How to Get Affordable Help for Your Struggling Student

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Homework is probably not your child’s favorite after-school activity. Many parents do not have the time, patience or – frankly – the knowledge to help their struggling offspring. And it can get emotionally fraught.

Getting those grades up may require reaching out and spending some money. But it need not be a budget-busting endeavor. Consider these ways to get some affordable help for your K-12 student.

1. After-school homework clubs

Most of these clubs meet at least once a week and are supervised by teachers, faculty members and volunteers, according to Education World. They are set up to give students the help and structure they need to complete sometimes complicated assignments. According to Education World:

While some homework clubs are more formal than others, most allow students to “attend” whenever they feel the need. The programs are geared not only to children having trouble with schoolwork, but those who find it hard to concentrate at home or have no one to provide homework assistance.

Check to see if your child’s school has a homework club. If not, ask the school to start one, and offer to recruit parents to help out if necessary.

2. Find affordable tutoring

Tutoring services are available to some students under the No Child Left Behind Act. The NCLB requires that low-performing, low-income schools provide free tutoring services to children who qualify. According to

Some school districts work with local organizations to pair students up with volunteer tutors. You may also want to ask your child’s classroom aide about tutoring. These aides often charge less for tutoring than certified teachers do. Another upside to classroom aides is that they’re familiar with the curriculum and with the teachers’ expectations.

Schools are required to let you know if your child is eligible for free tutoring, but in reality that doesn’t always happen. Great Schools explains how to proceed if you want to be certain.

Find a tutor at a college or university: Communities In Schools (CIS) for instance, is the nation’s largest dropout-prevention organization helping kids achieve in school. According to a report on its website, “Using College Students as Tutors and Mentors”:

By nurturing, mentoring and believing in children, CIS gives students a reason to stay in school and make the right choices. … In partnership with local school systems, CIS identifies the most critical needs of students and families, then coordinates agencies, volunteers and educators to meet those needs and serve students during and after the school day.

There are a number of websites, such as University tutor, that let you search for tutors, specifying subject, location and whether sessions are offered in person or online. These allow tutors in those areas to contact you and offer their services. You can find extremely well-educated people to help out through these services, but you’ll have to shop around for a decent price.

Craigslist: Click on “lessons” (under “services”) on the local listings of the gigantic online classified ad site. You can also post an ad on the site seeking a tutor who not only might work inexpensively, but who would use the opportunity as part of a resume or college application.

Of course, if you’re hiring outside an organized tutoring service, you’ll want to make sure you take appropriate precautions. That may include background checks or other types of vetting, such as references, and supervising homework sessions, depending on the age of your child.

3. Free online learning sites

There are scads of good online learning sites. One of the most highly praised is Khan Academy. The nonprofit created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan offers “a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” The site offers micro lectures on YouTube. It also curates many website courses from around the web on a slew of subjects. The site is great not only for students, but for parents and teachers. Need a quick brush-up on quadratic equations? This could be the answer.

If your student is struggling in a specific course, it’s worth doing an Internet search to see if you can find courses and video lectures from reputable sources that might help clarify the subject. For instance, a quick search produced this free Middle School Chemistry course by the American Chemistry Society. The University of Chicago has a website that is aimed at helping parents and teachers help their kids with the Everyday Math curriculum.

4. Tap into legally mandated education plans

Kids develop differently. If yours is struggling with material that seems within reach, having a hard time concentrating or consistently not performing up to their abilities, they may have a learning issue that puts them out of sync with what’s going on in the classroom. Under federal law, your child has a right to “free and appropriate education” if they have a disability, which could be something obvious or a condition that is more difficult to pin down, such as some degree of attention deficit disorder or dyslexia. Ask your child’s teacher or principal if your child should be evaluated to determine eligibility for one of the following:

Individualized Education Plan: The IEP is a written plan crafted by a team of school staff and parents to lay out specific steps and personnel to help the student deal with specific challenges. Accommodations and modifications could include such things as extra time to complete assignments or tests, taking tests in a private space, tutoring, regular meetings with a counselor or teacher to assist in content or work strategies. The plan is reviewed annually.

504 Plan: Like the IEP, this plan is tailored to meet the student’s specific needs, and it follows the student through to high school graduation in the public school system. Unlike the IEP, the school is not required to include parents in initiating a 504 plan. In general, the parent has fewer rights with regard to the 504 than with the IEP, notes

Some schools are diligent about providing the specified services to meet the needs of individual students. But as this law blog on the subject explains, some schools go through the motions of IEPs and 504 plans so that they can’t be targeted by a civil rights lawsuit.

In general, you need to monitor how the school is implementing the plan in place for your kid, especially in the case of a 504 plan, notes

After you receive a copy of your child’s 504 plan, keep an eye on how it’s being implemented. This is especially important, because the school isn’t required to give you regular updates on your child’s progress. Don’t wait until next year’s 504 plan meeting to raise your concerns!

Remember, none of this is about whether your child is smart or not. The goal is for your child to reach their potential, whether that means conquering remedial reading or astrophysics. And getting help is the best way to get them there without sacrificing your sanity.

If you have more ideas about affordable ways to help kids power through their classes, share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Kari Huus contributed to this post.

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