Middle School Teacher Says There’s Plenty of Time for Homework

About a year ago, I posted a guest blog entry by Chris Elssasser, an associate professor of education at Pepperdine University, in which he analyzed how much time high school students really have and asked what students should give up for homework.

A middle school teacher responded, writing that students have plenty of time for homework. It’s important to read what the teacher had to say, because it shows why some teachers believe that parental complaints are baseless.

Here’s what the teacher wrote:

Why are you accounting for exercise PLUS sports PLUS assuming the students have gym class. And last time I checked that 45 minutes for breakfast was more like 5, and the 45 minutes for lunch a part of school.

6 AM Wake up
8-3 School
3-5 Afterschool activities
5-6 Relax
6-6:30 Dinner
6:30-9:30 Homework
9:30-10 TV
10 Bed

As a middle school teacher, we aim for between one hour and 90 minutes a day. I doubled it, and still find this to be an honest expectation. The students I find can’t complete the homework are either in a day care that doesn’t enforce homework time and have no study skills themselves and don’t begin till 7 when their parents come home; or the students who are over dedicated to sports and have multiple 3-hour-a-day practices during the week and feel that athletic achievement and ‘well-roundedness’ are more important than school.

26 thoughts on “Middle School Teacher Says There’s Plenty of Time for Homework

  1. WTF? Eight hours sleep is not nearly enough for a developing child. Eight hours may be the minimum but some children need nine, ten or eleven hours. So three hours of mandated homework per day is what this delusional teacher demands?

    I would like to give this “professional” three hours of professional development during the same time frame. Oh, and I forgot to add that the teacher would be getting paid for this.

    Perhaps this is the same teacher that says that it’s not possible to learn all about those “Internet things” that could make schooling more relevant for the students. Let’s mandate that all teachers have to spend three hours a day learning about stuff that they have absolutely no interest in.

    and I could say much more …


  2. This person is delusional. Let’s just say that it’s okay to make a child essentially work for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week (maybe a bit less if you take out 1/2 hour for lunch, or a bit MORE, if you count those after-school activities.)

    Where is the time for contributing to the household? You know, things like setting the table, doing dishes, cleaning one’s own room? Reading to one’s younger siblings? What about church activities?

    What about getting ready for bed? And a half hour for dinner? Do people really eat and have conversation, etc. in a half hour? Dinner at my house is longer than that. 5 minutes for breakfast isn’t even healthy.

    And after-school activities? Sports practices are usually at least 2 hours long, games are longer. That’s for my son, who’s only 8. What about changing clothes, showering afterward, and transportation time?

    I agree with Mr. Jarche. Let’s take away that teachers’ prep period and make sure that he or she takes home a minimum of three hours of mandatory work home every single weeknight.


  3. I was furious when I read this. I know there are good teachers out there. My daughter had an amazing one in 4th grade. Never mind that she’s in 10th and I had to search that far back to remember the awesome one. But there are so many good ones. Unfortunately we also have too many of these. Our schools really need to weed these people out. They are intractable, arrrogant and have no respect for families. Believe me, I’ve encountered this. Not nearly so much in the private school but it was a culture shock when my daughter entered public school.

    I wrote carefully worded respectful emails. I was utterly shocked at the disrespectful ones I recieved in return. Even the ones who attempted to be civil were overly didactic. The message, even if tempered, even if veiled, often was: you’re an idiot, you’re just a parent, you don’t know anything, I’m the authority. Without taking the time to know your child or your family dynamics, I’ll write you a schedule. Because all children are the same and if my rigid schedule works for Johnny, it’s gotta work for Susie too.

    I’m not rabid or reactionary or crazy. I’m just a mom. A smart one. I’ve read a lot of parenting books. I’ve read an awful lot of educational policy, truly gifted kids, disabilities, divergent thinkers, the ones we should be nurturing. I nurture my child. I show up. I make the time. I know what I’m doing.

    I just want some acknowledgement. I’m not a know it all. This old dog can still learn many new tricks from you. All you have to do is write me respectful emails. Even when my 10 year old didn’t finish all her homework. It’s okay to let me know but don’t take it so personally. Don’t be accusatory. You spend a lot of time talking about what we do at HOME. If my daughter spends the bulk of her long day doing homework, why am I sending her to you? You’re getting paid and I do the work!

    Here’s a better strategy. If you end your emails with a kind message about what a wonderful caring parent I am, you’ll have me in your corner in an instant. I do it for you. I never hesitate to draw attention to some wonderful aspect of you. Treat me with respect. I’ll do the same for you.

    And now on to my reaction. Number one, to reiterate above responses: teens need nine and a quarter hours sleep. Not eight. Younger children need even more. An eight year old on average needs eleven. Your schedule works fine for a robot. Plug it in, program it and it’ll work just as you say. Until the batteries run out. And then all you have to do is change them. Children aren’t so neat and ordered,they’re messy. God bless them. You want an automaton for a kid? I know, easier to parent, but awfully boring. Some teachers silently wish we could just put ritalin in the water. Makes for great compliance but is that only what we wish to grow?

    I love when someone asked the authors of the marvelous book, “How to Talk so Your Kids will Listen and how to Listen so your Kids will talk?” Will these techniques work every time? They both laughed and emphatically replied, “Gosh, we hope not!” Kids are human. They are often not predictable. You have to finesse.

    Secondly, I love how this teacher builds in time for tv. Notice she hasn’t built in any time for reading. She must assume kids don’t bother reading for pleasure anymore. Perhaps that’s the effect she leaves on her students. Reading, creativity and inquiry don’t quite march to that perfect beat. They meander. I pray this teacher doesn’t have an Einstein or Mozart in her class.

    Besides, we don’t do tv at 9:30 to ten. My teen daughter is on sleep phase delay, meaning just as with many teens, she can’t fall asleep easily, her sleep phase time is shifted later. The last thing you want is tv before bedtime. Unlike adults who often fall asleep at the tv, teens’ body clocks responded differently. Television emits blue light, which supresses natural melatonin, thus further delaying sleep onset. You think this teacher of adolescents would know this.

    This rigid tight schedule has children doing exactly what they are told, when they are told, and then watching tv for a half hour. Just as they are told. I’m not knocking tv. I wish we actually had time to watch some. But the teacher’s expectations here for initiative and designing one’s own downtime are fairly low. Good dog. Pat on head. You fetched my shoes. Here’s a bone.

    Lastly, this teacher has these kids going fifteen and a half hour days. She’s got them up at six, in bed at ten with something like one hour of free time (which she also programs) somewhere around the dinner hour. And she thinks most teens will just fall asleep at ten. Try midnight for a lot of them.

    And remember, many children cannot get all the homework done in three hours. What about those with disabilities? What about kids who are just so drained at that hour? What about kids who learn in depth and can’t just transition, robot style, from one assignment to the other?

    After a certain period, there are diminishing returns. The brain can only absorb so much. Dr. William Stixrud, a famous psychologist in the Washington, DC area recently said thus as quoted in an article: “The level of homework overload has reached the point of absurdity.” He goes on to say that when a teen is sleep deprived, they are using only about 10 percent of their brain capacity. This teacher depicts a very exhausted teen, up since six, doing homework from 6:30 to 9:30. But not all kids can work in one stretch. There’s no slack here, no room for give. Teachers get built in work periods during the school day. Why can’t we do this for children?

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to be rested and get more of this stuff done during the day? The teacher forgot to outline for us exactly how the school day was spent. Shouldn’t we demand an exact schedule in return? That video they watched for an hour? Let’s flip that. You do the spelling, we’ll do the video.


  4. Just to add what John Taylor Gatto had to say in an interview several years ago:

    “We have turned our students into parasites. It’s an ugly word but absolutely true. By reserving them in school rooms and having them think that they have nothing to give back to the world for 18 years … We need to give them real responsibility. Doing your homework is a fake responsibility.”


  5. Ah, John Taylor Gatto! We homeschooled for one year, 8th and John Taylor Gatto is a real inspiration for homeschoolers. Now let’s start quoting John Holt. That oughta get us revved up.

    I still want this middle school teacher to post an exact hour by hour schedule of what MUST get done. Only this time I want to see her schedule, how her classroom time is spent.

    I also want to see her evening schedule. Sorry, grading endless homework assignments doesn’t count. Does me no good if you spend three hours on it and all I see a grade, no comments, no direction. I don’t want you spending hours and hours grading all the homework my daughter does at home, I want you to teach and inspire and get most of this stuff done at school. You get paid and we do the work.


  6. As both a parent and a teacher, what bothers me most is the middle school teacher’s claim that parents who schedule after school activities are saying “athletic achievement and ‘well-roundedness’ are more important than school.”
    It is a sad state of affairs when ‘well-roundedness’ and education have become mutually exclusive concepts.
    Our society needs to recognize that more goes into raising a healthy, productive member of society than memorizing math facts or completing reading logs. Do we want a longer school day that offers every conceivable enrichment activity a child might be interested in? Or are we willing to allow families to make those choices on their own, based on their children’s needs and interests. If we claim that we are, we must support this by allowing enough “free time” after school for pursuing these enrichment activities without sacrificing sleep for homework.
    As a society we also grumble about the erosion of family values. With most families dual income, family time is limited to between 6:00-10:00 pm on weeknights (at best). That’s not very much time for conversation in between necessary housework/chores. Add 2-3 hours (per child!) of homework to that mix, and you’ve got a recipe for stressed out family members who spend their precious hours together nagging and arguing.
    And please don’t complain that studies show several hours of kids’ free time is spent watching TV. Do we hold adults responsible for making educational, enriching use out of every waking moment? Maybe the reason kids want to sit for 2 mindless hours in front of the TV is that they are over-scheduled and stressed out every other minute of their day.


  7. I’m a middle school student and I find myself coming home after track practice at 6:30 then having about an hour and a half of homework. This is not bad at all but when you consider 3+ hours of homework possible, I consider you crazy.


  8. You may consider us crazy but you’re the lucky one here. An hour and a half for homework in middle school? We’ll take it. Try five in a 6th grade gifted program and then it’s still not done. Internet searches that lasted all weekend, project overload that took up every spare second. And teachers who just didn’t get it at all, who thought you could just whip this stuff out, like so much factory assembly line work.

    There’s a need for balance here. You’ve struck it, probably a combination of less gifted programs and a less pressured area.


  9. This is horrendous! A middle school student should not be up that late especially while getting up that early. This teacher is a stupid old spinster that has nothing to do.


  10. when I was in middle school we had so muck freakin homework!
    i think that school is to learn so why do we need the homework. you know i get 1 or 2 assignment and maybe an hour at the most but 3+ hours is stupid. and this lady really needs to get a life and realize she is saying the impossible!


  11. ya. the teacher who made this schedule is absolutely retarded. they need time to do household chores, spend time with family, just plain time to relax, time to ‘sexually relieve’ themselves, and more time to sleep. 5 min. for breakfast is just wrong. what happens if they are stressed out with family issues? dinner takes at least 45 minutes. this teacher is a huge a$$hole. if my child had a teacher like this, i would do EVERYTHING i could to stop it. does this teacher know what it’s like to be human?


  12. this teacher is a jerk. back in the day when they gave out NORMAL amounts of homework, i would ace all my tests because i had time to actually comprehend and understand the information, rather than just spitting back what my teacher wants to hear. now my schedule consists of going to bed at midnight and waking up at 5 am on a daily basis. now my grades are dropping like crazy and i dont have time to spend with friends because im stressed about school.


  13. i think having a child on that schedul is ridiculous
    not everything a child does should be scheduled
    do u make time for your child to go to the bathroom when to eat when to stand like really get a grip and a life… i would hate to be your child..is there even time for friends and social development?
    do you want your kid to have no friends at all??
    is it really that serious were you go around monotoring every step that must be had in the students life…??
    i think not..child should be to sleep at a time were they would get up on time and had a required amout of sleep to fully be with the class the next day…and you wonder why children do so poorly on test and quizzes and also homework


  14. 6 AM Wake up
    8-3 School
    3-5 Afterschool activities
    5-6 Relax
    6-6:30 Dinner
    6:30-9:30 Homework
    9:30-10 TV
    10 Bed

    You’ve got to be kidding me! Who lives like that, so rigidly scheduled?? Ridiculous! And the 10pm bedtime is a dream when you have a teacher that gives way too much homework! I WISH my 8th grader got to bed then!


  15. Middle School Teacher seems a bit of a simpleton. Here’s what my 6th grader’s day looks like. Keep in mind a typical 12-yr-old (6th or 6th grader) needs 9 – 10 hours of sleep. 8 hours is what grown ups need. It’s not enough for those still growing up. Of course, any attempt to describe a day with a schedule is overly simplistic.

    6am: Wake Up (sometimes fast, sometimes slow!); bathroom (some trips take longer than others); Breakfast w/ newspaper; brush teeth, fix hair, wash face, put on lotion, sometimes shower, put in contacts, dress, throw lunch together, argue w/ sibling, grab backpack and double check contents, throw on coat, gloves, hat. Add 10-15 minutes for adolescent girls.
    7am Leave to catch bus
    7:30 Arrive at School
    7:50 Classes begins
    2:30 Regular Bus
    3:00 Arrive Home
    [4:30 Late Bus and home at 5:10; frequency 1-2/week; 5/week for special events about 3/year]
    9:00 Bedtime in order to get 9 hours of sleep assuming child konks out immediately! And doing homework or watching TV right up to bedtime makes it harder for some to fall asleep.

    What happens during the 4 to 6 hours between school and bed? That varies a lot by family and by child. Assuming the day runs smoothly without a glitch:

    .5-1hr: Dinner w/ family including helping out
    1 hr: Down time to chill, have a snack and chat, play outside and absorb some Vit D, read a book or magazine or newspaper
    .75 hr: Take a shower, use the bathroom, brush teeth, floss, clean contact lenses, check on clothing, talk to a travelling parent or have a quick bedside chat

    2 hr 1x/week including travel time: Scout meeting or Confirmation/Bar/Bat Mitzvah Class, music/dance lesson, sports practice

    What about the occasional appointment w/ Dr./ Dentist/ Optomotrist/ Allergist? Does the child have other family responsibilities like watching a younger sibling, doing laundry, walking the dog?

    Give or take, perhaps an average of 3 hours/day is left for homework. How long does homework take? A teacher assigns 30 math problems, 20 spelling or vocab words, 10 textbook review questions, w/o thinking about how long each item takes. 1 minute per? 2 minutes? How long would it take the teacher to write a thoughtful essay, an interesting fictional story, a quality poem? I tried this w/ a double-sided “Math with Pizzaz” worksheet on proportions. Taking time to copy each problem and show work, I spent 25 minutes completing HALF the assignment, at which point I quit. Consider how much more time students will need. If the child can do it as easily as I can, then what’s the point of the assignment? And there are so many other variables: a pencil breaks, a little brother annoys, a mistake is made and the problem must be redone, nature calls, the phone rings, unanticipated supplies must be gathered, there are multiple computer users, the printer runs out of ink ($!).

    Middle School Teacher sounds like too many teachers who succeeded in school because they fit comfortably into the box. So they confuse box-fitting with superior intellect. I’ve strayed a bit from my original point, so I’ll end with an interesting reflection by Henry Sedgwick, whoever he is:

    “Society is like a schoolmaster who estimates boys according to their conformity to a standard that is easiest for running a school.”


  16. For me, this is a normal amount of homework. I am a student.When teachers assign homework they expect it to be done.To me there is plenty of time for my middle school homework.
    6am-wake up
    6:45-go to bus
    7:00-2:15 – School
    2:15-4:30 – Sports or extra activites
    4:30-5:00-going home
    5:00-6:30- Homework
    7-7:30 – Shower/ pick out clothes for tomorrow
    7:30-9 – relax( do what you want)
    9pm-6am Sleep

    There is plenty of time for homework. I gave an hour and a 1/2 but i gave and hour and 1/2 for relaxation. If i can do it so can anyone else. I have to right lab reports every night and right essays,read a chapter of my history book with 6 pages in each lesson with 4-7 lessons per chapter a night. Homework is easy. Get used to it because it will be much more in college. My teachers perfer to get through the year as quick as possible and have us do a lot of the work at home. People don’t think im crazy I’m just saying “Welcome to the Real World called LIFE!!!”



  17. There is plenty of time for homework. I gave an hour and a 1/2


    Well, duh. Of COURSE you’re not complaining. You get an hour and a half. Tonight, I’d have to say, was a “good” night. My junior high school daughter started at five and ended at midnight. Whoopie. Came in just under seven hours.

    We’ll trade you. With promises to complain less. Try her homework schedule. And then get back to me. Certain areas of the country are more cut-throat, more demanding than others.

    And thanks for warning us parents we’d better get used to it because there’s more coming in college. Um, we know. We covered the preparation mania rather extensively here a few weeks ago.

    Chew on this: I know an unschooled homeschooler who is entering college at age 14. She never had homework until last year. She is doing magnificently. It’s because she was NOT prepared that she has attacked college so vigorously. The teen homeschoolers I know are not burned out, are eager to learn, many are ravenous readers and writes, they are fully rested, full of excitement and lead rich fulfilling lives. Why can’t our public school children have some of that too?


  18. I have to right lab reports every night and right essays,read a chapter of my history book with 6 pages in each lesson with 4-7 lessons per chapter a night.


    All that homework clearly hasn’t taught you to spell, however. You WRITE lab reports, dear.

    And are you so sure some of this work could not have been done at school? I commend you. You are a good girl, you do what you are told. When you reach adulthood, do revisit the issue and see if the material couldn’t be streamlined as part of your school day. You may find yourself asking lots more questions if and when you become a parent yourself.


  19. My teachers perfer to get through the year as quick as possible and have us do a lot of the work at home.


    Ha! I’ve been saying this all along. And that’s the true secret of homework, now isn’t it?

    And as they race through the year and have you do as much as possible at home, what are you all doing now that standardized testing is over? Wait, don’t tell me. You are watching videos in class while projects are sent home.

    Uh,huh. I know. Been there done that with my child. But I sure have a right to my indignation over precious daytime wasted and sleep lost, don’t I? Somebody here is sure failing the “time management” test and dare I say it’s not the kids.


  20. Correction: I just wrote: “The teen homeschoolers I know are not burned out, are eager to learn, many are ravenous readers and writes,”

    Of course I meant to type WRITERS. My bad, typo, too late, must go to bed now. We’re up late because you guessed it, HOMEWORK.

    I never allowed my daughter to stay up this late in elementary or middle on a regular basis. And if not for my husband’s help on some unwieldy three part project, she’d still be up.


  21. Wow, Homeworkblues, okay 12:41 AM counts as late! Just wondering, what IS your daughter doing for 7 hours? I certainly don’t have that much homework, I admit. Occasionally it does take me super long (work continuously over several days) to complete an english essay or reflection, but that’s because lately I’ve been having some sort of weird writer’s block thingy/distraction dysfunctional thing, and I can see how my essay/reflection/whatever could have taken me a lot less time. I can’t honestly see any teacher intending to give 7 hours, or even a school expecting that in total a kid would have 7 hours every night…Just wondering how that works! (Not doubting you at all, just incredulous)


  22. Listen, I have read a number of person exclaimations of concerning this teacher. I will agree that you guys are right.
    But the real issue is this: When my kids come home from school. IT IS NO LONGER THE SCHOOL’S TIME.
    The schools have no right to reach into the time of the family. I forbid homework in my house. If others wold do the same, it would stop. The bad grades would not last long. The teachers would then be under review.


  23. Yes, eight hours of sleep IS ENOUGH for some kids! The “kids need soo much sleep thing”, it’s a myth. Some surely need to sleep ten hours, BUT- others need merely six. This is why generalizing things the way this teacher did doesn’t do anyone any good. The problem with “on average” is that most kids will probably need more or less rather than the “average”. Besides that, why is the TEACHER telling the parents and kids when the kids go to bed. Who really starts afterschool activities immediately after school? Does this person think that an hour and a half to “relax” is enough?

    The person who mentioned eight year olds, middle school children are generally 11-14, not eight. Either way still doing homework at 9 pm IS unacceptable, no matter when the kid goes to bed. If homework is given they should be able to finish it before dinner.

    Also as a kid, I fell asleep in front of the TV or after watching TV easily. Now as an adult, I don’t watch TV before going to bed because it keeps me up all night. This is also different for everyone, so please lets not make the same mistake this teacher made. Kids are individuals- they aren’t all wired the same. Everyone who has more than one child knows this.


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