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Q: My sixth-grader has "lots" of homework -- usually six or seven things to do each night including math, English, French/English spelling and sentence writing, science study, and social studies. It takes her on average about two hours a night to complete all her assigned work. She's tired and complaining that it's too much. I get the impression she's overwhelmed with the amount of work. Is this a normal amount of work for grade six? Should I approach the teacher? My daughter keeps saying she hates her teacher and the amount of homework is only adding to the problem. What should I do?
A: Sixth grade is one of those times when homework can increase dramatically. While two hours of homework is twice the amount that experts recommend for this grade level, look carefully at how your daughter is spending her study time before talking to her teachers. Investigate if she is wasting part of this time by complaining or procrastinating, talking on the phone, watching TV, eating snacks, socializing with family members, or searching for papers, books, or supplies. Also, is she bringing home work that should have been completed at school?
Even if your daughter is using most of her time efficiently, she may need some help from you in managing the bigger homework load that sixth grade brings. Having a set time and place for doing homework will give her the self-discipline to start each day. Beyond this, you need to make sure your daughter knows how to plan her work. Before your child tackles her first assignment, she needs to prioritize her work from studying for a test first to doing a math worksheet last. Have her tell you her plans for several days so she gets in the habit of doing this.
Help your daughter further along the path to homework success by making sure that she reads directions carefully and can use textbook and worksheet examples to make sure she is on the right track with an assignment. Then stay nearby to provide assistance if she asks for it. While it is acceptable to work with her to get an assignment started, avoid doing any of her work.
If these hints don't help your daughter reduce her homework time substantially, you need to talk to her teachers about how burdensome homework is for your child. Take a list of the daily assignments that your child has to your discussion, and find out how long the teachers think each assignment should take. Quite often, when several teachers are making assignments, they don't realize how overwhelming the homework load is.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.