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Helping Kids with Homework – Getting the Most from Online Tutoring

Face it—it’s been a few years since you’ve thought about homework. So when your kids come to you with questions about symbolism in The Great Gatsby, which quarks make up protons and neutrons or, heck, even how to add fractions, the answers probably aren’t on the tip of your tongue. (Just ask this mom, who confessed in the New York Times, “[my daughter’s] fifth-grade homework is killing me.”) It might be time to direct your child to someone who’s had time to crack a math book in the last year. You might have heard of online tutoring, and maybe you’ve even tried it, but it can be hard to figure out the best fit for you and your child among all the options. After all, just because your long division is coming up short doesn’t mean you can’t stay on top of helping your child succeed. Here are tips to help your child make the most of his online tutoring sessions and how you can stay in the loop (without doing any of the heavy brain work).

Giving Them the Competitive Edge

Between the pressures of standardized testing and heavier competition to get into college, being a student today is more complicated than it was even five or 10 years ago. Student testimonials and studies also show that online tutoring works, with students reporting that they improved grades on tests and papers and gained a better understanding of subjects, particularly math and science. Using online tutoring makes sense—kids already are savvy and comfortable with online tools such as instant messaging.

Communicating the Problem

But knowing how to communicate online doesn’t mean students always communicate their academic problems. Tutors should be responsive and patient, and they need to know their stuff. You can maximize the help by encouraging your child to be specific, especially if they’re struggling with something that’s less than straightforward, such as complex math concepts or essay writing. In return, the tutors should help your child understand the material, not just how to solve the one problem in front of them; they should never just give out the answers. As parents, an easy way to make sure this happens is by tracking the time your child spends online. You also need to know what type of help your child needs, how often they need a tutor and what time of day they’re most likely to want help. Your child might struggle with algebra but also want help brushing up before history tests. An online tutoring company that offers pricing based on minutes used, rather than subject areas, might be your best bet. Some are even available 24/7.

Staying in the Loop

It’s also important to pick an online tutoring service that will help you stay informed without feeling like a micromanager. A great way to stay in the loop is to review your child’s tutoring sessions. Some online tutoring services record sessions between student and tutor so you can keep an eye on your child’s progress when you have the time. You’ll not only find out whether your child maximizes his sessions, but you can ensure the tutor offers the right help. The reviews—also useful to give your child a refresher before an exam—can reassure you that the tutor gives step-by-step instruction when needed. For example, if it’s an English paper giving your child trouble, the tutor might go through the paper sentence by sentence to explain what’s not working; or if it’s help figuring out what went wrong in a calculus formula, the tutor can show them how to look for small mistakes that can affect the outcome. Of course, you always want to make sure the tutoring company you choose uses tutors who are subject experts and properly screens applicants, including performing background checks.

Taking the Plunge

You’re used to being in charge of all your children do, but you know it’s a competitive world for kids and it never hurts to give your child an academic edge. Delegate some of that homework help and stay in the know—what are you waiting for?

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