Kansas Homework Helpline

Wondering how to help your children with homework — or how to get them to do it without a struggle? Here’s how.

What’s the point of homework? “Homework is designed to help students reinforce key concepts, process and solidify new information, provide time for extra practice of skills, and reflect on how much they’ve learned,” notes teacher Susan Becker, M. Ed. However, approaches to homework vary from district to district, school to school and teacher to teacher. Some schools don’t give children homework until the 2nd grade, others start in kindergarten. Some teachers create original homework, while other use or modify prepared work sheets.

Don’t do the homework for your child. Most teachers use homework to find out what the child knows. They do not want parents doing their children’s homework but do want parents to make sure homework is completed and review any mistakes to see what can be learned from them.

Don’t take over your child’s projects. Teachers do not want parents doing their kids’ projects. Instead, they want parents to support their kids’ learning and make sure they have what they need to accomplish a task. Check with your child’s teacher for his policy and review it with your child.
Set up a good space to work. All children need the same thing: a clean, well-lit space. But keep in mind that each child may work differently; some will do their work at the kitchen table and others at their desks in their rooms.

Pay attention to your child’s rhythms and help him find the right time to begin his work. Some children will work best by doing homework right after school; others need a longer break and must run around before tackling the work. Most will need a snack. If your child does after-school activities, set a homework time before or after the activity, or after dinner. Whatever routine you choose, help your child stick to it.

Find out how your child studies best. “You should find the ways your child likes to study. For example, some kids will learn spelling words by writing them out, others by closing their eyes and picturing them and saying them aloud,” advises teacher Susan Becker, M. Ed. “The sound environment is also important,” adds Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “Some kids may want to listen to music, some are helped by being in the middle of noise, others need absolute quiet.”

Don’t hover — but stay close by. Keep in mind that it’s their homework, not yours, but remain available in case you are needed. “The ideal set up would be for a parent to be reading nearby while the child is studying because then you both are doing your educational work together, but that’s not always possible,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “A parent may be working out of the home, or need to be working in the home and cooking dinner. So if you are home, stay close, and if you are not there, have another adult check to make sure it’s going OK. And remember that all homework is not equal, so not everything will need your rapt attention.”

Limit media exposure. Turn off the TV and the iPod when your child does homework. And the computer too, unless it’s being used for research. You might start by asking how much time he thinks he should spend on this, and negotiate from there. Remember, you have the final word. And keep in mind that if you watch TV when your child can’t, the plan may backfire.

Let the teacher know if you gave your child a lot of homework help. “If your child needs extra help or truly doesn’t understand something, let the teacher know. Write on the assignment, ‘done with parental help,’ or write a separate note,” advises Michael Thompson, Ph.D. If your child resists, explain that homework is used to practice what you know and to show the teacher what you need help learning more about — so it’s a parent’s job to let the teacher know.

The school year’s winding down, and pressure to nail those grades is going up. As always, the Kansas City Public Library’s here to help. Whether you’re sweating that English paper or gearing up for a long night of calculus crunching, Brainfuse can hook you up with free online homework help from expert tutors any day of the week. All you need is a Library card.

Brainfuse is a suite of online tutoring services designed to help you master an academic skill, prepare for a test, or just get through a difficult homework problem by connecting you with certified online tutors offering a wide array of interactive, state-aligned activities for grades K-12. Tutoring help is also available in Spanish.

Brainfuse provides one-on-one homework help every day from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Access is available online on the Library homework help page. You must log in to Brainfuse using a Kansas City Public Library card and your PIN. (Forgot your PIN?) You can use Brainfuse from home, but you must first access it through the Library’s website.

Chat with a Tutor

Brainfuse has a lot of features. But if you want to start working with a live tutor right away, begin with Homework Help or Live Skills Building.

Homework Help: To begin a live tutoring session, click the Live Help button on the Brainfuse main page, then select the grade level and subject. A live tutoring session will begin in an easy-to-use format.

Live Skills Building: If you’re seeking to build academic skills in a specific area (such as developing a thesis statement, performing prime factorization, or learning more about the scientific method), the Live Skills Building option connects you  to a live tutoring session based on grade level, subject, and the skill of your choice.

Language Lab:¿Como se dice? If you need help with your Spanish homework, there’s a live tutor waiting in the Language Lab.

How to Conduct a Live Tutoring Session:

If you’re familiar with instant-message/chat services like AIM, Skype, or Facebook Chat, then conducting a live-tutoring session is pretty straightforward. Once you launch the program, a new browser window will open. You’ll be given a username, and a tutor will automatically be assigned to you.

Use the chat window in the lower-right corner to ask questions and interact with your tutor. Use the “whiteboard” in the space above to key in or copy-paste your homework problems that you need help with.


Other Services

Brainfuse also offers other free services, but to use them you must first register for free by creating a Brainfuse username and password. This is so that Brainfuse can do things like contact you with answers from tutors, save your tests for you, and keep track of your past sessions so you can refer back to them later. Once you’re a registered user, you can use any of these services:

Writing Lab: Submit your papers through the secure file-sharing system in order to receive in-depth analysis of essays, papers, and other writing assignments. It’s as easy as attaching something to an e-mail. Papers will be returned within 24 hours with constructive comments.

TestCenter: Take practice tests for state standardized exams as well as the ACT and the SAT.  

24/7 Center: If you log in during a time when no tutors are available, leave a question in the 24/7 Center and get a response back within 24 hours.

Brainwave: This nifty collaborative tool allows you to record a movie of your activity on the Brainfuse whiteboard. Use it for notetaking purposes or when typing an ordinary email isn’t enough – a great way for recording solutions to math problems. You can also search other people’s Brainwaves.

MEET: Just like it sounds! Use MEET to schedule online meetings with friends to study, work on homework together, and collaborate on projects.

Flashbulb: Need to study on the go? Flashbulb gives you 24/7 access to flashcards in hundreds of subjects that you can look at on your mobile device or computer.

Happy studying! If you need help using Brainfuse or any of our other Homework Help resources, call the Central Youth Services desk at 816.701.3441.

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