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Homework help

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, September 2020; written by Lisa Pearson.

There is no sentence more likely to strike dread in the heart of a parent than “Can you help me with my homework?” Remember all those times in your youth when you zoned out during lessons on past participles, balancing electrons and reducing fractions? It turns out you would need to know that information when you grew up. Fortunately, the library is here with resources to help both you and your child with their homework.

One helpful tool we have for parents is a 5-book series from DK Publishing. The “Help your kids with…” books cover math, computer science, language arts, study skills, and science. These books are all geared towards topics that students would encounter mostly from 5th-10th grade, although they do include some more basic level information for lower grades. There are lots of diagrams, images, and visual explanations in this series; conveying information visually is a hallmark of the DK Publishing Company.

Another helpful series is “Big fat notebook” by Workman Publishing, which is geared towards the student themselves. The topics in this series include American history, world history, science, and language arts. Although the subtitle for this series is “the complete middle school study guide”, the information could be of use to 5th & 6th grade students as well. The style is reminiscent of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, which makes it more appealing than a standard textbook, although the depth of information is relatively shallow. This is a good series for kids who are having a hard time slogging through their textbook and need help supplementing the basics.

For a wider range of topics geared towards high school students, I recommend the “Big ideas simply explained” series by DK Publishing. We have 16 books in the series, covering subjects ranging from Shakespeare, Literature, and Art to Physics, Ecology, and Astronomy. These books go into a fair amount of depth – similar to an encyclopedia – but in an engaging format that includes lots of pictures, diagrams, timelines and cross-references. These would be very appropriate for AP courses as well.

I saved our most important – yet overlooked – resource for last. Live Homework Help is a free service paid for by the Alaska State Library. It allows students from grades K-12, as well as college students, to get one-on-one, real-time help from qualified tutors online. My daughter used this service when she was going to Kayhi, and it was great. Rather than simply solving the problems for her, the tutors – who are often graduate students – worked her through the problem in a step-by-step fashion, in the same way her teacher would in the classroom. You even have the option to use voice chat, if your child prefers that over typing.

By creating a free account, students can access transcripts and images from their previous sessions, connect with favorite tutors, and store files and notes. For subjects such as math and science, the interface allows students to draw the problems out on the screen just as they would on paper. For language-based classes, students can upload their drafts ahead of time for review. They will receive feedback from a writing tutor within 12 hours. The free account also provides access to practice exams for ACT, SAT, AP and ASVAB tests.

Tutors who provide this service are specially trained and go through a rigorous selection process (only 7% of applicants are hired) which includes a background check. All sessions are recorded, and transcripts are available for review. Live Homework Help is offered Monday through Friday, 8am to 2am; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 2 am Alaska Time. Simply go to, and click on the link. The next time your child is stuck on their homework and it’s due the next day, go to Live Homework Help. It will save you – and your child – a lot of stress.

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