Fourth-grader Nicholas Sanchez gets home from school – and his homework race begins.
“I have four pages of math, one page of spelling, a little bit more of math, and 20 minutes of reading,” he tells his mother, Pam.
“So let’s finish this one first,” she replies.
Eighth-grader Natalie Sanchez comes home a few minutes later and dives right into the homework pool.
“I have to study for a test, which I like to do last,” she says, looking at a planner. “Um, I have math homework, OK, let’s do that first.”
Because she has honors classes, she gets an average of 2 to 4 hours of homework a night.
The Sanchez family’s homework routine is typical of thousands of families.
“I think it’s good, but I do think it’s a little overwhelming,” Pam Sanchez says.
Most parents will tell you kids are busier these days – Natalie Sanchez runs half-marathons with her mom – and they seem to have so much more homework to do.
A University of Michigan study done in 2004 showed homework is up 51 percent since 1981.
Is it too much? Dr. Laura Dinehart, who studies education at Florida International University, thinks so.
“As a parent, and I think as a friend of lots of parents, everybody feels that way, that it’s creating friction in the house, that students are stressed, that they’re going to bed late, that they’re waking up early – and all of that is really a matter of making sure that you’re talking to the teacher and saying this is too much,” she said.
There is some research that shows that there is a benefit to homework, and that it reinforces for kids the material they’re studying in the classroom, Dinehart says.
But she says homework is only worthwhile if it’s an extension of what happened that day in class.
“If a parent is having to teach a child something because it wasn’t taught during the day, then that’s a problem,” she says.
Krista Herrera, the principal of Glades Middle School, agrees. She says homework is a good thing.
“My personal philosophy is that no matter what you do in life, if you want to go from good to great, you have to practice,” Herrera says.
Dashonya Thompson, who teaches reading at Glades, says she thinks homework is very important, especially in reading.
“We’re here to help them, we’re here to help the families. We don’t want to be a hardship on anyone,” she says.
Herrera says the amount of homework should depend on a child’s level.
“If you have a first- or second-grader that is doing hours and hours of homework, yes, your child is doing too much homework,” she says. “If you have a child in high school and your child is up until 10 or 11 or maybe midnight, and they are in Advanced Placement classes, that’s the rigor and intensity of the course.”
Natalie Sanchez knows she can’t run away from her homework. But, speaking for students everywhere, she does have a plea for teachers.
“Talk to each other about it and see what you’re assigning each student,” she says. “That way, when it all comes together it’s not so much, that way kids aren’t going to sleep late doing homework.”