Homework Time 5th Class

Timothy, a fifth grader, spends up to thirteen hours a day hunched over a desk at school or at home, studying and doing homework. Should his parents feel proud? Now imagine, for comparison's sake, Timothy spending thirteen hours a day hunched over a sewing machine instead of a desk.

Parents have the right to complain when schools assign too much homework but they often don't know how to do so effectively.

Drowning in Homework (an excerpt from Chapter 8 of The Squeaky Wheel)

I first met Timothy, a quiet, overweight eleven-year-old boy, when his mother brought him to therapy to discuss his slipping grades. A few minutes with Timothy were enough to confirm that his mood, self-esteem, and general happiness were slipping right along with them. Timothy attended one of the top private schools in Manhattan, an environment in which declining grades were no idle matter.

I asked about Timothy's typical day. He awoke every morning at six thirty so he could get to school by eight and arrived home around four thirty each afternoon. He then had a quick snack, followed by either a piano lesson or his math tutor, depending on the day. He had dinner at seven p.m., after which he sat down to do homework for two to three hours a night. Quickly doing the math in my head, I calculated that Timothy spent an average of thirteen hours a day hunched over a writing desk. His situation is not atypical. Spending that many hours studying is the only way Timothy can keep up and stay afloat academically.

But what if, for comparison's sake, we imagined Timothy spending thirteen hours a day hunched over a sewing machine instead of a desk. We would immediately be aghast at the inhumanity because children are horribly mistreated in such "sweatshops." Timothy is far from being mistreated, but the mountain of homework he faces daily results in a similar consequence- he too is being robbed of his childhood.

Timothy's academics leave him virtually no time to do anything he truly enjoys, such as playing video games, movies, or board games with his friends. During the week he never plays outside and never has indoor play dates or opportunities to socialize with friends. On weekends, Timothy's days are often devoted to studying for tests, working on special school projects, or arguing with his mother about studying for tests and working on special school projects.

By the fourth and fifth grade and certainly in middle school, many of our children have hours of homework, test preparation, project writing, or research to do every night, all in addition to the eight hours or more they have to spend in school. Yet study after study has shown that homework has little to do with achievement in elementary school and is only marginally related to achievement in middle school.

Play, however, is a crucial component of healthy child development. It affects children's creativity, their social skills, and even their brain development. The absence of play, physical exercise, and free-form social interaction takes a serious toll on many children. It can also have significant health implications as is evidenced by our current epidemic of childhood obesity, sleep deprivation, low self- esteem, and depression.

A far stronger predictor than homework of academic achievement for kids aged three to twelve is having regular family meals. Family meals allow parents to check in, to demonstrate caring and involvement, to provide supervision, and to offer support. The more family meals can be worked into the schedule, the better, especially for preteens. The frequency of family meals has also been shown to help with disordered eating behaviors in adolescents.

Experts in the field recommend children have no more than ten minutes of homework per day per grade level. As a fifth- grader, Timothy should have no more than fifty minutes a day of homework (instead of three times that amount). Having an extra two hours an evening to play, relax, or see a friend would constitute a huge bump in any child's quality of life.

So what can we do if our child is getting too much homework?

1. Complain to the teachers and the school. Most parents are unaware that excessive homework contributes so little to their child's academic achievement.

2. Educate your child's teacher and principal about the homework research-they are often equally unaware of the facts and teachers of younger children (K-4) often make changes as a result.

3. Create allies within the system by speaking with other parents and banding together to address the issue with the school.

You might also like: Is Excessive Homework in Private Schools a Customer Service Issue?

View my short and quite personal TED talk about Psychological Health here:

Check out my new book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Evreyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press).

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Copyright 2011 Guy Winch

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So my daughter is in 5th grade. She is 9 and will be 10 this year.

At my kids' school, this grade level it seems, gives a ton of homework daily. The other parents say this too, per their 5th grade kids.

My daughter, is routinely up until 10:00pm doing homework. But last night was still doing homework even at past 10:30pm.
She is not lazy, she is a hard worker who toils without complaint and does her best and sucks it up. *She has a great work ethic, and always has been that way. She is a very hard worker.
But so she is always sleep deprived, due to the homework load and it is daily. Even on weekends, she gets a lot of homework.
It has been this way since the first day of school 2 months ago.
Its hard seeing her... being so sleepy/tired/sleep deprived, due to lack of sleep due to her homework.
And lack of sleep dominoes each day. And catching up with sleep is like chasing a rainbow.
We Moms know that. And how it can affect our kids demeanor.

Am just wondering, if your 5th graders, also get a ton of homework daily, and how long does it take them to complete? Do they too also end up going to bed late because of it? This is 5th grade. Its not like this is Middle School or they are 16 and this is 10th grade.

My daughter usually gets: 4-6 pages of Math (this is in a text book and also a few more pages from a math workbook), reading and a 1 page write up about it, Science too, vocab/grammar worksheets, social studies etc., and/or other assignments like current news that is going on etc.

Her other classmates also are up late at night, doing homework. It is not only my daughter.
The Teacher my daughter has, is known for giving a ton of homework. Even the office staff know this.
I am not trying to change things or argue with the Teacher, I just want to know.... if 5th Graders just do get a ton of homework and its just too bad?
Its just so hard... seeing my daughter sooo tired everyday because she has to stay up late every night.
She even says she is so tired.... and can barely stay awake to finish homework.
She is one that needs about 10 hours of sleep a night to be fine. But as it is she is getting less than 8 hours of sleep a day.

My Husband thinks it is only our daughter that is up so late doing homework.
I told him, NO... it is not only her. I speak to the other parents, they say the same thing.
I told the Teacher... and she said that if my daughter is too tired to complete homework, then write her a note, but then my daughter will need to complete her homework the next day, in school... sometime. Meaning, this catch up time will take time away from other in class work and/or she has to do it during lunch period etc. and fit it in.

Just venting here. But basically wondering how much homework your 5th graders get?

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So What Happened?

* I guess the thing also is: I would hope, that my daughter does not get BURNT out, by December. I mean, its only been 2 months of school so far. And with the continual lack of sleep.

**@ Victoria W.- yes, the teachers of this grade level, seem to have that badge of honor attitude... about how much homework they give. They are not new teachers at all, They have been with the school for years. They are not newbies. They are old timers.
But the particular Teacher my daughter has... has the reputation of being a Homework "Queen." The other 5th grade classes do get a lot of homework, but not as much as my daughter gets, per her class & Teacher.
And the thing is, EVERYONE seems to know that this particular Teacher is like this/gives tons of homework/drives her kids hard in class and per homework, and she has been teaching this grade level for awhile. I had heard "rumors" about this teacher even before my daughter got to 5th grade. So its not like this is going to change her entire approach and philosophy of teaching.
And I don't want my daughter to get hassled, because she has a Mom that questions things.
Lets just say, that this teacher does not have a winning personality.

**this is public school.

My daughter is a hard worker and organized. She does not start homework late. She starts at ab out 4:00.
She does not watch tv nor use the phone or fool around.
But, being she is so tired/gets inadequate sleep due to homework load... she is TIRED while doing homework, and maybe this makes her work slow. But she is able. She is capable. She knows how to do the homework and does not need a Tutor.
I am right there in the room, as she is working. I see what her assignments are.

Their homework is daily, like this. No lull.
And as I said, her other classmates (and their Moms) say that they are also up late at night, doing the homework.

Her math homework for example, just 1 page of Math can have like 28 questions or equations on it.
And she gets assigned anywhere from 4-6 pages of math a night, from their textbook. THEN, there is also math homework from a math workbook, which also has like 20+ questions/equations in it.
So, all together, that is a TON of math.
Its not like there is just 4 equations per page.

She is not a student that does not complete her in class work either. She is all up to date.

So today, I wrote a note to the Teacher, saying that my daughter's homework was not completed because, she was just TOO tired and could not stay awake. This is the 1st time I have had to do this.

Featured Answers

S.G.

answers from Grand Forks on

My son is in fifth grade. They only bring home homework if they do not finish their assignments in class. They do have home reading each night, English and French, about 20 minutes of each.

More Answers

R.J.

answers from Seattle on

Also 5th grade... there was a parent teacher meeting at the beginning of the year around homework. With so many studies showing better retention of material (and speed through material) in schools that had nixed HW completely (elementary-highschool)... my son's school is heading towards the no-homework paradigm.

That said, his teachers know that the local middle and highschools are NOT heading toward that paradigm, so they wanted our thoughts.

The compromise reached was 30 minutes of reading per day, and a packet due at the end of the week with math/science/etc. q's in it. Essentially 5 q's per day if spaced out evenly.

So the vast majority of the work is done at school, with just a 'keeping your hand in' aspect at home so parents know what's being covered, more than practice.

______

I homeschooled for 5 years. It took 3-4 hours a day TOPS to teach everything to have him doing 2 years per year. (AKA 1-2 hours per day to stay caught up with the state curriculum). When homework times exceed the amount of time it would take to homeschool... there are serious issues... IM-not-so-HO. At that point, school is just daycare, as the real work is already happening at home. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking free daycare in a safe/fun/interesting environment. But when a kid is in school 10-12 hours a day... 6-8 in the building and then 2-4 homeschooling via 'homework'... there are some serious problems.

6 moms found this helpful

E.M.

answers from Denver on

way out of line!

my son's teacher states up front she doesn't do much homework because she works them so hard in class and because they need to be kids.

that said, more than 15-30 minutes per day plus reading for fun (notice I said fun, not what the teacher said to read) is all she should have. and, quite frankly, I think it should be NONE except for fun reading and special projects (that are limited to no more than 4-5 per year).

see this link:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,###-###-...

there is not a single study, nope, not a single one, that shows homework in elementary school helps with learning.

So, you need to do your "homework!" be prepared, ask for a meeting with the teacher and prinicpal and discuss the following:
what benefit does the teacher see in all the homework?It better be good!
what would be the consequences of just not doing it?
If you and the teacher cannot come to an agreement on this, what are your options? (i.e., change classes?)

It might be better if you can get a number of other parents to approach the teacher and principal also.

really, she should be a kid right now. all that homework is not helping in her learn in the slightest - it's just making her unhealthy, prone to gaining weight (not enough sleep and stress), and to hate school. please back your daughter up on this one - the teacher is either incompetent or a bully to give this much homework.

good luck.

3 moms found this helpful

A.T.

answers from New York on

Usually 2-3 hours worth of work is the norm for 5th Grade, pending any special projects or reports of course. If your daughter is up until 10:30, daily, I'd pay a bit more attention as to what is going on. Assuming she is home by 4pm, it really shouldn't take her 6 hours to do homework. Perhaps she's having a hard time and needs a tutor? Does she have a phone that interferes with H.w. time. Is she on the computer saying she's doing H.w. and is on other sites? This is a different world in which our children learn. Nowadays most teachers don't really teach, they have a curriculum to follow within the months kids are in school and the they have to make up all that work themselves. Talk to your daughter and see what's going on. Sit with her and actually see what she's going through. If the teacher is allowing her the extra time to make it up, yes, she's going to have to do it during lunch or recess. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

L.M.

answers from Orlando on

My daughter is in the 5th grade and she doesn't have as much homework as your daughter. She goes to extended day after school care from 2:30-5pm when I pick her up. 90% of the time her homework is done. Usually 1-2 pages of math, writing vocab / spelling words and maybe a science or reading assignment. It's rare that she does homework at home.

2 moms found this helpful

C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

No, this is not right. I would never let/keep my GD up until10:00 and later doing homework. That's ridiculous. And 4 - 6 pages of math per night. I'll tell you now that that teacher is teaching to the test and she's starting early.

I would write the teacher a note and tell her that you will select a couple of math pages and a couple of other assignments for your daughter to do as homework, but under no circumstances will she be doing homework for more than 1 hour per night. If the teacher wants to lower her grade, who really cares. It's not like her grades in 5th grade are going to matter.

My GD gets a homework packet each Monday. It has enough work pages for her to do 3 - 4 pages per night, plus reading and studying her spelling words. She is usually done with all within an hour.

I consider that to be reasonable.

I hadn't read the entire post but I see you did tell the teacher. I would not stand for her response. I would now make an appointment to meet with the teacher and principal together and let them both know that I will make my daughter spend one hour doing homework. During that time, I will make sure she is diligently working and at the end of the hour, homework is done. SHE WILL NOT be completing the homework the next day; SHE WILL NOT miss lunch of any recesses.

If they try that, I would come pick her up every day at lunch and take her back afterwards. THEY ARE NOT HOLDING ALL THE CARDS; they just think they are.

Also, let them know that you will randomly keep your daughter out of school, unexcused, which will hurt their budget. Again, THEY ARE NOT HOLDING ALL THE CARDS!!!!!!

2 moms found this helpful

J.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

Ridiculous! I'd like to know what these teachers are teaching in class when they give this much to go home. What are they doing all day????

We homeschool, so we get to the point and get things done. We have no busy work. Our son works for 2 hours, maybe 3 each day on homework TOTAL. He is 9, almost 10 and in the 6th grade. He's a self starter, so when he gets up at 6am, he sits down and gets to him homework for the day. By 8am he's usually finished if he doesn't have any questions. He reads constantly - just finished all 7 Harry Potter books in 3 weeks. We play most of the day on our bikes, trampoline and exploring the park below our home. Our kids help cook, clean the house and grocery shop. You'd be surprised how much math you can do with measuring things in the kitchen, as well as figuring our how much money you need for groceries! I work outside of the home, but I still manage my hours so I can be with the kids and help my husband teach them. My kids are in bed at 7:30pm.

I'm so sorry. That seems super excessive and downright criminal to not allow any family time.

2 moms found this helpful

J.T.

answers from New York on

Mine aren't in 5th but from what I know in the neighborhood, that sounds like much more than we get. I think I'd do the homework myself and see how long it takes me... Then I'd ask the teacher how long she expects it to take. Then I'd find out what other 5th grade classes in your school have. And then I'd take all this info to the teacher. If no satisfaction, see if you can recruit other parents to speak up and then take it to the principal. I swear I'd be tempted to do some of it for her if it's just busy work. This sounds cruel.

E.T.

answers from Los Angeles on

Is there a district policy on the amount of time that should be spent on homework?

V.W.

answers from Jacksonville on

I had that experience with our son when he was in 5th grade, but it was private school. Many many many many private schools use it as some sort of badge of honor to give the most hours of homework each night.
Our daughter was in public school for 3rd, 4th and now 6th grades.... and she has never had the load of homework our son had in 4th and 5th in private school. But then, our son hasn't had that amount of homework in public school since entering it at 6th grade, either.

In fact, most of my daughter's 6th grade teachers agree with much of my husband's and my philosophy, which is that they have our kids for 7 hours a day. They should be able to teach them what they need to know in that amount of time, or there is a problem. A few practice exercises? Fine. But mounds of actual LEARNING homework---there is a problem somewhere in the system.

Is the group of teachers teaching 5th this year at her school a group of NEW teachers? Have they recently changed their curriculum or standards? It may be that they need to do some adjusting and it needs to be brought to their attention...

E.W.

answers from Columbus on

We homeschool, and my 5th grade daughter doesn't need this much time to do the whole school day, let alone homework! I would fight this. I read experts say that a child should have 10 minutes of homework per grade at school. So a 1st grader 10 minutes, a 2nd grader 20, etc. So in the 5th grade she should have no more than 50 minutes of homework - except maybe special projects, which should be the exception, not the rule. Even at 2 -3 hours of homework, like some commenters are saying their kids get, when are the poor kids supposed to spend time with family, play and run outside, and do extra activities they are interested in? I would NOT stand for that type of life for my child. Get together with the other parents and fight this.

B.R.

answers from Columbus on

I think that is way too much for a 5th grader. They shouldn't have to spend more than 1-2 hrs on homework at that age. Maybe you could get the other parents together and set up a meeting with the teacher and principal and discuss your concerns. Homework has value, but there is a point of diminishing returns....

My 5th grader gets 1-2 math worksheets, a spelling page, and a reading assignment at most. Usually it's just one or two of those a night. And she's in the gifted program in a very good public school district.

L.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

My son is in 5th grade too. He is 9 also but he'll be 10 this weekend. On Fridays he gets an English packet for the up coming week. The have a few pages due each day of the week. The packet is maybe 10 pages. They never have pages due on Monday but sometimes my son does his homework over the weekend so he has time for other activities during the week. In math he gets 2 pages in a work book each night and then 2 pages in the big math book the day before the test. Science and Social Studies are all done in school and there is no homework in those subjects unless he has to study for a test or if they are doing a long term project. We read every night at bed time - either the story that they are working on in school for that week or our other books.

It seems like your daughter is getting a lot of work. Is this a new teacher to the school? Sometimes new teachers are over zealous and give way too much work. Have you had back to school night yet where the teacher tells you the requirements for the year? If it is affecting everyone then maybe you need a conference with the teacher and the principal and some other parents. Good luck.

K.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

My 5th grader has one or two math worksheets plus 1/2 hour reading per day. Every week, she needs to do a current events report (complete with oral report). Takes her not even 1hr to complete this per week. Then there's a Social Studies packet, usually due each week, and she works for maybe 30 minutes per day on this. And then there's a Language Arts packet due each week, with a test on the day it's due. It's usually a pretty big packet maybe 20 - 30 pages, but doesn't take her more than 2 hours per week to complete if she works on it diligently. Plus any tests and school projects, which aren't all the time. All in all, I'd say she does about 10 - 15 hours of homework per week, averaging out to just under 2hrs to just over 2hrs per day.

She has NEVER had to stay up until 10:30 doing homework. Going by what you've said your daughter has PER NIGHT, my thought is that it's excessive. It seems like the teacher is either giving them busy work for the sake of being busy, or is slacking in the classroom so the kids have to teach themselves in the evenings. Either way, it's too much.

If I were in your situation, I would have my daughter work diligently for 2 (maybe 3) hours, then have her stop. If she's not done, write the teacher a note saying you've excused her from doing the work. And let the teacher know that the amount of homework is cutting down on your child's sleep (which is more important than doing busy work that the teacher couldn't teach during school hours).

Unless, of course, your daughter is starting her homework too late to begin with. If she starts at, say 4:30, she really should be done by 7:30 at the latest. If she's starting later than 4:30, have her start earlier. But if she's doing homework from 4:30 until past 10pm...well, that really is unacceptable and the teacher REALLY needs a wake-up call.

A.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

Wow, that sounds like a lot. I also have a 5th grader struggling with the increased homework load. Yesterday, she got home from school (she doesn't get home until 4:30), poured out her backpack and just cried for 15 minutes because she felt so overwhelmed. Then she worked on a writing assignment. And after that she had 2 pages of math worksheets plus corrections (not nearly as much as your child, though). That took her up until dinner. After dinner, she finished her math, and I took her to her hour circus class. We got home at about 8:30, and she still had to read for 30 minutes, plus write a response to her reading. She also told me she had a huge vocabulary assignment due tomorrow, but I swear that must be a mistake. I told her she needs to clarify that with her teacher today. So she went to bed at 10:00 last night. Which is late, but that is a typical school day so far. Now, my DD could do some of her work on the weekends, but she prefers not to, so she does kind of overload herself on weekdays. That's going to have to be her time management experience issue to resolve. My teacher friend said our state has really pushed up writing standards this year for 5th graders, so apparently, it's not just our school in my area.

M.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Whoa---that is a TON of homework!! My 5the grader does not get nearly that much. Honestly I cannot imaging gettng that much at that age. It is certainly not healthy thats for sure. And research proves that excessive homework is NOT the way to go.
My son usually has about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes a night. Sometimes it turns out as more because things that are due for a week are done the night before :-) I will say that there seems to be more this year and the difficulty level has definitely increased.
If it were my son I would meet with the teacher and the principle about this. I would also call my mom friends and ask if they feel the same way. This is something I would really fight. I would also load up on research that proves this much homework at 11 is harmful.

Just wondering....what kind of school is she at? I am betting its private-public school teachers would never give that much.

S.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

No, my fifth grade daughter does not have near this much homework. Her teacher this year makes sure most of the work gets done during the school day. So far, she's had no more than 1 to 2 hours of homework each day, and some days even less. She is in advanced math, the highest reading group, and G&T pull-out classes besides.

Last year, she had more homework. That teacher did a lot of added things during the day and told us that meant more homework. It put stress on our daughter, but she was able to do it.

I would not EVER allow homework to keep my daughter up past 10:00 at night. The lights go out. Sleep is needed to learn, and to grow. I would be working with my daughter to organize her work, and help her get through it, then if that wasn't helping, I would be speaking directly with the teacher.

Personally, it sounds to me like this teacher isn't doing her job during the school day and just sending it all home... Your daughter is doing homework for SIX hours a night!?! Ridiculous...when does she play and be active??

L.A.

answers from Austin on

What time does she start her homework?

How long per subject has the teacher said "it should take"?

At our daughters elementary school in 5th grade, each subject that had home work, usually the teacher said, it would take the average student 30 min.. per subject.

Sometimes a little more if they did not get much done in class.. sometimes less, if the child was proficient at the work.

So the most our child really had was about 2 hours.

But our child learned to start her homework in class.
Projects added time to homework. So if they were doing a special study, like read a book, then do some history on the time period and write a 2 page report with a project. Of course this took a week or 2. And usually, there was not as much homework during that time period in language arts and history.

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