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5 homework apps that make the grade (and save your sanity)

Now that we’re well into the school year, you and your kids are probably coming to terms with the homework load. There’s no app to help your kids carry their books, but there are apps that can help you and your child keep track of all those homework assignments. There are even a few that can lend a hand when your kids need help with math formulas you’ve long forgotten.


iPhone, Android, iPad, Windows 8, Web, Kindle; Free

MyHomework lets you track homework assignments and classes. When you add an assignment or test you can indicate the class, due date (time optional), and priority level (color-coded as low, medium or high). You can set up reminder alerts, which are saved to your calendar. You can then see your homework assignments by your calendar or in a queue by class, priority or type. 

Must-have Apps For Back-to-School

School days are here and if it’s one word that’s on our mind as parents, it’s “organization.” Keeping the kids on task with their homework, remembering meetings, asking the kids if they did their homework, grocery shopping, helping the kids finish their homework. Well, you get my drift.

In lieu of this impending reality, the question I’ve heard lately is: “Are there any apps that can help me stay organized in regards to my kid’s school schedules and assignments?” And my answer is, “Absolutely.” Below I’ve listed some of my favorite picks.

Simple ways to stop daily homework battles

A new school year has begun, which inevitably means homework. Well, in my case, the teacher smartly did not assign any homework to my newly minted fourth-grader in the first week of school. It was enough for her to get used to a new classroom, a new teacher, and attempt to cope with the fact that her BFFs are in other classrooms, located in other galaxies, far, far away.

But I know it’s coming. I sense the tantrums brewing.


Mama Drama: Homework H-E-Double Toothpicks!!

Dear Mama Drama:

My nine- year-old daughter takes an excessive amount of time to do her homework every day. If she would just do the work, she would be done in thirty minutes to an hour. Instead, she whines, complains, cries, fights, distracts herself, etc., for hours on end. By the time she is done we are all angry and exhausted and her self-esteem is in the toilet.

(photo credit)

She does have a significant amount of homework assigned, but it all should be work she is capable of completing on her own.  I know she needs to go out and play, but she spends so much time avoiding her work that she never gets outside.

I am at a loss and hate the way this homework issue is impacting all of us. I don’t want to bother her teachers because they always seem so busy already.

~ Homework Hating Mama

(Send your Mama Drama questions to [email protected])

Dear Homework Hating:

The homework battle often feels like a big vat of quicksand for parents to fall into.  The more you struggle, the more it sucks you down.  The trick is to remember that you are responsible for providing a place and time for your daughter to do the homework, but the responsibility for completing the homework is hers.

When your daughter is feeling calm and relaxed, take time to talk with her about the homework issue. Does she feel overwhelmed by the amount of homework? Does she feel like she doesn’t have the skills to complete it independently? Is she exhausted from the school day and doesn’t have the energy to do the work? Does she need to eat before she works? Does she need to burn off some energy and play before she works? Are there too many other things going on around her while she is trying to work? Does she want more attention from you and is using this issue to get it? Having her perspective will help you understand how to support her better.

Take action on the things you have control over from this conversation such as changing the family routine, where the homework is done, creating a consistent schedule, adjusting how you respond to her, and giving her positive attention just for being her.

While you are right that teachers are busy, contacting them is a critical step that needs to be taken. If you are not communicating with them, they don’t know how much your daughter is struggling. Let them know the difficulties she is having at home and how she feels about the work. Meet with them and your daughter to create a plan to support her in being successful.

The teachers can provide an understanding about how long this amount of work takes your daughter at school and help her set expectations for how long she should work on it at home.  Based on the information you share, they may decide to modify the homework assignments for her.  They may also want to explore the possibility that other learning difficulties are impacting her ability to complete the work, especially if she is also struggling at school.

Set up a plan to reinforce her for meeting the expectations set. Your initial agreement may be recognizing her for working without all the drama you described even if she doesn’t complete the assignment. You may want to create a sticker chart at home where she works toward a special outing or activity with mom or dad or it may be something she earns at school such as lunch with her teacher or even a “homework holiday” where she has no homework for a day. Let her have input into the “rewards” and focus on ones that involve time and positive attention rather than buying material items.

Be sure to set her up for success by making the initial goals very achievable. As she becomes more successful, you can increase the expectations. Have a contingency plan for what will happen if the homework doesn’t get done as well and have this consequence occur at school.

What tricks, tips, and strategies have work for you and your child? Please share your successes!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Back to School Best Books

Twenty minutes a day.

It’s the standard homework assignment.  With good reason — practice makes “better.”

Only, it’s not a happy time at my house.

My daughter (A.) has not inherited my passion for books. Since I began reading, I have read for fun, pleasure, escape, and learning.  A. not so much.

And, the irritating thing is that I’ve done all the “right things” – read to her at bedtime, during the day, standing on my head, and all around town. We’ve made weekly library visits, checking out bags full of books. We have books everywhere — collected from yard sales, used book stores, and new book stores. I read myself – which is good modeling for her. Right?

But, I digress. This post is about books – and a picture books to help kids like mine who struggle with reading, or teasing, or separation anxiety.  Here are some of my (our) favorites.  Good examples are always helpful.

Hooray for Reading Day by Margery Cuyler (Jessica Worries series)

Poor Jessica, a first grader, worries about messing up when she reads out loud in class. What’s worse, she’ll have to read in front of the parents on Readers’ Theater Day. It helps to learn that her mom was slow to read. Jessica decides to practice.   She reads every day to her pet dog. It’s a wonderful story about perseverance.

Simon’s Hook; A Story About Teases and Put-Downs by Karen Gedig Burnett

This is my favorite book to help children learn specific strategies when dealing with unkindness.  Simon’s grandma uses the analogy of a fish biting a hook or not biting the hook when dealing with teasing or put-downs. The strategies for not biting include: making a joke about it, agreeing with it, ignoring it, and so forth. Simon learns the strategies and goes back to school, handles the teasing with a strategy, and feels great.

Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch

Our heroine, Stephanie, decides to style her hair unlike the other kids – in various ponytail arrangements. Initiall , the other children make fun of her hair. But, then they copy her. This is a hilarious story about doing your own thing and what happens when you follow the group – with a surprise ending.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

This book made me cry when I first read it. It’s a sweet story about a child’s firsts experience going to school. His mother reassures him that even though she’s not with him, he has the kiss from her right in his hand.

A Thesaurus

This is the BEST for writers. Teachers emphasize that good writers choose wonderful words. Even the best writers use a thesaurus to help find fabulous words.  It’s our best help during writing journal melt-downs.  I highly recommend it.

What other books have helped your child with school related issues?