Tips and tools for helping kids with their homework (but not doing it for them!)

It must be the time of year for it because recently many readers have asked questions on how to help kids with their homework. With only two kids in school now (year 8 and year 10) I really don’t do a lot of helping with homework. I actually don’t do anything at all with the year 10 child other than answer questions if he has any and remind him occasionally to monotask – not try and listen to podcasts etc, while doing homework! With the year 8 child it isn’t so much as helping with the homework but helping him be better organised with how he approaches his homework and study.

Helping secondary students with their organisational skills

The key to helping with homework is making sure they are the ones doing the work and that they have some systems or processes in place so they can keep up to date with it. A process I have put in place for the year 8 child is a very quick weekend homework planning session. This takes place on Friday afternoons when he gets home from school and before he heads on to the PS4 to play with friends. He needs to write up a plan of what he needs to do on the weekend, checking his diary for upcoming commitments.

The plan isn’t overly prescriptive but he will write out what key activities he wants to complete each day. He usually has Friday nights free from homework and then will work out how to fit his homework around his sporting and social commitments. So the plan will look something like this:

Saturday after football

  • Practice for the Spanish listening test
  • Math questions – 16a – 16g
  • Science practice test

Sunday before football

  • Make flash cards for Japanese
  • English grammar exercise
  • Maths end of topic questions

I get him to take me over the plan and there are usually a few suggestions that I make to him like:

  • Work on your quotes collection for the English novel
  • Create study notes for recently completed units
  • Practice language subjects

At this stage, he currently just looks at his diary and writes down what is due but will often forget to look a couple of weeks in advance to see when unit tests etc are. There are times across the weekend when I will direct him back to his plan if I think he isn’t sticking to it and ticking off the activities as he needs to.

Homework help tips for when you have multiple kids

This was a very popular topic readers wanted me to address and I knew at some point I had written a newsletter about it many years ago, so I hunted it down because it seems some time ago when all five kids were in school! This will hopefully help those of you with younger kids or multiple kids.

I wrote this back in 2015 when to some extent all of the five kids had homework. It ranged from:

  • Essays, assignments, study etc for the year 11 and  year 8 children
  • Worksheets and projects for the year 6 child
  • Spelling and maths work for the year 3 child
  • Nightly reading for the year 1 child

On any given night some or all of the kids could request assistance with their homework. My general approach to helping the kids with their homework was:

  • Homework is the child’s responsibility.
  • Parents to assist with the process, not the content.

Finding the time to help with homework

Knowing how I am going to help them with their tasks was one thing, finding the time to do it could so be a completely different and more difficult story. I had a pretty planned approach to it, so as best as I can, I could help each child when they need it:

  • I worked with the three younger kids before dinner or immediately after bath time if we have been out later at after-school activities.
  • For the older two boys, they knew they could ask me questions at any time, but if they needed me to sit down with them and spend more than a few minutes on something, they needed to let me know and I would make sure I could help them once the younger three were in bed. The year 8 child was particularly good at this. He would often ask me in the middle of the week if I could allocate some time on the weekend to go through something with him or read over an essay. 
  • There were/are certain areas that their dad is much better equipped to help them with, so I would/will delegate homework support to dad as needed. The kids would/will then work out a time with their dad to sit down together and go through whatever homework they need help with.

General homework help tips

I have found that some things worked better than others for our kids, here are some tips that have been successful for us:

  • Play to their strengths – some kids are more creative, some kids are more comfortable with technology. I don’t fight this. If they have an assignment that can be either a poster or a PowerPoint presentation, get them to think about what they like doing best and assist them with creating a plan selecting their preferred medium.
  • Read their moods – sometimes the year 1 child would be just too tired towards the end of the week to do his reading after dinner. It was much quicker and more enjoyable to do it the next morning before school. He was/is an early riser so we had plenty of time. I communicated the change and let him go to bed knowing it will still be done (he worried about it!).
  • Eliminate distractions – in a house with 5 kids, there could/can be a lot going on. That is the main reason I helped the older kids once the younger ones were in bed, then there were fewer interruptions and generally less noise in the house. When working with any of the kids I make sure there is no TV or music on and that my mobile phone is away from me (as are any devices they don’t need for the homework task).
  • Always allow more time  – it almost always takes longer than I would think the task would take. If I assumed it will only take me 15 minutes and I ended up spending 45 minutes, I could start watching the clock a little, thinking about all the other things that I needed to do. By allowing more time than I think it could possibly take, I could end up being pleasantly surprised and maybe get off to bed a little earlier.

I have written previous posts on the blog on some specific areas of helping kids with their homework that you may find helpful also:

Templates and resources to help the kids with their homework

My approach to homework is that I assist with the process, not the content. To that end over the years, I have created a number of templates and resources for the kids to use.

These resources allow them to plan and structure their work and some guide them through the process they need to undertake to complete them.  I have listed below the ones the kids have found most helpful.

helping kids with their homework - teel essay

TEEL Essay Structure – this is aimed at secondary school students. The TEEL Essay Structure is a basic framework for students to use to ensure they cover the key components in their English essays.

helping kids with their homework - proof reading checklist

Proof Reading and Editing Checklist For Kids – Aimed at upper primary school children. The template helps take kids through a step-by-step approach to proofreading their work. 

helping kids with their homework - creative writing proforma

Creative Writing Proforma – aimed at mid to upper primary school children. The purpose of this proforma is to teach the child about planning out stories/essays. 

How To Write A Biography – This is aimed at upper primary school students. It provides a framework for children to plan out a basic biography.

Spelling rules: doubling consonants

Spelling rules: doubling consonants – some rules and tips to help your child with when they need to double consonants.

8 Times Table

8 Times Tables – this activity teaches kids a simple trick to help them easily recall their 8 Times Tables.

Multiplication Grid 

Multiplication Grid – This is aimed at mid-primary school kids. A simple colouring-in activity that can help kids practice their timetables.


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