Reading this column recently on the subject of homework I was struck by how big an issue it has been in our family for many years. Our three children are in secondary school and they work hard - but they are not angels! We regularly have difficulties linked to homework. Why should this be such a big issue for so many families and what can we do about it? Teacher Adam Conway replies: I can almost see half smiles and nods from parents reading your comments. I'm sure there are some students for whom homework is rarely a concern, as there must be parents who experience no crises, no bewilderment, no stress no heartache, no frustration over homework - but I am also confident these parents are a blissful minority. For most families, as for most teachers, homework raises more concerns than almost any other aspect of secondary education. It is perhaps particularly noticeable how significant this issue is in Hong Kong because most readers of this column are professional parents paying for the education of their generally well-motivated, generally well-behaved and generally high-achieving children. You are modest, and honest, enough to describe yours as 'not angels', but I would be willing to bet that you, and they, value education and intend to study long past the legal age for having to do so - 16 years old. I will try in this column to at least partly address the full depth and complexity that lurks behind that one, very familiar word: homework. This column will deal later on with the many areas of difficulty and uncertainty generated from within the school itself, but first I want to raise some questions about students' routines and schedules outside formal school hours. Many Hong Kong families place a high value on the worth of education. And many see homework as worthwhile and necessary. Paradoxically, this high status afforded to academic study and wider education can itself lead to dilemmas. In many schools a typical 11-year-old has a weekly after-school routine something like this: Monday - football training; Tuesday - maths tuition, followed by table tennis; Wednesday - Mandarin tuition, then drama club; Thursday - music lesson; Friday - golf practice plus English tuition; Saturday morning - football; Sunday - formal family outing for most of the day. Some children do significantly more activities. Of course many do fewer - but how many children fill any freed up slots with that essential activity for life - play? Older secondary students in Hong Kong rarely have part-time jobs, as their counterparts elsewhere routinely do, but the ease and safety of socialising with friends that is such an appealing feature of Hong Kong - a compact, safe city with excellent, cheap transport - means this can easily occupy at least as many hours as a job would. It isn't just a question of the amount of time taken up by such a hectic schedule, it is also a matter of how tired, mentally and physically, students are when they start their homework. So, what is the answer? Well, this column has so far barely scratched the surface of the issue and we all might wish there were clear answers, but we know that isn't possible. I suggest you first draw up a full and accurate weekly schedule for each of your children, with them, and see whether that at least begins to explain part of the reason why there are sometimes problems. I am not suggesting that all, or even most, of the causes of your stress lie with you at home. In the near future this column will try to explore what has previously been labelled a labyrinth - the setting of homework at school.