Homework All Night Long


By Sarah Wikler


The following issue has been bothering me for a long time and I think that many parents feel the same way I do. Why do our schools give so much homework? My children are constantly overwhelmed with homework. Isn’t it enough that our children are away from home for eight, nine, ten hours a day? Don’t they deserve a little down time? And what about their parents? Often the assigned homework is impossible for a child to complete on his own. Are we as parents expected to do homework with our children all night long? Many Lakewood families are large ka”h. How can we realistically do homework every night with each one of our children?  And what about leaving some time available for children to help out at home?

I couldn’t agree with you more. There is no reason that children should be doing homework all night long. They spend many hours each day at school, and they need some down time when they come home. Furthermore, since we are b”h gebentched with large families, children should be available to help out at home without having to worry that they won’t be able to finish all of their homework.

Not always is an overwhelmed child an indication that the teacher is overloading her students with homework.

A child who is a perfectionist may complain about having TONS of homework. The truth is, the assigned homework is actually quite reasonable, but to the child it may feel overwhelming since it will, in fact, take a long time to complete, due to the child’s perfectionism.

A child who is a social butterfly may also complain about having TONS of homework. What the child really means is, “I will only have two hours tonight to schmooze on the phone, instead of three.”

To the weaker student, the assigned homework may seem overwhelming.  It will, in fact, take a longer time to complete due to the child’s academic weakness.

The primary rationale for homework is the need to reinforce learning. Children need to review the material they have learned in school that day so that they will be able to retain the information  and  build on that knowledge. Review is an integral part of the learning process.

Ideally, much of the reviewing should take place in school. An experienced teacher is able to conduct reviews in the classroom.

There are certain subject areas that do require additional work at home, such as math, but  homework should be kept to a minimum.

In order for the homework load to be reasonable it needs to be monitored.

In elementary schools the rule of thumb is ten minutes per grade level divided between the morning and afternoon teachers.  In first grade, a total of ten minutes would result in five minutes of homework assigned by the morning teacher and five minutes of homework assigned by the afternoon teacher.  At the sixth grade level a total of 60 minutes of homework would be appropriate, giving the morning teachers thirty minutes of homework to divide between themselves and thirty minutes of homework for the afternoon teachers to divide between themselves.  The principal can oversee this to make sure that it is being adhered to.

Monitoring the amount of homework in high school is much harder since there are many more teachers involved. The principal’s intervention is crucial.

As a high school principal, I monitor the amount of homework that is assigned in each class,  including the amount of homework assigned each night and the approximate length of time it should take to complete. I also ensure that due dates of all projects and reports are staggered. When principals take an active role in monitoring the amount of homework assigned, it has a good chance of being reasonable.

So is there anything that you as a parent can do to limit the amount of homework?

Sure!  Speak up!

If the problem is unique to your child, you should approach the teacher(s) and/or principal and request special accommodations for your child- e.g., completion of five math problems instead of the assigned ten problems.

If the problem is pervasive throughout the entire school, and, as you indicated in your letter, many parents feel as you do, approach the teachers and/or principal as a group and voice your concerns, and make  specific suggestions for improvement.  If you can’t get anyone to accompany you to this meeting, do it alone.  Hopefully your concerns will be met with a sympathetic listening ear, you will have raised awareness in the school staff as to the implications of giving too much homework, and you will have accomplished at least a degree of amelioration of a troubling situation.


Sarah Wikler, MA, MFT, a former high school principal, is a therapist in full-time private practice in Lakewood, N.J. She works with children, teenagers and adults, specializing in treating anxiety, depression and trauma. 



  1. Sorry, as a parent I can tell you there is way too much homework. my policy is, after 15 minutes of each subject they stop, no matter how much of it is finished, as long as they worked diligently for 15 minutes. (Which in reality totals to about 40 a night between Hebrew and English)

    Go look at the schooling schedule in Israel, if you want to understand how out of control our kids school work burden has become. They have hours less schooling. School is too long now, and the homework after a tiring day is over the top.

    • The schooling schedule for girls in Israel is crazy. They learn until 1:00, seminary sometimes until 2:00, Rosh Chodesh finish at 12:00, hardly any homework, and roam the streets all afternoon. Definitely not what our girls should follow in America.

  2. Also an article from Rabbi Bender. We need an article from Yair Hoffman.
    The big solution is “students should be graded on EFFORT ONLY”

    The grade them on memory. That’s one of the reasons many students fail, they fall into a rut, depressed, etc. They don’t have the memory of some the “better students”.

    • Definitely not a solution. As a teacher I can tell you that MOST students would not put in much effort if they’re not graded properly. Homework is essential especially for those students who concentrate better privately while doing their homework and reviewing their work or for those who need their parents’ help to understand what was taught in school. In school there are many who get distracted by all kinds of things. In short, homework should continue but for shorter amount of time.

    • Unfortunately it won’t work in todays crazy shidduch matzav. If you dont get straight A’s, you can’t get into the elite seminaries in Israel. If you don’t go to an elite seminary in Israel, you can’t get that top shidduch. Same thing with the boys. If you don’t get into Brisk, you can forget about marrying a Rosh Yeshiva’s daughter or marrying an osher’s daughter. “Effort” means NOTHING in todays shidduch market! Its all about results! You must be in that special .01 percent of straight A’s student. Midos also mean NOTHING! Only top grades account for anything. This is the unfortunate reality that we are living in.

      • everything you wrote is a “LIE” . Terrible. And why are you worried about getting a ‘Top Shidduch”? Everyone needs a shidduch that is tsugepast for them!!

  3. My old saying to my daughters when their teachers give them questions which they themself don’t know the answer( also their husband and father don’t know ) tell ur teacher ” my father said he GRADUATED school many years ago ask a question which i can answer !!!

  4. How does a Father juggle homework with multiple children; endless simchas one must show up for even for a quick Mazel Tov with finding parking, eating dinner and some small talk with spouse and learning something with or without a shiur for an hour or more idealy with getting enough sleep to function properly for Davening and work the next day?! Something has to give!

  5. The American schools have 8 or more hours a day. Israeli schools have 5-6 hours for the same ages. The education is of the same standard both in Israel and in the US. Either the schools in America should shorten the school day or they should eliminate homework. They can restructure the day at school and cut out some less important material in order to give enough time for the students to review, study and do whatever projects the teachers had intended to be done at home.

    I have a secret for teachers. The diligent kids do their homework at home and the day the assignment is due, the rest of the students either do the homework in another class (thereby not paying attention to that class) or they copy off the students who have completed the assignment. Having a set time in school, with teachers observing, would ensure that each student does their own work.

    After a full 8 hour day, the students are wiped out and they deserve to just be kids. There is something wrong with the curriculum if schools feel they need to pile on extra work to be done at home. The main result of homework is that it kills kids passion for learning. Let the 8 hour school day be for school and let their home time be for spending time with family.

  6. The whole school system needs a longtime overdue assessment. When SARA SHENIRER A’H started the girls school, it was in order to prevent the children from haskalah and shmad, and even then it was opposed by many gdolim. It was a B,DIEVED in the first place. Yes at our day and age we DO need girls schools. However, the whole TACHLIS is that they should learn halochos, hashkofo, midos tovos, and yiras shomayim. In addition to that, we also need to teach them secular studies so they should be able to lead and help out for the gashmius part that a Jewish home needs to survive. The goal is to be mechanech them to be able to build a BAYIS NEEMON BYISROEL and to be the AKERES HABAYIS in every aspect. Anything more than that is not just a plus, but a minus. The CHAZAL and the shulchon aruch tell us what is allowed and NOT ALLOWED to teach girls. When our gedolim created the schools of our time, they each had their way of what mehalech the school should run and what the goal should be. UNFORTUNATELY the schools of today has totally shifted away from those goals. The goals of today is to compete with one another to outdo one another with intense subjects and higher marks that has nothing to do with the original goals. Most of the subjects covered in school will NEVER be useful in REAL LIFE, NOT Bgashmius and definitely not bruchnios. The girls a tortured with intense unnecessary subjects that they will never in their life have any use of it. The girls sit in school eight to ten hours having to absorb who knows how many teachers, everybody with their own agenda, and their own homework assignments, then comes the testing, mid terms, finals, and all the strict rules like bathroom passes, detention, paying for taking over tests, etc. etc. The teachers only teach for a short time each, however the girls have to endure all of them each day. When they finally go home, it starts all over again, causing the home to become a continuation of torture for them, their parents and their siblings. IS THAT FAIR? What do we want to accomplish? Whom are we doing a favor? Where did they get a HETER for this? If they are afraid that our children will not have what to do at home in their free time, leave this to us. It is not your problem. I think it’s about time that we parents speak up LOUD and also talk to our Gedolim to look into the matter and be mechazek what is good, and eliminate all the nonsense which will make our lives more tranquil, our family life more normal and perhaps less children going off the derech r”l A KESIVE VCHASIME TOVA.


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