Monday, February 11, 2013

Second Grade Homework Letter

I recently received this letter:

"I am an incredibly frustrated Mom right now who's just at the tip of trying to figure out if there is something wrong with my son, or me, or the homework he's given in general. He's a smart, pretty typical 8-year-old boy in the 2nd grade. I know I'm grasping here, but am a bit desperate... I was just wondering if the amount of homework he's given for 4 nights seems accurate or a bit much. I just don't have any point of reference, so thought I'd ask and see what happens. Here's roughly the amount he's been given every week since a couple of weeks into September. It's posted on Sunday afternoon and is due on Friday morning:

Read each night for 10-15 minutes. Pick one of the books you read, or a chapter from a book, to complete the Worksheet attached below.

Math worksheets plus, practice taking the math facts test! Students should be able to complete both sides in 5 minutes by the end of 2nd grade!

Spelling. Only work on your spelling group's word. Monday: Print, cut out and sort your group's pattern words. Show and explain your sort to a parent before writing it on the Word Sort worksheet. (Nightly sort is encouraged.) Tuesday-Thursday: Choose 3 activities (total for the week) to complete from the Spelling Homework Choice Board.

Write a letter to someone you care about, explaining why they are important to you. OR Write a Valentine's Day letter to a person of your choosing. Make sure you write in complete sentences and use expensive words!

I'd appreciate ANY input you might have. I'm aware the policy for the district is 30-45 minutes a night for 2nd and 3rd graders which is SUPPOSED to include reading. We/he can sometimes spend that much time on the writing alone (getting him to hash out his thoughts, then having him actually put pencil to paper and write the sentences out, legibly)."

This was my response to her:


It looks like a lot to me and each child will be different in how they complete the homework. I suggest reviewing the SRVUSD policy here.  I've highlighted in red the sentences that I feel are the most meaningful. Feel free to copy any parts of the policy to your son's teacher.

What worked for me when my kids were that age was to focus on the reading (making it fun and pleasurable - usually a cozy, un-rushed snuggle time with a book before bed). If you read for 20 minutes before bed, then have your son spend only 15-20 minutes more on some of the other homework earlier that day. If it doesn't all get done, simply write a note at the top of the page telling the teacher your son spent the recommended 35-40 minutes on homework for that day.

Timing is everything. My sons always needed to let off steam when they got home from school. The first thing I did was feed them and made them run around outside for a long time, playing. Later, when they had settled down, they tackled homework. I wrote many notes on the tops of their unfinished papers while they were in elementary school telling their teachers that play time and family time was more important that day than overloading them on homework.

If you are stressed about their homework, they will be stressed. Don't over emphasize it. It's just homework, and they aren't graded on it until middle school. I know it can seemingly take over a family's life. Don't let it. Focus on what is really important - family time, play time, adequate sleep, eating well, friends, relatives, etc...

Feel free to give the link to my blog to any or all teachers you encounter.

Take care!


  1. I use Kerry's approach -- do what you can and leave comments so the teacher sees why/what was not finished. It's also been helpful to me to view homework as a a home practice tool/guide (instead of obligatory standards to be met). My son hates homework/school so I try to use homework as a time we get to work together -- he can show me his new tricks -- and, we try to do only half as our goal and he usually completes it all "showing off" and I get to stay clued-in w/his success and struggles in the classroom. READING together is a great way to end every evening! -- Terry

  2. 1. We would skip the reading. I read to them at bedtime. Both my kids are now great readers. By the way...Studies have shown that every child will read by third grade.
    2. Cutting and pasting are a waste of time, I would do it for them. Both my kids are artists. Same as school projects. They design, I do the grunt work
    3. Math was the most important. So that is what they focused on.

  3. We have never stressed homeowrk at our house. That is one battle I'm not willing to fight, and it certainly isn't the hill I am wiulling to die on. Now, I have freshman in high school, a 7th grader in middle school, and one child still in elementary school. I have read that SRVUSD Homework policy over and over...and over and over. Thanks Kerry, for posting your policy with the red highlights. It is amazing how it changes the entire document for me. It is a great foundational springboard that I can refer to when working with my stressed out and pressured high schoolers, in the competitive college admissions process! As you know, I try to keep students focused on personal success measured by individual qualities. Not everyone fits in the box....even though our education system seems to think this way.

    When my older daughters were in elementary school, I wrote many notes at the top of their unfinished homework. My daughter's didn't feel the homework pressure so much and were grateful for my notes advocating family time and balance.

    My son, a 4th grader, is very smart and adamant about details....for everything from baseball to cleaning his room. Even when I insist on teaching balance and moderation, he insists that his homework get COMPLETELY done. I have to "talk him down" on those evenings when we write a note on the top of unfinished homework. He has found a way to take care of himself though - through positive behavior modification. He practices good behavior and integrous choices to win tickets for the weekly classroom raffle. He *always* picks the Homework Pass as his prize when he wins, and he wins at least 4-5 times a month (just about everybody wins all the of those raffles). Somehow that Homeowrk Pass gives him relief from the responsibility. He feels the pressure. It is in nature. Since my energy is singularly focused on teaching him balance and training him to get centered when he feels overwhelmed, I think the subtle messages sent by the school (district) assigning the homework must really pressure him.

  4. I help my young son with writing assignments that feel daunting (some do, some don't) by starting the sentence for him and having him finish it, then I start the next sentence. I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but it has helped up get 1 or 2 assignments done that felt overwhelming at the time.

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