Homework Help – Managing It With Multiple Kids

Homework Help

I have written previously about helping kids with homework on the blog:

But like most things in family life, how we approach homework help with kids is constantly evolving. A number of readers have emailed over the last couple of months asking for tips on how we run homework in our house, so I thought it timely to update what it is we are doing.

Who needs what homework help?

We have four children in school who all need some assistance with their homework:

  • Master 6 – in his first year of school (prep in Victoria) and has reading to do each night along with learning some high frequency words.
  • Miss 8 – has weekly times tables and spelling test, which we work on, as well as asking comprehension questions about the nightly reading she does.
  • Master 11 – has weekly tasks which he sometimes needs assistance working out, timetables and spelling, as well as asking comprehension questions about the nightly reading he does.
  • Master 13 – has lots of homework he does independently but will regularly ask me to proof read essays or give some guidance on projects etc

Philosophy for giving homework help

As I noted in this post:

What I have learnt to do, is to not focus on the content of the homework, but what is the logical process that he should follow to successfully complete this task and discuss this with him. For example, if he has to write a speech to present to the class, we talk about what is the logical structure of a speech on this topic – intro, arguments to fill time limit, conclusion etc.

It is often a matter of giving them a scaffolding to work and build their own ideas on – the fundamental point being it is their ideas, not mine.

Working out who to help and when!

On any given night, all four kids will need some assistance from me. We have an understanding that unless it is just a quick question, the 13 and 11 year old will wait for the younger children to be in bed and I can then help them.

The prep child’s reading is the first activity we do after school as I find the later this is left, the harder it is for him as he is tired.

Our daughter is an early riser. She is generally up just after 6am each school morning. I am at the gym at this time, but at least once a week, I will leave her a times table quiz sheet or spelling activity to do, which we can discuss when I get home.

Walking to school also provides a great opportunity to quiz the 11 year old on his time tables and spelling, and practice addition sums for the 6 year old (he doesn’t have these as homework but loves numbers and is always asking me to give him sums!)

Using technology

Monday to Thursday the primary school kids do not have any technology time. Technology time encompasses TV, iTouch, Wii, computer games etc. However I will use technology strategically to assist with the homework and as a way to etch out one on one time with children as needed.

For example when I am working with our daughter, the 6 year old loves to sit close and watch everything we do. Sometimes that is ok and sometimes it is not. When we need to be on our own, I will let the 6 year old play educational games like Mathletics or WordShark for the 15 minutes or so we need to work through a concept or activity. Then we flip it around and I can do some work with the 6 year old and my daughter can play both these games also as they have a broad level base to choose from.

During the evenings when I am preparing dinner or if we have spare time in the morning, I will also let the kids spend short bursts of time on apps (5 – 10 mins) aimed at helping them practice literacy and numeracy skills. Some of the apps we use are:

Numeracy Apps:

Literacy Apps:

  • Montessori Crosswords – Spelling With Phonics – Great for beginner readers. You can focus on particular sound groupings or use a mixed list. Ability to increase difficulty. $2.99
  • Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables – Spell To Read – excellent phonics based app. You can choose particular phonograms to work on and master. You can check progress and there are ways kids can get hints and strategies so they can master new words. $2.99
  • This Week’s Words – allows you to add individual spelling lists of mulitple children, practice them and then it tests them. You can choose from English or American narration. $4.49

Setting some ground rules

It is easy for kids to become dependant or rely on help from parents. I found some of this creeping into the homework pattern of my 13 year old recently with regard to proof reading his essays. So now we have some new ground rules:

  • I will not proofread the night before it is due – must be at least two nights before.
  • He must be able to show me a plan.
  • He must be able to show me a print out of his first draft with hand written edits (so I can see he has actually attempted to proof read it himself first!)

So how do you manage the homework help in your house?


  1. deanna says

    Our house seems to be full of homework.I have three at high school and three at primary school. After a snack when they come home and any letters given to me i start the reading with Master 6 and Master 7. Master 12 tends to like being independent with his homework only asking me when he needs clarification of something. Master 13, Miss 14 and Miss 16 either do theirs at the same time or when the little ones are winding down after dinner. If the older ones have an assignment the first night is allocated to writing a plan and researching.. They find this easier and it helps their concentration. As we are doing this the Miss 4 and Miss 2 are playing near me or even trying to offer assistance. I absolutley adore the technology free days you have. This will be put into my house strating next week. Thanks for the list of useful sites you supplied going to have a thorough look at these. Excellent ideas PQ.

  2. Sam says

    Thankyou for the great post – it is really helpful to see how others tackle the homework thing.

    Another useful tactic I have learnt with my young Preppie is to let her lead the way. Instead of acting like the teacher and telling her what she needs to do (which she hated), I now ask her questions about what needs doing and how she would like to tackle it. Rather than reluctantly doing what I asked she now takes charge – often acting as though she is the teacher and I am the student! It has been great for her confidence and her skills have greatly improved.

  3. Al says

    Great article (as always) thanks! Can you tell me what accent the montessori-crosswords-spelling app uses. My daughter is 5, loves learning to spell/read but I’ve noticed she also quickly picks up an American accent!! Thanks

  4. says

    These are fantastic tips Nicole. I’ve found a big shift in our routine since our 3rd started school this year. My 7 year old requires extra support at home but my 9 year old is quite switched on and independent. I find it difficult keeping the 3 year old occupied while the others are doing their homework, but we’re getting there.

  5. rowena says

    I love your approach and have a very similar philosophy,,,especially the technology usage. Makes me smile to think of you family and give me something to aspire too as we enter into school years over the next 3 years.

  6. says

    Thanks for such a fab post about homework. I think it’s been just as big of an adjustment for me with my little tribe (now 8, 6, 5 and 3) starting school, as it was when they were all bubs! It’s the juggling that I find hardest to manage. You given me some great ideas for the nightly homework sessions, thank you! Kirsty @ This Grand Life

    • says

      Hi Kirsty,

      Glad you found it helpful. Homework certainly is an adjustment. I did try to leave a comment on your blog just now but got the message:

      “You must log in to post a comment.”


      • says

        >Thank you Nic. Speaking of adjustments, thank you for letting me know about the message on my blog…I blame the blog gremlins :) All good now! Thanks again, Kirsty @ This Grand Life