Homework becomes a much more important part of education once your teenager reaches secondary school. It is likely that your son/daughter will have homework every school night until they leave college! Daunting? 

Homework is set in order to achieve the following key benefits: reinforce teaching and learning that occurs in the classroom; to develop good work habits; regular homework practice teaches students self-discipline and concentration; prepares students for examinations/assessments; builds the habit and discipline for future tertiary studies; and can build confidence and self-esteem.

Most schools adopt the philosophy that small amounts of homework set on a regular basis are more valuable to a students learning that larger amounts of homework given out sporadically.

A general rule of thumb in terms of how much homework your teenager can expect works this way –

Year 9 – students should expect up to one hour per night.

Year 10 – students should expect up to one and a half hours per night.

Year 11, 12 and 13 – students should expect up to two hours per night.

Check with your teenagers’ school but there may well be consequences for students who do not complete homework, especially if this occurs on a regular basis.

What sort of homework will they be given?

There is no short or simple answer to this question. Homework varies more and more as students progress through the year levels.

Standard homework tasks include:

  • Reading
  • Preparation for new work
  • Completion of work started in class
  • Revision and practice exercises
  • Preparation of projects
  • Background research e.g, current event, topical issues
  • Learning vocabulary or important facts
  • Revising for class tests or examinations.

There may be times when no homework is set in a particular subject, but this doesn’t mean the homework routine should lapse. On these afternoons/evenings regular study can be continued or can be substituted by some book reading.

How can I help?

Teenagers become very independent around this age, no one would dispute this. They should also be more independent where homework is concerned. Your teenager still needs your help however, just in different forms.

Promoting good habits

You can help instill good homework habits in your teenager to ensure they make the most of learning opportunities available to them at school. Obviously the earlier you do this the easy it is to insist on the practice when your child reaches secondary school…it’s never too late though.

Being organised is one of the best habits you can help your teenager develop. Insist that he or she have a homework diary, (schools usually provide these to Year 9 and 10 students for exactly this reason). If they can get into the habit of jotting down what it is they have to do for homework the whole process becomes a great deal easier. And let’s face it; teenagers have a tendency to forget ‘minor’ details like homework. A homework diary makes keeping tabs on homework from your perspective a little easier too.

Sit with your teenager and ‘nut out’ a homework plan. Give them the opportunity to map out their time and to fit homework into it. Remember to incorporate sports practices and spare time into the mix. Let them also decide when they work best. Maybe they want a bit of ‘downtime’ after school before launching into school work again…that’s fine too.

Keeping your finger on the pulse

You can help your teenager more if you stay in touch with teachers and the school. If it appears that your child is very rarely doing any homework you need to question this. Use the ‘rule of thumb’ mentioned earlier about how much homework should be happening.

Parent – teacher interviews are a perfect opportunity to ask about homework expectations and requirements, and whether or not your child is meeting those.

By staying in touch and interested in what they are learning and where they are up to at school you can give your support.

You can also help by just talking to your teenager. Take an interest in what they are up to in class. Ask them questions as path of a conversation about what interesting thing they learned today, how the technology project is coming along, what happened in the novel you were reading in English and so on.

Offering to help in some small way is another way in which you can keep up to date with what’s happening in class.

Ask you teenager things like –

  • Do you have any assignments due soon?
  • Would you like me to read your research draft?
  • Do you need anything special to complete that assignment? Do we need to buy some card or a presentation folder?
  • Would a trip to the library help?
  • Shall we run through a practice test for that science exam tomorrow?
  • Shall I quiz you about one of the characters in the book?
Setting guidelines

It is reasonable in the earlier years of secondary to ensure that homework tasks are completed before other activities occur.

As your child gets older and begins to talk about applying for jobs, homework and study issues need to be discussed. Sometimes a job becomes intrusive and doesn’t leave enough time for homework.

Education is the most important issue in this debate and it is okay to impose guidelines about how many shifts at the supermarket your teenager is allowed to take for example.

A word of warning!

In this the age of NCEA parents must be very careful about the homework help they offer their teenagers. It is great to want to help but you need to be careful about how much and what help you offer. Remember that homework is set to reinforce the learning and educating your child has received that day. It is for them and they only benefit if they complete the extra work.

You must also seek clarification from your child that the work they are doing at home is not part of an internal assessment for NCEA. They should not be doing work on an internal assessment at home and if they are then they are compromising their results by doing so.

What if I’m concerned about how much homework my teenager is doing?

If you are concerned about any homework issues you are best to approach the teacher who has set that work. Contact the teacher through the school and express with them the concerns you have.


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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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Richard R. Cahoon

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