Does your child struggle with too much homework? Many schools follow the National Education Association (NEA) rule of 10 minutes of homework per day, per grade level. But it can take kids with learning and attention issues much longer than that to get through their daily assignments.
So how do you talk to teachers about your child’s homework load? Here are some suggestions.
Find the right way and time to communicate.
Some teachers prefer to communicate by email. But that’s not always the best medium for talking through problems and solutions.
A face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher can be easier and more productive. It lets you share information and discuss strategies in real time instead of going back and forth over email.
If meeting isn’t possible, you can set up a phone call for a time when both of you have an uninterrupted half hour. (You may also want to make sure you’re able to talk without your child in earshot.)
When you ask to speak with the teacher, tell her you’d like to meet because you’re noticing difficulties at home around homework. It will help her be prepared, and it gives her the chance to observe your child’s homework habits before you meet.
Keep the focus on what your child is doing, not on what the teacher is doing or what the homework policies are. Be specific about what you’re noticing at home, but not critical of the teacher.
For instance, saying, “You’re giving so much homework that my son is spending hours trying to get it done” can sound like you’re blaming the teacher. Plus, it doesn’t give a clear picture of your child’s struggles.
Instead, try saying something like, “For some kids the amount of homework may not be a problem, but my son is spending over 30 minutes on each subject every night.”
Here are some examples of ways to be clear about what you’re seeing:
- “My child has trouble understanding the directions on the worksheets, and he’s spending an hour on them instead of 20 minutes.”
- “It’s hard for my child to organize his ideas, and it’s taking him the entire afternoon to get through all the short-answer questions.”
- “After two pages of math problems, my child loses focus. Getting him to finish the whole packet can take two hours.”
- “My child is a very slow reader and has to stay up very late just to finish the nightly reading assignment. Sometimes it makes him cry.”
If you’re not sure what the specific problem is, it’s OK to say so. You can talk through the issue together.
The ultimate goal is to find ways to make homework more manageable for your child. Ask the teacher what solutions she’s used in the past for kids with learning and attention issues.
Bring your own ideas and questions to the table, too. Don’t be afraid to ask things like:
- “What’s the maximum amount of time he should be spending on homework each night? Can an adult sign off on the unfinished portion of his assignment as long as he’s worked a certain amount of time?”
- “Are there alternate ways he can show what he’s learning?”
- “How can the workload be adjusted to meet his learning needs? Can he do fewer math problems if he’s able to show he knows the concept?”
- “What additional help can be provided in school? Is there an afterschool homework room or do you have office hours?”
- “Is there a way to make sure he understands what he’s supposed to with the assignment before he leaves school?”
If you’re suggesting certain strategies or supports for your child, be clear that’s what you’re doing. It’s better to say, “I’d like to ask you if you could make some changes for my child,” than “I think my child needs something different.”
Unless your child has homework accommodations in his IEP or 504 plan, the teacher doesn’t have to provide them. But she may be open to trying out some informal supports to see if they help.
If your child does have an IEP or 504 plan, and you want to discuss adding homework accommodations, ask for a team meeting. (You can also ask for one if your child already has accommodations, but the teacher doesn’t always use them or they’re not helping.)
Once you’ve agreed on a plan of action, arrange to check in with the teacher in a few weeks to talk over progress. If there hasn’t been much progress, talk about possible next steps such as intervention. It may be helpful to have your child evaluated for special education services.
The same is true if your child has made progress and you’d like to formalize the accommodations. You can also work on homework and study skills at home to help your child feel more confident.
- Suggesting solutions and keeping the focus on your child’s struggles can keep a meeting on track.
- Having specific examples of what “too much homework” looks like for your child can help the teacher find appropriate ways to help.
- If your child has an IEP, the IEP team can talk about formal accommodations to make homework easier to manage.
This article is from Understood.org, a great resource for information on learning and attention issues.
Author: Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Reviewed by: Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.