Friday, September 9, 2011

Do You Work as Hard as a Fifth Grader?

Do you remember 5th grade? I do. The work was done in class with the exception of reading a chapter book or two at home, which actually may not have been required - I just liked to read.

My son is in 5th grade. His school is apparently going for some record-setting goal on test scores this year.  He has had an average of two hours homework most nights, five hours on Thursday night. 

This is in addition to the four novels he has to read a quarter at his reading level and a book report. The problem is he only wants to read Harry Potter books, which are at his level, but are very lengthy. So on top of the homework, he reads at least an hour a night too. 

I officially expressed my opinion that the homework is excessive in an email to the teacher.  I was polite and asked if perhaps my son wasn't using his time wisely in class because they can't possibly be asking more of a time commitment on homework from a ten year old than a junior high or high school student.

She responded with a very long paragraph listing the homework expected of the 5th grade crowd.  Most of the sentences began with "in addition."  My husband laughed when he read it.  She thinks they can do all of it in an hour, less if he does some of it at school.  But the time she specified for each of the main assignments added to the additional ones totalled over an hour.  She didn't include the independent reading or time spent studying for tests - or the thing where they don't teach math processes exactly, but expect the kids to figure it out on their own (which takes time).  She didn't acknowledge that the science homework is a scavenger hunt and includes things that aren't being taught this year (seriously) and could take a child a long time to find without parental assistance. 

She said this is the minimum work she and her teaching partner feel will make the students successful.  They should be able to do it in an hour.  She ended the email with "Thank you."  That was it.   No surprise that the homework was taking so long for a child that's a high achiever.  No mention that the workload may decrease.  No acknowledgment that maybe, possibly, it could be too much.

My child is a high achieving, very tidy, organized creature that just wants to get his work done so he can play.   He's also a bit of a perfectionist, so he may spend more time trying to get everything just right - that I concede.  But to do it right for a self-disciplined child, it takes a minimum of two hours a night and five hours on Thursdays, not including the reading and not including the work done the weekend, which is a lot. 

It seems to me that seven hours of instruction a day should be plenty with some homework if you're having issues or need practice.

I doubt this volume of homework will guarantee his success.   I think it guarantees he will be hating school by Halloween. 

I will be positive and cheer him on - probably will encourage him to save the perfectionism for the high point assignments.  It probably will make the workload in future years seem like nothing, but this year is not going to be fun.

I feel very bad for the kids that aren't organized - they have to be drowning. 



  1. It is unbelievable how much homework 5th graders have to do. It's great that you are cheering him on and I'm sure he"ll do well.

  2. it must depend on where you live and which team you're on. my son's 5th & 6th grade teachers give less hw than his 4th! combined!

    but since us is so far behind rest of world requirements put on teachers to give more hw and diverse assignments keeps going up...

    he will be better for taking on the challenge, but at what cost, right?
    not to mention extra curricular activities!

  3. @ Empty Nest Insider - I think he'll do well. I think I might track the number of assignments and the time for each so I can show them how much it really is.

    @Tara - Soccer is usually three practices or games a week - lucky he skipped it for Fall. I do remember this school getting a low score compared to the district - I bet that's why they stepped it up a bit. I'm not sure this is the answer.

  4. That sounds like too much work for a 5th grader. I wish him the best...