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A Parents' Guide to Homework Help

A Parents' Guide to Homework Help

Your initial instinct may be to help your child with their homework every night, but as they get older, they should take on more homework independence and responsibility. Here's a parents' guide to grade by grade homework expectations for elementary school children.

Homework is an essential part of learning, helping reinforce what is taught in the classroom. However, many parents are unsure exactly what their role in homework should be and how much homework to expect in each grade. While there is no widespread rule that applies to students and parents everywhere, here is a general guide as your child moves through elementary and middle school.

Kindergarten Homework

Homework in kindergarten is minimal and focused primarily on teaching students to follow directions, work independently, and develop reading building blocks (such as letter sounds and combinations and sight words) and basic math skills. 

Your role: Let your child take the lead on any homework assignments, but be on hand for help. Read with your child every night.

First Grade Homework

Practice worksheets reinforce concepts taught in the classroom and may come home nightly or weekly for your child to complete at a comfortable pace. The National Parent Teacher Association recommends no more than 20 minutes of homework per night in first grade, but most elementary teachers encourage nightly reading of 15-30 minutes in addition to other homework.

Your role: Have your child attempt homework independently, but be available for questions and help. Continue to read to your child and have your child read to you, practicing reading strategies taught in class.

Second Grade Homework

By second grade, the goal is for your child to become a proficient reader. The teacher may provide a specific reading book for your child to read to you each night. Spelling will remain a focus, and you should continue to read together as well. Math worksheets will come home and may take 10-20 minutes to complete, focusing on explaining math concepts.

Your role: Continue to help your child build independence as a reader and a student overall.

Third Grade Homework

By third grade, your child should be capable of maintaining the homework routine without reminders from you. Nightly math homework should take 15-25 minutes and moves into multiplication, division, and early geometry (in addition to multi-digit addition and subtraction). Other homework, such as science or social studies projects, may take additional time. Your child should read for at least 20 minutes each night, both independently to him or herself and aloud. You may notice that reading expands into more nonfiction and other texts. Reading to your child is still incredibly valuable.

Your role: Continue to help your child build independence. Be supportive, but put your child in charge of completing homework.

Fourth Grade Homework

In fourth grade, many teachers transition into communicating primarily with students about homework and assignments. Teachers elevate the focus on time management and organizational skills. Your child must keep track of homework each day. Nightly math homework becomes more complex (covering geometric figures, introduction to decimals, fractions and percentages, and more) and should take 20-30 minutes, and other homework and projects will take additional time. Your child should read for at least 20 minutes each night. 

Your role: Continue to build independence and encourage your child’s responsibility in keeping track of homework assigned and upcoming projects. Be available for support.

Fifth Grade Homework

In fifth grade, homework is meant to prepare students for middle school. Students are expected to do math (decimals, fractions, percentages, ratios, and more), maintain a planner or organizational system, study for quizzes, and read every night. Projects give fifth-grade students an opportunity to research, plan and complete bigger tasks that take several nights or weeks.

Your role: Uphold a consistent homework routine, check your child’s planner to ensure its proper and effective use, and be available for homework questions.

Homework is a great way for you to stay apprised of what your child is learning in school, and it is also a big part of your child’s life as a student. If you are unsure about the extent of your role at homework time, talk to your child’s teacher. When homework is a family priority, your child benefits and becomes a more responsible, independent, and successful student.


Raymond J. Huntington, Ph.D.


Raymond J. Huntington, Ph.D., serves as the Huntington Learning Center’s chairman of the board of directors. Before co-founding the company with Eileen Huntington, Raymond served as a senior business analyst for a Fortune 100 company, a computer programmer for a major bank, and as a college-level instructor in math and statistics. Raymond holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Manhattan College and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Statistics from Rutgers University.

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