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For many families, it’s the most stressful time of the day. Homework time.

From struggling to inspire and assist their child, to stretching to recall their own elementary school studies, it can be difficult for parents to stay calm and helpful -- and for kids to not end up tears.
A new web and TV feature on TVOKids called Homework Zone aims to help.

“As parents, we often struggle to help our kids with homework because we ourselves may have struggled in those subjects, especially math,” says Stacie Goldin, TVOKids’ in-house educator/research advisor. “One key objective of the site is to help parents, not just kids, better understand these subjects.”

Homework Zone is comprised of two parts: a section of the website where parents and kids can go to find direction and resources on math, language, and science, and a call-in ask-the-teacher Homework Zone segment on the afternoon broadcast of TVOKids.

Site Divided into Math, Language, and Science

Homework Zone online aggregates the massive TVOKids’ inventory of kid and teacher-tested, curriculum-linked resources. Kids can click on Math, Language or Science, then click on a specific area of study within that section. From there kids can find printable worksheets, videos of teachers explaining different concepts and skills, TVOKids videos supporting the various topics, and games kids can play that help them practice and review concepts.

Kids can locate the subject they need help with and drill down to a specific topic, be it perimeter or patterns; the animal kingdom or outer space; or spelling and grammar.

Kids can print off worksheets

“It’s a place to practice and learn at their own speed,” says Pat Ellingson, creative head of children’s programming at TVO.  “The Zone gives them the opportunity to replay a video or replay a game until they understand it; until they have mastered whatever the challenge might be. It's a place to build confidence. It's a place to have fun.”

While all of the resources in the Zone are based upon Ontario elementary school curriculum, Ellingson says they are also fun.

“Our content is designed (to be) wrapped in entertainment,” she says. “We want kids to walk away seeing how fun a subject like math is once you understand it.”

Kids can ask teachers questions

Kids can print off practice sheets to help prepare them for EQAO testing.
If a question can’t be answered on the site, kids can email TVOKids producers who will take the question to the experts, record their answers, and post them on the site.

Kids can phone-in

Meanwhile, the live phone-in “ask-the-teacher” segments will air four to five times a year and are live between 4 to 7:30 pm. Kids can call in with any question and the teacher on duty that night will walk them through the answer on air.

Troy Langevine, principal at Cosburn Middle School in Toronto, is the TVOKids Homework Zone math expert.

“There is nothing wrong with a little struggle, that is how children learn,” says Langevine. “If you want to know if they understand, have your child teach you how to do the desired skill.”

Kids are sometimes afraid to ask at school

Langevine says too often kids are afraid to ask for help with their homework while at school. “Often times they were afraid to ask for help or clarification of a given task in class,” he says. “When they get home, they don’t have the same network of resources (friends, teachers) to rely upon. They often don’t want help from their parents. They would rather go to someone they don’t know, because there is no way their parents could possibly understand what it is like to be in their shoes!”

Language expert Wynne Ng, a Grade 2/3 teacher at Glamorgan Jr. Public School in Toronto, wants kids to know that everyone has questions and struggles when they are learning something new.
“Let them make mistakes, success is sometimes learning from them,” she says.

She says she wishes Homework Zone existed when she was a kid. “Instead of just turning to the Internet as a source of gaming or entertainment, students can use it as a tool to become accountable for their learning.”

Homework Zone’s science expert is Aldo Petrucci, vice principal at Toronto’s Edgewood Public School, who says he hopes Homework Zone will give kids, “a quick reference point to ask questions, confirm answers and ignite curiosity.”