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'Too much': Dad tries to do daughter's homework for a week 

Oct. 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM ET

Video: Father Karl Taro Greenfield couldn’t believe how much time his 14-year-old daughter Esmee spends on homework each night, so he decided to do it alongside her. Some nights it took him three hours to complete the workload. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

Too much homework! It’s a common complaint heard in nearly every teenage household.

But in many homes today, that protest also is coming from parents.

Author Karl Taro Greenfeld decided to take a firsthand look at the problem after becoming increasingly alarmed by how much homework his 14-year-old daughter Esmee had every night.

"Cutting into dinnertime, cutting into family time – so I naturally began to wonder, what is the actual nature of the work that she's doing every night?" he told TODAY.

So for one week last school year, Greenfeld suffered through the same homework assignments as Esmee, a student at a selective public middle school in New York. 

He studied algebra, earth sciences, humanities and Spanish. He also read part of “Angela’s Ashes.” The work took him at least three hours to complete on each of his first three nights, and an hour and a half on Thursday.

Esmee called it a light week.

“I was like, 'Yes, the world can finally know!'” she said with a laugh.

Greenfeld recently wrote about the experience for The Atlantic in an essay called, “My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me.”

Greenfeld said while he was still concerned about how much time his daughter’s homework took away from the family and her extracurricular activities, he emerged from his week-long experiment with mixed feelings.

"I came away mixed, thinking there's too much homework, but also very impressed by the work teachers and schools are trying to do,” he said. 

Cher Treacy, an eighth-grade English teacher in Rye Brook, N.Y., said she doesn’t believe students necessarily have more homework now, they're just busier with sports and other types of extracurricular activities.

“I think that kids have so many great opportunities to do after school that by the time they’re getting home at 7, 8 o’clock, their brains are fried,” she told TODAY. “What would normally take them 15 minutes is normally taking them double and triple the amount of time.”

That’s a familiar story for Ayden Bauer, a 13-year-old eighth grader at the same school.

“I feel like I have way too much homework," she said. "And I have after-school activities and I come home late and it’s too much to handle."

Ayden said her parents sometimes help with assignments, but it depends on the subject. 

“When it comes to math, no way," she said. "My parents do not understand what we’re doing in math at all."

Treacy said it can be tricky for parents to determine how much help to give their kids.

“There’s a fine line between helping and doing, and a lot of parents are not sure where that is,” she said. “I’d much rather a student come in with a homework assignment incomplete so that I can see, ‘Okay, this student needs help with these things,’ than them come in with having their parent done the work.”

Tell us, what do you think? Do kids these days have too much homework?

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