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Too Young for Homework?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: How much homework should children get in kindergarten? I feel my grandson is being pushed a little too much for kindergarten. He is being taught body parts, as in where the liver, etc. are located; count to 50, learning high frequency words, verbs. I feel it is too much. I won't press him at home. I don't want him to be hating school already. Am I being too fussy about all of this? I don't feel like I can push him like this. It's very frustrating. I'd like your input on this.

A: I'll give you my opinion, keeping in mind that I am a pediatrician, not an educator. You may want to get some input from an experienced teacher as well. I don't think children should have significant homework in kindergarten. Any homework they have should be infrequent (once a week or less), and require only five or ten minutes. It should also require involvement of the parent, and serve as a way to promote learning interactions at home. In my opinion, the best "homework" for a kindergarten child would be to require ten minutes of reading every evening before bedtime, meaning that the child is read to by a parent or another adult. At age five, children have very short attention spans. Fifteen minutes is about the maximum time that they can focus on one task.

The topics that you mentioned don't seem unreasonable for kindergarten, as long as they are being discussed in an engaging, creative way. Children can do a lot more than most adults think they can, and they can benefit a great deal if adults have high expectations of them. The idea in kindergarten is to show kids that learning is fun, and that they can succeed at anything. Learning should be interactive, and hands on, and children should be learning important social skills as much as or even more than academic skills. I am totally opposed to having kids sit at a desk, filling out multiple worksheets for hours.

You should talk with his teacher about your concerns, and try to get a sense of the goals of the curriculum that is used for kindergarten. Find out what the teacher expects from the kids and the parents, and see if you can agree on how much should be done outside of the classroom.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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