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Is 4-5 hours of homework normal for third grade?

"My stepson is in third grade, Until now he has attended a Japanese school. He has always been exposed to English and has been tutored in reading and writing. Well he's been in an American school for almost a year now and it takes 4 or 5 hours to do his homework (even with our help) is this normal? He has a hard time staying on task, and I'm new to being a parent, and want to do the best I can. But I don't really have 4 to 5 hours to sit over his shoulder and make sure he's doing his homework correctly and stays on task. Help/advice? Thank you!"

Asked by "Confused Stepdad" after reading the article, "How a 3rd Grader Thinks":
http://www.education.com/magazine/article/How_c...
In Topics: School and Academics, Helping my child with school work and home work
> 60 days ago

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Expert

LouiseSattler
Oct 30, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Hello "Confused Dad",

Thank you for writing to JustAsk about the amount of time a third grader should spend on homework.  After reading your question their appears to be two major concerns.  First, the amount of homework and second the amount of time to complete the homework.

The first part is easy.  It is not recommended by professionals who work in education for elementary aged students to have more than 10-20 minutes per subject per night.  This is for core subjects only.  Now every now and then a project may take longer, however, this should be the exception and not the rule.  Thus, if your step-son had good attending skills, but now is struggling, then I would recommend a conference with his teacher(s), especially if English and English "slang" and "idioms" are problematic for him in the language arts.

The second dilemma is much more difficult.  You say that your child has a hard time staying on task.  Is this a behavior noted in school, too?  Does he have trouble completing tasks that are non-school related such as finishing a board game or an art project?  Is he able to concentrate on playing games on a computer , but not read a book?  If you say YES to these questions then you may wish to consult with his physician to see if he has the medical disorder with psycho-educational impact known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  The physician, with the help of other professionals, such as a school psychologist, will determine if this is a new situation or has been an ongoing problem for many years.  ADD does not appear "all of the sudden", so chances are if he has been excellent at school and with attending then something else is happening.

Also, it is possible that fatigue is playing a large role.  The average third grader is quite busy with school and after school activities.  To compound this with the stress of hours of homework can be too much for any person , let alone a young child. If this is the case, again a school conference would seem reasonable between parents and the teacher(s).

 Moreover,  if you are monitoring his homework completion that is stressful for all of the family.  You may find that he will complete work more effectively with for example a kitchen timer.  Once a set time is done, then he is to move on to another subject.  Ask the teacher if you can try this technique and then write a note on the paper (or affix another piece of paper) stating that "Billy" found this too difficult, confusing, etc. to complete in 15-20 minutes independently.  This is a good way for the teacher to know what is occurring at home and perhaps to readjust for all the students the amount of homework offered.

Good luck!

Louise Masin Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Owner of Signing Families
http://www.SigningFamilies.com

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Additional Answers (5)

graham
graham writes:
It does seem like a long time for that grade. It is possible that the teacher does not know how long it is taking to complete. I would suggest talking to the teacher and seeing if this is what she intends and if there is anything you can do to reduce it. I asked a 3rd grade teacher and she thought that the average for this grade might be around 2 hours- but this varies widely from school to school.
> 60 days ago

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mysonandi
mysonandi writes:
No, this is not normal, my son in high school does not even have that much homework.
> 60 days ago

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lravidlearner
lravidlearner , Teacher, Parent writes:
As a parent and teacher, I can understand the frustration of homework battles.  The general guideline is that a child should do 10 minutes of homework times the grade level.  So 3rd graders should generally have no more then 30 minutes of homework per night.

HOWEVER, virtually none of my daughter's schools or those I've worked in follow this guideline.  All of them assign more.  

Each district or school I've dealt with has a homework policy with guidelines for the amount of homework in each grade level.  I follow the policy.  When my daughter's teachers don't follow the policy, I have her stop work at the prescribed time limit, and I write a note to the teacher that my child was unable to complete it within the time limits.  

This happened repeatedly with one teacher.  I scheduled a conference with her and the principal and we worked out a way to combine assignments to shorten the time homework took.

Now before I did all this, I observed my daughter to see if she was actually working at the task for the entire time.  If not, I told her to take a break.  During 3rd grade, she worked 15 minutes at a time.  Any longer and she lost focus.  The district policy was 1 hour homework for 3rd graders.

Ask your stepson's teacher how long he/she expects the children to work on homework each night.  If your stepson is taking signficantly longer than other kids in the class to complete the assignments, find out if he has this problem in the classroom as well.  If so, work with the teacher on a plan to diagnose the problem.

If the teacher truly expects more than an hour of homework from a 3rd grader, I would campaign hard to have the classroom policy changed.  This should be relatively easy to do if the teacher expects more homework time than school or district policy guidelines.

There will be special projects that require more time occasionally.  But on a day-to-day basis, 4-5 hours is far too much homework.
> 60 days ago

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New'New
New'New , Student writes:
It should not take to long to do third grade homework, there is only multipication etc. there should really be a big problem and 4 to 5 hours is a really long time, maybe find out what you can do to help he comprehend maybe he is not paying attention and it is affecting him in his school work there are a lot of different ways to seattle something like this.
> 60 days ago

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MomETC
MomETC writes:
Maybe your stepson is just overwhelmed because he changed schools and the main school language. Some children adapt to this quickly and some don't. My daughter also changed schools recently and I had a lot of problems with her school performance and homework. At the beggining of the year her homework took her about 3 hours to complete, now it takes her the prescribed 30 minutes. Especially if his performance in Japanese school was without problems, he may respond well to encouragement and understanding and of course tutoring because it is important that he doesn't give up. You may find out with time that your stepson will always have some academic issues because of the language change, however it should be less obvious with time. I have a friend whose son started first two grades of American school and then transferred to another country, and in 6th grade he came across a new color when reading in school. He did not understand what kind of color it was and the teacher explained, but he still didn't get it and asked the teacher how is this color called in English.
> 60 days ago

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