Helping Your Child with Reading Homework

Each afternoon parents check their children’s backpacks to determine what homework needs to be completed for the evening. Somewhere among the items listed one usually finds: read for __ minutes. While this task seems relatively straightforward, you may find yourself wondering what you should be doing to ensure this assignment is actually yielding the greatest benefit for your kiddo. As a parent you do not need to be over-involved in reading homework, but you can employ a few strategies to help your children get the most out of their books!



  • Listen – It’s helpful for someone to listen to the child (particularly beginning readers) read their book or passage aloud. This may be tedious at first, but over time you will see your kiddo improving!
  • Be Patient -You may be tempted to jump in when your child struggles with a word. Be sure to give her a reasonable amount of time to figure it out for herself. If she does need help, assist her in blending the individual sounds together in order to form the word.
  • Check Comprehension – Your child may be reading the words on the page but not understanding the text. Parents can aid the comprehension process by asking questions such as: “Why do you think the character is upset?”, “What do you think is going to happen next?”, or “What is the setting?” You may also clarify what is happening: “So the girl is nervous because she is afraid of heights.” Check out our Reading Comp Coffers for further ideas!
  • Read to Your Child – Kids of all ages like to have their parents read aloud to them. Not only does this create sweet memories, but it also allows your child to hear a passage read with fluency. When mom or dad read smoothly, with expression and observe punctuation, it demonstrates how a fluent reader sounds. Visit our Finding Fluency board to learn more.
  • Show Interest –If your kiddo is reading independently, ask him about his book. When you express interest in your child’s homework, it communicates that you value what he is doing and find it to be a worthwhile task. Asking about a story’s plot, characters, and progression are good starting points.
  • Facilitate – Make sure your child has access to reading material that interests him. He will be more enthusiastic about reading time if he finds the story/information to be appealing. Make a point of visiting your local public library and offer to help him locate something that he will enjoy reading.
  • Create a Reading-Friendly Environment – Parents can make reading homework easier by ensuring that there are quiet areas in the home in which to complete the reading requirements. This often means turning off the television and limiting gaming time.

At the end of a long day it can be tempting to allow your kid to skip the reading portion of her homework. However, daily reading really is an important part of her literacy development. Take time this week to implement one of the above strategies with your little learner!


Spring Homework Help!

Homework HelpNow that the holidays are over and spring is just around the corner, children are beginning to realize that the end of the school year is in sight. At this time of year sometimes the energy and passion that were previously devoted to homework begin to diminish. How can parents help a child who is having a hard time with their homework or experiencing a homework slump? Red Apple Reading has some suggestions for parents who want to help their children finish the homework race on top.


Renew Your Own Commitment – I have to admit that at this time of year my own enthusiasm to stay on top of homework begins to diminish! I may get to the end of the evening and suddenly remember that I didn’t review spelling words with my son. The second semester of the school year is a good time for parents to renew their involvement in homework!

Start Early – Don’t leave homework until later in the evening. Let your kiddo grab a snack, have a 30 minute rest, and then tackle homework for the day. Energy diminishes as the evening progresses; the sooner homework is started the better!

Contact the Teacher – Sometimes the best approach is the most direct one. If your kiddo is having trouble completing her assignments, contact her teacher sooner rather than later. Chances are your child’s teacher has some good advice to help you navigate through any homework issues you are experiencing.

Check Classroom Websites – If you feel like your little one is being less than forthright about homework assignments, check the teacher’s web page. Most educators have their own website where they post daily assignments as well as upcoming tests.

Use Online Resources – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to Google something to do with my children’s homework assignments. In fact, I wonder how my parents were ever able to help me with my homework without the internet! If you don’t understand the new math your kiddo is doing, don’t panic! The World Wide Web is full of tutorials and helpful examples to get you started.

Consider Hiring a Tutor – Let’s face it, our children don’t always take direction from us very well. Nothing seems to produce tears as quickly as a long, frustrating homework session with a parent. You may find that your kid responds better to a third party helping him with his assignments. Consider finding an outside source who tutors children.

Provide Incentives – Even the most disciplined of us appreciate having something to look forward to after completing a hard task. If your kid is suffering from a lack of motivation, try providing an incentive for him. It doesn’t have to be anything big or costly; even something as simple as a favorite snack can make a difference in your kiddo’s enthusiasm!

If your child is having homework trouble, don’t worry! At some point in their school careers, most kids have some sort of struggle with homework. Instead of being discouraged, try employing one of these helpful homework strategies!


Creative Ways to Study Spelling Words

creative-ways-to-study-spelling-words-RARMost early elementary school students have weekly spelling tests. As parents, it falls to us to help our kiddos prepare. Whether our kids are good spellers or struggling spellers, the studying process can be tedious. According to the article, “How Words Cast Their Spell”, written in the 2008-2009 edition of American Educator, “The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language….The more deeply and thoroughly a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, spell it, define it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing.” So, spelling is a vital part of the education process. But don’t despair dear parent! With some creativity and an open mind, you and your child can have successful spelling study sessions!

Make it Special
One great way to study for a spelling test is to write the words several times. However, like any repetitious activity, the process can become boring. Put a little thought into what might motivate your child. For instance, maybe the two of you could go to the store and buy special markers, pencils, crayons, or even paints. These can be designated for spelling words only! When it is time to write the words five times each, ask your child to get out her special markers. This will make the process a lot more fun for your little learner. Remember, the markers (or crayons, pencils) are only special if you save them for their intended purpose. Resist the urge to let your little one use them for everyday use.

Offer an Incentive
Who doesn’t like receiving a small reward every now and then? As adults we enjoy that little perk for a job well done, and our kiddos do as well! How about offering a small treat for every word spelled correctly? One M&M for every word spelled correctly can really motivate your child. Not crazy about offering sugar as a reward? That’s fine! Try finding a cool sheet of stickers. Whenever your little guy spells a word properly, let him choose one to put on his shirt or paper. As you can see, the point is not to offer something extravagant (after all, spelling tests come around weekly!) but to provide a small incentive to persevere. So think about what your kid would enjoy and try incorporating it into the study process.

Think Outside of the Box
Studying for a spelling test doesn’t always have to mean putting pencil to paper or spelling words out loud. Sometimes when my eight year old is studying for a spelling test he uses the letter magnets on our refrigerator to spell out the words. This change of pace makes the studying session more fun and he is creating motor memory as well. This same idea can be used with alphabet blocks, letters cut from magazines, Scrabble tiles, etc.

You and your kiddo could also get a little messy! Try spreading a thin layer of icing on a cookie sheet and having your child write out the words with her finger in the icing. Her reward for spelling the word correctly? Licking her fingers of course! You could also use finger paint, shaving cream, or sand to spell out each word (but please…no licking!). This is a great way to help kinesthetic learners.

Have a kid who LOVES technology? Download and add some fun free fonts to a word processing program on your computer or laptop and let her type the words. This helps both spelling and keyboarding skills. So think outside the box and make your study sessions fun!

As you can see, spelling tests don’t have to be a source of frustration and anxiety. It’s important for us as parents to remember that all children learn differently. What works with one child might not work with another. With a little thought, you can come up with ways to make the studying process new and exciting for your child! While you’re at it, why not log into Red Apple Reading and play some spelling games with your kiddo. After all, the more exposure she has to the written word, the more likely she will be a successful speller.

Parental Involvement in School: How Much Is Too Much?

When it comes to parental involvement, the common complaint is that parents aren’t involved enough, but there is a flip side to the coin. Believe it or not, it is possible to become overly involved in your child’s education. Here’s how:

  • Doing Your Kid’s Homework

We all want our kids to excel in Parent Involvement in School: How Much Is Too Much?school. Sometimes, this desire becomes so intense that we’ll do just about anything to make sure our children make the grade—even when it means doing it for them. For many parents, this is a slippery slope. One minute you’re showing your child how to do a math problem, and the next minute you’re doing the whole equation for him. Set the precedent early, and let your child know that homework is her responsibility, not yours. Does that mean you shouldn’t intervene at all? Of course not. Young children need lots of help with their assignments, and even older kids need some assistance from time to time, but make sure the final product is your child’s work, not yours. A good rule of thumb: make sure your child is holding the pencil at all times. If you need to show her an example, get your own.

  • Fighting Your Child’s Battles

Seeing your kids struggle or suffer is one of the most painful experiences of all for parents. We want them to make good grades, get on the team, win the competition, and be surrounded by friends. This fairy tale doesn’t always play out like we want it to though. Unfortunately, life is disappointing sometimes, and we can’t all get a gold star every time. While it’s tempting to march up to the school or pick up the phone and make it all better for your child, we have to remind ourselves that these “failures” are actually learning experiences. It’s far better to let your child experience setbacks while they’re still in your care than have them leave the nest not knowing how to solve their own problems.

  • Blaming the Teacher

Some parents refuse to accept that their children are anything less than perfect. These parents are often overly involved at school in the very worst way. While teachers certainly make mistakes too (I know!), we have to accept the fact that our kids aren’t always right. Instead of blaming the teacher, ask her what you can do to help resolve the situation, and make sure your child takes responsibility for any wrongdoing.

If being involved at school meant only baking cookies for the bake sale from time to time, we’d all excel at it, but in reality, parental involvement is a much more complex issue. Knowing when to stand on the sidelines and when to jump in is always a tough decision. Just remember that the end goal is not for your child to be the best all of the time; it’s for her to learn to be her best, even when you’re not around.

The Flipped Classroom: Turning the School Day Upside Down

The Flipped Classroom: Turning the School Day Upside DownWhen my oldest child Kelsey was a toddler, she was a stickler for schedules. If we did something spontaneous or outside of our regular routine, she would tell me that things felt “topsy turvy.” I’m guessing that this is how some students and teachers are feeling about the latest trend to hit the education realm—the flipped classroom.

What Is the Flipped Classroom?
Using video recording technology and Internet connectivity, some teachers (and entire schools) are adopting a form of blended learning which allows students to listen to lectures at home from their computers or tablets and then complete assignments and participate in activities and discussions in class. In this “flipped model,” the theory is that students will no longer have to listen to boring lectures while struggling to take notes and retain information simultaneously, and they will no longer have to do assignments on their own at home without the teacher’s assistance. Instead, they will have the luxury of listening to lectures at their own pace, pausing and reviewing as necessary, and then completing their assignments in the classroom where they can ask for the teacher’s assistance. They will also have more time to collaborate with their peers on a project related to the lecture topic. View a Flipped Classroom Infographic here.

Pros and Cons of the Flipped Classroom
If this trend catches on, and it’s looking like it might, then only time will tell whether the model is an effective one. However, from the perspective of a teacher, a parent, and a former student myself, I can see both advantages and disadvantages to a flipped classroom.


  • Recorded lectures. Oh, what I would have given for video lectures of my high school physics class! I could barely keep up with the teacher, despite how hard I tried, and as a result, was completely lost when it came time for me to complete my homework at night. I can definitely see the benefits of watching instruction on your own time and then completing the “homework” in class with a little assistance from the teacher when necessary.
  • More classroom interaction. When I was teaching high school English, my curriculum was so jam-packed that I would often have to forego the fun classroom activity I had planned and just focus on relaying the important information. On these days, I felt more like a robot than a teacher, and I wondered how much my students had really learned as somewhat passive recipients of this information. I would have loved for my students to come into class having already received the information and ready to apply their knowledge.


  • Homework is homework. One issue I have with the idea of a flipped classroom is that assigning videos for students to watch on their own time is still homework. And like all homework assignments, only a percentage of them will be completed. If a student never watches the video lectures, then not only is he missing out on arguably the most important curriculum content, but class time will be wasted as well since he won’t have the prior knowledge to participate in assigned activities. All classroom models have their flaws, but I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a particularly damaging one.
  • Lectures aren’t always necessary. Students learn differently, and lectures aren’t always the best approach for every student. In fact, many say that hands-on activities are more effective in helping children retain knowledge. If this flipped classroom pushes the traditional lecture format, then are we moving backwards instead of forwards in our understanding of how kids learn best?

As with all new educational trends, the question becomes: will the pros outweigh the cons? What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments section.