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":
In Topics: School and Academics, Helping my child with school work and home work
> 60 days ago



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

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