It's late Sunday afternoon. Your fifth-grader just remembered his report on a Native American tribe-which is due tomorrow - and the library is closed. Sound familiar? The last-minute scramble is well known in families affected by the forgetfulness and distractibility of children with ADHD. The Internet may seem like an obvious solution, but a general search engine, like Google, can turn up thousands of Web sites. Instead, provide your child with a few software tools and manageable sites geared specifically for students. You'll defuse the stress of a difficult assignment, and promote the kind of independent learning that homework should be about.
Start with an electronic encyclopedia
Worldbook or Encarta are good choices. In the past, an encyclopedia was a major investment. Now it's possible to have all that information for about $20. Written and reviewed by experts, software encyclopedias help kids quickly find the information they need, and they can be trusted to be accurate.
It's also a good idea to ask your child's teacher for online homework resources at the beginning of each school year. Because there's more than one way to teach a subject, visiting a teacher-approved Web site means that what your child sees online is likely to align with what's being taught in the classroom.
Student-tested Web sites
Check out some of the "homework helper" Web sites. These are built and maintained by experts who comb the Internet for useful information, so they can post links to each helpful site in one place. Young children may need help deciding which links to pursue, but a few well-chosen clicks should bring them to the facts they need.
- Answers.com draws information from encyclopedias and other reference books. The print and graphics are crisp and clean, making it easy for kids to find what they need.
- Infoplease.com is a one-stop Web site that makes it easy to retrieve facts from a number of dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, and biographies. Click on "Homework Center" and "Fact Monster" for material geared to kids.
- The Internet Public Library grew out of the library science program at the University of Michigan. Links are well-annotated, so your child can quickly get a sense of whether a Web site is worth exploring. Click on "Kidspace" for links geared toward children under 12; "Teenspace" is the section designed for middle and high school students.
- KidsClick! includes educational links chosen by librarians. Entries for each link indicate the reading level, so your child will know which sites are best suited to him.
For more personal help, don't forget the experts at your local library. Remember how the librarian of your childhood could pluck just the book you needed off the shelf? Today's librarians have similar powers on the Internet, and many will provide information by telephone or e-mail.