’s knowledge and skills.

In the early grades, homework can help children to develop the good study habits and positive attitudes described earlier. From third through sixth grades, small amounts of homework, gradually increased each year, may support improved school achievement. In seventh grade and beyond, students who complete more homework score better on standardized tests and earn better grades, on the average, than do students who do less homework. The difference in test scores and grades between students who do more homework and those who do less increases as students move up through the grades.

What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

The right amount of homework depends on the age and skills of the child. National organizations of parents and teachers suggest that children in kindergarten through second grade can benefit from 10 to 20 minutes of homework each school day. In third through sixth grades, children can benefit from 30 to 60 minutes a school day. In seventh through ninth grades, students can benefit from spending more time on homework and the amount may vary from night to night.

Amounts that vary from these guidelines are fine for some children and in some situations. For example, because reading at home is especially important for children, reading assignments might push the time on homework a bit beyond the amounts suggested here. If you are concerned that your child has either too much or too little homework, talk with his teacher and learn about her homework policies.

Citations

United States Department of Education. (2005). Helping Your Child with Homework.

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