If your child is consistently bringing home hours of homework, the first thing to do is find out why. In most classes, right through high school, students have time in class to work on the assigned questions for the day, and whatever they do not finish ends up as daily homework. Specifically assigned homework is usually restricted to essays, reports, or projects which are usually assigned every few weeks, not every day.
Talk to your child, and if necessary, your child’s teacher, to find out what’s going on. Your child may be distracted in the classroom, socializing or fooling around instead of using the last twenty minutes of the period to start on the math questions assigned. Another possibility is that your child is working diligently in class but is struggling with the material for some reason, for example, he did not understand the concept as it was taught, or perhaps she has an undiagnosed learning disability.
Before you rush to a school psychiatrist for testing, however, does your child do homework in an area visible to you? Some children dawdle over their homework, telling parents that they are working on it when they are really surfing the internet, talking on the phone, doodling, or just daydreaming. I used to finish my homework quickly, then read novels while my parents thought I was still working on homework. Really, I just enjoyed the peace and quiet of not being disturbed by my parents or two younger brother so I could have some time to myself.
If you’ve examined all the possibilities and your child seems to just have a high homework load, or if it takes your child longer to finish assignments in some subjects, there is nothing to do but help your child learn the organizational skills to finish it all on time. A large calendar and multi-colored pens are useful. Each subject should have its own color, and you can help your child prioritize long-term assignments and plan how much time will be devoted to them each day, avoiding 6 hour crunches the day before a due date. Your child should also plan in snack breaks and other activities such as afterschool sports.
Before or afterschool help should be sought for subjects or concepts that your child is struggling with. A solid understanding of the material will allow your child to complete her homework faster, and with less stress. Record how much time your child has to spend on each subject every day to finish the assigned practice questions or reading, and get help for subjects that take a disproportionate amount of time.
If you stay on top of how much homework your child has, you can help him to succeed in school and find ways to lessen the load if it seems to much. If your child seems to have an absolutely ridiculous amount of homework, you may want to have a talk with the teacher or principal to find out what’s going on. After all, kids still need time to be kids!