Homework helpers...learning specialists...franchised enrichment programs...online tutoring programs. Who to call depends on your child's needs, age, and particular problem.
Homework helpers are often enterprising high school or college students. Their primary job is to motivate your child to do her work completely and on time. They can offer tips on study skills and organization and are best suited for children who just need a gentle push to do better (or who have tuned out parents' pleas).
Academic tutors work with kids in specific subject areas. If your child is doing well in general, but has difficulty in, say, math or Spanish, a tutor can help him hone skills in that subject.
Test-taking tutors prepare youngsters for a specific test, such as the assessment tests given to determine promotion to the next grade or secure a spot in a gifted/talented program. These tutors offer test-taking practice, information, and strategies on taking the test and easing performance anxiety.
Learning specialists or educational therapists work with youngsters who have learning disabilities. These professionals administer tests to pinpoint an underlying learning problem and develop a specific program to enhance reading, writing, listening, or organizational skills.
Learning centers are usually franchises of national companies that work with children in kindergarten through 12th grade. In recent years, due to public demand, several have added pre-literacy programs meeting after school, on weekends, or during vacations. Most provide assessment tests and use their own textbooks and standard curriculum, tailored to each student's needs. They focus primarily in general academic areas like reading, writing, and math rather than specific subjects, such as biology or literature. Some give daily homework sheets, others weekly assignments, and many have online components.
How do I find a tutor or center?
Ask for referrals. The school, your child's teacher, other parents, or the PTA may have a list of tutors (for example, moonlighting or retired teachers) who work regularly in your district. Also check the education departments of local colleges. Some may offer free tutoring by student teachers, or help match your child with a student who excels in the subject he needs to work on. Or consider an online tutoring program (use an online search program to find offerings).
What will it cost?
For many families, cost is a critical factor in choosing a tutoring program. Private tutors are the most expensive. Prices vary widely, depending on where you live and the experience of the teacher. Homework helpers run about $10 an hour. For more serious academic issues, seek out a professional tutor and expect to pay professional rates, $40 to over $100 an hour in large cities. Online tutors cost about $20 an hour.
Programs at the national centers vary in format as well as price. Expect to pay from $200 to $500 per month, depending on how often your child attends.