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Teachers, psychologists, parents and other experts share homework help, study skills and time management tips for students in high school and primary school.
Getting homework done every afternoon can be a major cause of stress for students of all ages – and their parents. From the best times to study and how to stay focused, to whether your pet dog is your biggest helper or biggest distraction, these practical homework help tips will improve study skills and help the whole family find a routine that works.
“My seven-year-old loves to read – except when it comes to her school reader. She’s an enthusiastic actor, so we now ask her to perform homework reading for her three-year-old brother. They both love it.” – Jessica, mother of two
The NSW government education website offers plenty of tips online, including setting up a quiet workspace with the right equipment. Consider basics such as pens, pencils, erasers, worksheets, scissors, glue, scrap paper, notebooks, ruler and calculator, plus a laptop or tablet, internet access and a printer where required.
“My eight-year-old son dreads his homework so each night, I put the oven timer on for 10 minutes at a time. He then knows that when it goes off time is up!” – Kellie, mother of two
Younger children respond well to instant positive feedback, according to educational publisher Scholastic. When working through homework with them, praise something specific, such as particularly neat handwriting. Refer directly to the improvement they’ve shown since the last time they tried.
"Turn off all distractions and pat your dog or pet while you work!" – Fergus, Year 4 student
“Work out how your kids study. Do they revise by reading text over and over? Or do they break down information into bullet points and read snapshots of text to learn? Or, does it sink in best by taking notes and creating Q&A cards for someone – a parent, sibling or friend – to quiz them on?” – Pip, mum of four school-aged boys.
Scholastic recommends giving children a two-hour window in which to start their study. Depending on after school activities, it could be 3pm–5pm or 4.30pm–6.30pm. This gives them a sense of autonomy and lets them discern if they feel focused straight after school or need to take a break and reset first.
If your child is a confident reader, have them read to you from their school text. For students struggling with their reading, follow these guidelines from Education NSW when you read with them:
On her YouTube channel Study With Jess, psychology graduate Jessica Holsman guides students through the often overwhelming transition from primary to high school and offers plenty of practical advice. Try easy organisation ideas, such as using a diary to schedule homework, study skills sessions and breaks; storage solutions for a tidy desk; and organising phone, tablet and computer desktops with folders.
"Study and do work with your friends." – Albie, Year 7 student
“When you have assessments, get out a calendar and break up your assessment into smaller pieces and write mini deadlines for those on the calendar so you are working on it constantly and it seems achievable.” – Remi, Year 7 student.
“My 14-year-old son is learning to self-manage his time but I do suggest that he does half an hour of schoolwork, half an hour shooting hoops, then a snack, another half an hour of more schoolwork and then have a shower.” – Helen, mother of two
A method developed by business consultant Francesco Cirillo when he was a uni student, the Pomodoro Technique is a timed 25-minute block of study followed by a 5-10 minute break, repeated four times before taking a longer 20-30 minute break. It’s said to enhance concentration and focus as well as increasing motivation. This online timekeeper is a great way to give it a go.
“Keep all your work in coloured folders for each subject so you can easily go back and revise before tests.” – Kirsten, mum to eight and 12-year-old daughters.
"I play music in the background to keep calm, because if I'm calm, I'm focused." – Hugo, Year 10 student
Online mental health organisation ReachOut.com has a range of study and stress management tips for older students. As well as recommending planned breaks – when it’s okay to check phones or watch some TV – their experts suggest calling a friend to talk about study topics or repeating notes aloud from memory, as an effective method of revision.
Research shows that studying outside can calm the mind, increase creativity and improve learning capacity. There are also less distractions than at home – especially if you leave your phone behind.
While studying and revising notes is important, it’s also essential to practice writing and recall under exam conditions. The NSW Education Standards Authority has HSC exam packs from previous years, while the VCAA offers the same resources for students in Victoria. Check each state’s department of education for relevant materials.
ReachOut recommends apps that can help you get into a sleep routine, practise daily gratitude, talk with friends when issues come up, get organised and stay calm.
Snacking while you complete homework isn’t just good for energy levels – eating the right foods can help improve results. According to a Harvard university article, walnuts and berries may help improve your cognitive function, while a UK study posits that eating fruit and veggies can improve mental wellbeing.