Over 36 million kids in the U.S. play organized sports each year. If it were up to the kids, they would probably spend 100% of their time playing sports and 0% of their time doing homework. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
On an average weekday evening, 14-year-old Clara Jene usually finds herself completing approximately three hours of homework. On the weekends, that number is typically doubled. Clara is a high school student in Spain, and she often stays up until well past midnight to complete her assignments.
Feeling concerned about his daughter and upset at the way her homework was cutting into family time and extracurricular activities, Clara’s father, Camilo, decided to help her do something about it.
According to a recent study conducted by World Health Organization, 64% of 16-year-old girls and 59% of boys the same age in Spain felt “pressured by schoolwork.” On the other hand, 54% of American girls and 42% of American boys in high school felt that way.
In November, Spanish students went on strike. Clara decided to participate in the strike, and her father offered his support. Clara was among millions of students across Spain who have refused to complete homework assigned on Friday to be done over the weekend.
A recent survey of parents in Spain by CEAPA (Confederacion Espanola de Asociaciones de Padres y Madres del Alumnado) revealed that 82% of respondents believed their kids were assigned too much homework, and that 50% of respondents believed that the amount of homework assigned was harmful to their family life.
This was the state of mind that Camilo was in when he chose to support his daughter’s homework strike. The change opened up a lot of free time for Clara over the weekends. She explained that she got to do things that ordinarily, her homework would have prevented her from doing. Those activities included traveling to see family and learning valuable outdoor skills.
Camilo explained that it’s a complex process. “We all want our children to succeed,” he said, but that homework wasn’t contributing to Clara’s success as a student or as a citizen of the world.
Out of more than 30 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, students in Spain were found to have received a much higher amount of homework. The average amount of time a Spanish student spends doing homework is around 18.5 hours every week.
Between the ages of eight and 12, children lose the ability to hear and produce new sounds like they did at a very young age, making language learning more difficult. A child’s brain is changing all the time, and needs rest and time to relax in order for those changes to be successful. If a child is doing homework for 18 hours every week, the stress is going to inhibit some of that development.
Parents and students alike believe that the education system in Spain needs to change. A similar conversation is going on in the U.S. and in other countries. Could homework be what’s preventing our children from being more successful, dynamic, and empathetic individuals?