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It’s Holiday Season, But the Homework Still Flows

I feel like the Grinch mentioning this around the holidays, but it’s a fact. Kids get homework even as the holidays approach. The rule of thumb is that kids get 20 minutes of homework per grade. So by junior high school you’re looking at between 2-3 hours of homework each evening–and that’s after a long day of school and extracurricular activities.

Of course, if they browse without some structure or keep their IM and Facebook accounts open while working, the web can be a disaster. But if you help them hone in on the problem, the homework helpers on the web are pretty darn good.

Young kids need to reinforce what they learned (or daydreamed through in school). In the traditional classroom if you don’t “get it” when the teacher presents it, you’re bound to suffer as problems get complex.

I like Discovery Education because it’s engaging and fun. Its homework help site provides skill-building sessions in math, science, English, social studies, and others; many of the lessons use smart, engaging videos. Click on “Whole Number Multiplication,” for example, and you’ll get a video that walks you step-by-step through the problem using a marathon race and gym as examples. For English, you can learn nouns by taking a pictorial video tour of the desert.

OK, he’s got an unfortunate name, but one of the best stops for older kids (junior high and above) on the homework help circuit is BJPincheck’s Homework Helper. BJ started organizing websites that can help with various subjects when he was just nine years old. Today he’s in college and he’s still at it. He picks good references and indicates the targeted age.

Of course, every parent wants to know whether it’s OK or not to use Wikipedia when the kids are doing homework. Remember that Wikipedia is a collection of articles written by anyone who feels they have expertise in the subject. For the most part, Wikipedia is terrific, but there are biased and mistaken articles. Many teachers ask that kids use only one Wikipedia source, if any, in their research. In general, Wikipedia is more accurate with historical articles than recent current events. Recent articles are subject to more personal interpretation and less vetted by time.

Not sure of when the War of 1812 took place? If you want the facts–facts on every science from geology to weather and every period in history–try FactMonster for a quick dose of reality.

Now, the greatest guilty pleasure of the school-aged set…YouTube. Kids will watch fart movies or fornicating kitty cats for hours, but when tamed, YouTube can be a homework helper. For older students and lifelong learners, the YouTube Education site has lectures and talks from the great universities and professors worldwide. For kids, all you need to do is filter out the crap and leave the benign. Special web software like Vidzui or Kideos weed out inappropriate materials. Both are fun and carefully arranged from ages pre-K through grade 9.

If all else fails and you parents haven’t a clue as to what the gerund in the sentence is, you might consider an online tutor like the ones at Tutor.com. You register at the site and specify the problematic subject and your grade level. Just like a good date, you’re matched with the perfect tutor for a one-to-one session. There is a charge, but there are lots of ways to pay–for a single use, a monthly fee, or a number of sessions.