For many parents, sending the kids back to school means afternoons of extra driving, mad scrambles to get dinner on the table, and helping kids with homework -- if there's time. Often, there isn't.
One solution is getting help from a tutor. Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to find one.
The Business of Tutoring
Dozens of tutoring services are available online. Some operate 24 hours a day. They compete with local college students and retired teachers -- who in years past would be the go-to for this sort of help.
According to the most recent data from the Education Industry Association, parents spend $5 billion to $7 billion annually on tutoring services. A more recent report from IBISWorld on the tutoring and test preparation market says franchises such as Sylvan Learning Center produce $861 million in combined annual revenue in the U.S. alone.
Where You'll Find Help
Depending on the amount of help your student needs, a simple search in your area may be all that's required. Some schools also have tutors on staff. For those willing to pay for something more, online tutoring services may fit the bill.
Unlike local alternatives, online tutors are more easily reachable off-hours. Many are also quite affordable and allow students to get help in short, 15-minute bursts. Here's a look at the top five online tutoring services as identified and scored by TopTenReviews:
1. Eduboard (9.8 Out of 10)
Pros: Pay-as-you-go system means parents only pay for the help that students receive. Responses to questions are guaranteed within two hours of posting. Chat and Skype additions to virtual classroom environment makes it easier to serve deaf and blind students who may need help.
Cons: Costs can skyrocket for students who need extra time and attention.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go; the pricing can vary by tutor. At its site, Eduboard estimates that a 30-minute session will run $20, while quick answers average $2 apiece, and video tutorials generally run $15.
2. TutaPoint (9.7 Out of 10)
Pros: In addition to connecting students with tutors, TutaPoint also provides videos, worksheets and lessons to help students practice what they've learned. (But only for those students whose parents are paying more.)
Cons: You'll pay more if your student is in high school and needs help preparing for the SAT or ACT tests. A $149-per-month plan includes the aforementioned practice material but no advanced test prep. Parents with college-bound students can either pay $185 for TutaPoint's "EdgePrep" course or $175 for a one-day crash course in SAT and ACT prep.
Cost: From $29 per hour to $149 per month for eight hours of tutoring and full site access.
3. InstaEDU (9.4 Out of 10)
Pros: Round-the-clock support. Visible reviews for all tutors to help students and parents decide who they want to work with. Technology platform allows students to upload any assignment to work through it live with a tutor.
Cons: No curriculum support for elementary school students.
Cost: Advertises rates as low as 40 cents a minute. Support plans range from 15 minutes to two hours per week, and you can't "bank" unused time.
4. Tutor.com (9.3 Out of 10)
Pros: Plenty of experience, having conducted more than 11 million tutoring sessions across its platform. Round-the-clock access to help. Tutors are screened before joining the service.
Cons: Not designed for college students, though it does offer SAT and ACT test prep and help for high schoolers in Advancement Placement classes.
Cost: Ranges from $39.99 a month for an hour of help to $114.99 a month for three hours of support.
5. MindLaunch (9.0 Out of 10)
Pros: Staffed by U.S.-licensed teachers. Covers K-12, college, post-grad and even corporate training. Runs annual background checks and performs regular assessment to ensure that tutors are meeting company standards.
Cons: Help isn't available around-the-clock. Instead, MindLaunch asks that students schedule each 50-minute session ahead of time.
Cost: Varies, depending on subject and group size.
Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers has no position in any of these companies. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
Back to School Tip: Best Places to Find Homework Help Online
More from Tim Beyers
•The Overlooked Vacation Hack That Saved Me $1,607.50
•Frightful Finance: These Credit Cards Will Bleed Your Cash
•Sony Harnesses 'Powers' to Sell PlayStation Plus Subscriptions