Homework Burnout?

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If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard a complaint like this before:

“Mom! My teacher gives me too much homewooork. I can’t dooo it because I’m too tiiired!”

It’s a funny thing, but does it seem like more parents are joining their children in such a complaint in recent years? It does to me.  

Such a trend encouraged the Brookings Institute to revisit a homework study conducted a decade ago.  This study examined data from the NAEP and the Higher Education Research Institute to determine how many hours of homework students received on an average day, as well as what types of activities they were spending their time on.

According to NAEP data, it appears that heavy homework loads (between 1 and 2+ hours) are about the same as they were nearly three decades ago, and may have even decreased slightly. This is countered by a slight increase in the number of students reporting that they receive less than one hour of homework per day. From these numbers, the 2014 Brookings report concludes that “NAEP data do not support the idea that a large and growing number of students have an onerous amount of homework.”

Data from the Higher Education Research Institute also casts doubt on whether or not students – particularly high school seniors – are receiving more homework. Just under 40% of the students surveyed reported that they spent more than six hours each week on homework responsibilities. This is roughly a 10% drop since 1986. Interestingly, more than 40% of these same high school seniors reported that they spent at least six hours a week socializing, playing sports, and working.

According to the Brookings report, the “too much homework” hype is “built on the testimony of real students and real parents, people who are very unhappy with the amount of homework coming home from school.” This group may not be very large, but they are vocal and feel like homework is causing their family to suffer and burn out.

But given the statistics from this study, can we really say that homework is the culprit of student and family burnout? Could it rather stem from the ideology that kids need to be in soccer on Mondays and Thursdays, dance on Tuesdays, piano on Wednesdays, and running to the movies on Fridays? In the effort to entertain and make sure our children have the best of every advantage, have we pushed schoolwork, family togetherness, and even downtime aside, replacing them with burnout and… maybe even a dumbed-down education system so that our kids can still maintain a good GPA in the midst of the rat race?

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