Homework advice for high achieving middle schooler

Hi all,

Trying, like many of you i'm sure, to figure out how to walk the fine line of encouraging my motivated son to try hard at homework but not to the point that it starts to impact his emotional well being. He just started at a high achieving public middle school in SF and has been doing about 2 hours of homework a night. (or day since he squeezes in some of it before 8:30). I know the rule of thumb is supposed to be 10 minutes per grade. So according to those guideline's it's too much, but I don't see a way of getting his teachers to follow this. The other factor in all of this is my own values and temperament. I'm *not* a high achiever and I value my mental & physical health above achievements and so I don't push myself too hard.  I know my son is different, he's a high achiever and it's important to him to do well. So, I'm struggling with figuring out what is best for my son. Encourage him, even though he's cranky and emotional? Maybe reward him or give him breaks while studying? Or have him pull back on homework which will make him upset to see his grades slip? 

Anyone have any parenting pearls of wisdom to share?  

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

It's so stressful seeing our kids stress out on homework when we know the opportunity cost is their well-being plus other things that are important in life -- friends, downtime, music, leisure reading, pondering the meaning of life, etc. One suggestion is to email all of the teachers and tell them the total # of hours per night of homework -- sometimes teachers don't realize how it all adds up and think they're only assigning a small amount so there's no problem. You might also ask the administration if they subscribe to the 10 min/grade rule (which, in my opinion, is too much!) and, if so, how do they suggest the issue be resolved for your son. Lastly, one thing I'm trying is to frame the homework issue like this: "Between school hours and homework hours, my son is working a 45 hour workweek. Is it the school's intention and desire that a 14-year old should be spending 45 hours/week on academics?"

My daughter is/was the same way. Just make sure he manages his time to be in bed by 9:30 pm most of the time, this will limit some of the crankiness. If he is like my daughter, doing well in school is good for his self-esteem and a testament to his perseverance, so don't try to hinder his work. Make sure he has sleep, exercise, and healthful food, then leave the rest up to him.

I realize the reply I just posted wasn't very responsive to your concerns. In terms of supporting your son's choice to pursue high achievement, if anxiety is a factor, I subscribe for my son to a program called gozen.com -- it's a self-guided stress management tutorial for kids and teens. It looks high quality to me but I can't vouch for it yet b/c my son hasn't had time to try it out yet (and quite possibly never will b/c of the homework overload).  

Another thought is to engage your son in a conversation about whether this school is still what he wants now that he knows what it's like. If he reflects on what he's sacrificing for the sake of academic achievement, maybe he would reconsider and choose a different school (though it may be hard to find a school that doesn't pile on the homework).

I had two hours a night of homework in Middle School, and I think it helped me become a better student. as long as he is getting his sleep...

Maybe ask his teachers if it is supposed to take that long to do his homework? I think that sometimes they aren't clued into how long it is actually taking, or they're not aware of the amount that's being assigned by others. I wonder what the school's expectations of him are?