Keep It Real
True-to-life examples and goofy games can make a concept come alive. A few ideas we love:
If he's having trouble memorizing a poem, try setting it to the tune of a song he knows.
Hit the kitchen when you're doing math. "Fruits or cakes are good for fractions, hold kids' interest, and make great rewards," says Tutor.com's Joan Rooney.
Make a fool of yourself. "When my son was younger and having difficulty remembering spelling, I would actually stand up and act out letters that he missed as he spelled the word out loud," recalls Rooney. "Seeing a parent pretending to be a 'b' can stay in a child's memory a long time."
When to Call in the Cavalry
You've probably wondered about that educational center that cropped up at the shopping plaza in town. Can it help kids with learning disabilities? Are places like this worth the money? "They each have their own philosophy, and there are pros and cons to each," says Leslie Rapchik-Ruiz, a learning specialist in New York City. Which one, if any, to pick depends on your child's temperament, learning style, and needs, not to mention what you can afford. No matter where you go, advises Rapchik-Ruiz, make sure the instructors are state certified or have a master's degree in teaching -- there is no official certification for tutors, and you don't want to get stuck with someone under-qualified.
Option: Sylvan Learning Centers $50-$55/hr in person, $55/hr online
The Deal: Personalized help with all subjects, test prep, and study skills in groups of no more than three students. Another option: live, online tutoring done from home.
Who Might Benefit: "A child having trouble in a specific subject," says Rapchik-Ruiz. In her opinion, Sylvan is best suited for a child who is no more than a grade level behind and perhaps not super motivated, rather than a kid who is doing quite poorly or one looking to be challenged.
Option: Kaplan Tutoring $60-$75/hr one-on-one; $45-$55/hr groups; $29/mo online
The Deal: One-on-one or small-group tutoring, a reading-intervention program for learning-disabled kids, and an online option.
Who Might Benefit: A motivated kid having a little difficulty learning. "If a child is completely bogged down with services such as occupational or speech therapy already, it may not be a good thing," says Rapchik-Ruiz, because Kaplan can be intense. Ditto for a kid already buried in homework or activities.
Option: Kumon Math & Reading Centers $85-$115/mo per subject
The Deal: Launched in Japan, Kumon is a program in which kids learn and practice math and reading skills, building slowly and incrementally on what they already know.
Who Might Benefit: Kids who get into beating their own records and are not fearful of being timed, says Rapchik-Ruiz. Part of the goal is to make their skills automatic. "First- and second-graders tend to love worksheets, and there are a lot of them," she says. Self-starters will benefit the most.
Option: Private Tutor Rates vary
The Deal: One-on-one meetings at least once a week to tackle trouble spots. Tutors should have references and state teacher certification, or a master's in education.
Who Might Benefit: Almost anyone. "Anytime there's a positive relationship with an adult educator, that's pretty motivating," says Rapchik-Ruiz. This is also a good option if your child has special needs, such as a reading disability. "You can get a lot done in a short amount of time."
Option: Homework Helper From free (some people volunteer) to around $25/hr
The Deal: A high school, college, or graduate student -- perhaps one thinking about an education career-meets with your child to help her out, as often as can be arranged.
Who Might Benefit: A child whose parents are unable to help because they work late or English is not their first language.