As a parent, I often wonder why my daughter's teachers pour on the homework one night, but keep it extremely light others. Some nights she is in her room for up to two hours and she's only in the sixth grade. Now I know that homework can be variable by class, but it just seems like sometimes it is excessive already at such a young age. I know that my 14-year-old niece can sometimes spend more like two to three hours or more a night, but she is also in several AP classes, which are typically more rigorous.
But do our kids really have more homework than we had back in school?
Do Kids Have More Homework Than We Did?
I cannot even pretend to reflect on the amount of homework I had in sixth grade, but I can recollect how many hours I had to be a studious bookworm in high school. I remember going directly from my afterschool sport, off to dance class several nights a week—which was my more serious personal hobby—right upstairs to do hours of homework. My "book bag" (my kids always get a kick out what we used to call a backpack) was just as full as my daughters. I had all of the notebooks and folders I needed, as well as a few textbooks just the same, and I too cranked out two to three hours of homework nightly. There was hardly a weeknight other than Friday that I can remember when I did not have some type of assignment in every subject: Social studies, math, English, Spanish, biology, and whatever other electives I was taking.
A recent article in Time highlighted a new study by The Brown Center Report on American Education that essentially negates the notion that students today have any more homework than 30 years ago. Yup, the same as 1984. According to this study, the amount of homework time has actually gone down for both 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds.
Kids Don't Have More Homework
The percentage of 13-year-old middle school students who reported one or two hours of homework per night declined from 29% in 1984 to 23% in 2012. The numbers are close to the same for 17-year-olds. While 27% of 17-year-olds said they had one to two hours of homework on an average school night in 1984, only 23% of 17-year-olds said they had that much work in 2012. The percentage of 17-year-olds who reported hitting the books more than 2 hours has remained the same in 30 years at 13%.
So, I guess as parents, we can put our minds to rest—our school expectations and homework demands were equivalent. The reality here is that our kids who claim to "have soooooooooo much homework" and us parents who complain that our students are overwhelmed with "tooooooooooo much homework" should probably just admit that our kids are intermittently on their phones quite a bit while studying. Right?
Maybe the question to be evaluated is whether our children are getting more homework than we did at a much younger age, even in elementary school. The study only evaluates students aged 9 and up. That is probably the real question to address. I guess we will just have to wait and see. If this study holds true though, it will be a resounding "No."