There’s plenty of information about how stupid worksheets are. They are myopic and linear and they promote competition (what page are you on?) and rigid thinking (did I get the right answer?).

That said, some kids love worksheets. My youngest son, for example. Here’s what else he likes:

  • Predictable moments
  • Pleasing people
  • Getting right answers

This means that math worksheets are great for him.

The problem is that he’s great at them and I’m not. I’m not great at them because I am terrible at math and I am terrible at sitting through worksheets.

So I started investigating the world of tutoring. Here’s what I found:

Most expensive: My Learning Springboard. The range of tutoring they provide is incredible. You don’t even have to know what sort of math tutoring you want, because the Learning Concierge service will meet with you and your child and assess which enrichment programs are best for your child’s development.

Most ambitious: Tutor.com. They’re owned by the same company as Match.com and they bring the same algorithmic-based genius to tutoring. The good news is that it’s not expensive. The bad news is that it’s a big operation, and parents are used to having one, trusted source for tutoring.

Most intimate: Scott Palat runs Tutorfi.com. You can take one look at the site and you know it doesn’t have the money behind it that the other two sites do. But Scott’s site is the equivalent of a small, intimate, hands-on tutoring service that is competing with the big chains. Scott has contacted me like, I don’t know, 50 times, and each time he has been so genuine and nice that I can’t help liking him.

It turns out that my husband really likes doing math with my son. Given the range of things my husband can do with my son to make him happy—Scooby Doo Pop N Race, Minecraft, shoe shopping—my husband would pick math worksheets any day. So they do that together, and they like it.

But now I can see that sometimes tutoring is a good supplement to homeschool. As long as it’s what the kid wants.

25 replies
  1. Becky Castle Miller
    Becky Castle Miller says:

    My EFJ 6-year-old daughter loves worksheets. (Not sure if she’s N or S yet). She likes pleasing people and getting right answers too.

    She really likes the basic math videos on Khan Academy and then doing the quizzes afterward. She can do them fairly independently. Maybe your son would enjoy those too.

  2. Jen
    Jen says:

    I’m interested to hear how the Khan Academy compares to the ones you’re reviewed here. It’s free and seems great to me, but perhaps isn’t quite thorough/detailed enough for some kids???

    Thanks for your comment on this Becky.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Khan Academy is class lectures, not one-on-one tutoring.

      That said, Khan Academy is great.

      Peneloe

    • Becky Castle Miller
      Becky Castle Miller says:

      Yes, it’s instructional videos, not individualized tutoring, so it can’t be compared to the tutoring services Penelope reviewed. But for teaching basics, it seems very helpful.

  3. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    Khan Academy is what our Middle School & High School peddle if the student is behind or doesn’t get a concept….because heaven forbid the actual classroom teacher stay late or come early to work with a struggling student…..(“it’s not in their contract”)

    • Danielle
      Danielle says:

      I dont know that this is entirely fair to teachers. It seems that teachers are being asked to do more and more for –most would agree– inadequate compensation. Of course parents get upset when a teacher doesnt want to go the extra mile for their child. Understandable, this is our child and we want the best. But teachers cant do it all for all the kids. Just because they are a teacher doesnt mean they owe students/parents more than what they agreed to when they took the job. i dont think we expect most anyone else at that pay level to give up hours of their time each week, uncompensated. (Not to mention that most teachers are already paying for school supplies from their own pockets. I persnally know 7 teachers –from ny, fl, wa, and az –and all of them do it on a regular basis). If parents want more attention or tutoring or other educational aid for their child it is quite simply unfair (and a bit naive)to expect teachers to give it out of the goodness of their hearts for every parent that requests it.

      • Moana
        Moana says:

        As a former high school math teacher, I totally agree. I’d try to stay after school, but many of the kids who came for extra help were surly and rude or just wanting a place to talk with their friends, and I got so frustrated that I quit coming in. I was working 12-hour days for a paycheck that was half of what I make now as a private tutor with a reasonable schedule.

        I HATE when parents make snide comments about teachers not working hard enough. Heaven forbid the parents actually pay for tutoring help if the kid can’t learn the material in class. Or, you know, crack open a textbook themselves and learn something.

        • Jenn
          Jenn says:

          I have 4 school age children and I have home educating for 4 years.
          A large majority of the other children in our outside activities and sports are traditionally schooled children. So I spend quite a bit of time listening to the rants and raves of the parents and their opinions of teachers and the poor education their children are receiving. What I find the most interesting is the lack of problem solving and the emphasis on blame.
          Why aren’t the teachers doing this for me? Why isn’t the school providing this special service for me? I have even heard, “It’s their job to teach, not mine, that’s what they get paid for.”
          I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at this lack of personal responsibility, but I am. This is where these kids get their attitudes about their education and how it isn’t really their job to learn, it’s your job to pour education over their heads like a bowl of soup.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            I understand that these things happen. But real grievances also occur. Last year my daughter was in K at a highly coveted local school. The work they were doing was what she had done years before. I asked if she could get some more appropriate worksheets. I waited a month or two before asking again. I asked if she could just have a copy of their Singapore 1A to do during math. The social worker explained that the teacher wouldn’t have time to help her if she needed it. I gently pointed out that shouldn’t be a problem given that she had been evaluated at Singapore 1B 13 months earlier. Response–then what would she do next year?
            Answer–homeschool.

            I understand that some parents drop the ball and expect to do nothing but get their children to the bus and back. However, some of us try so very hard to not step on toes, avoid the word “bored” like the plague, and fawn over the staff about understanding how very, very busy they are and what can I do to help and end up working so hard not to be “that parent” that I ended up neglecting her education while fretting behind the scenes. Totally not worth it.

            And this is where some parents and children get the idea that school has nothing to offer them but a headache and a wasted day.

  4. kristen
    kristen says:

    How do you use My Learning Springboard.com in rural WI? I can see the other 2 are online tutoring but were you thinking of traveling to Chicago for that 1st one?
    Have you tried any online classes/tutoring yet?

    • scifi
      scifi says:

      I think this is a paid advertorial, rather than something drawn from her homeschooling life.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I actually know a lot about My Learning Springboard, and they didn’t pay me to write about them. It’s the company I turned to immediately when I first decided to homeschool. As with any high end service, if you pay enough money, they will work with you on a farm in Wisconsin.

        I subscribe to the newsletter just so I can see the cool things that people are doing for their kids. It’s a great newsletter.

        Penelope

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The comparison of worksheets used in a classroom of twenty or thirty kids as opposed to using them for homeschooling is not a fair one. One teacher with many kids is basically only going to be able to determine if the kid gets the right answer or not. The teacher will not know if say the kid understood 30% as compared to 80% of a concept or method presented in class. There most likely is no partial credit for showing the steps used to arrive at an answer. It’s either right or wrong because it would take too long to grade. And it is wrong, after all, even if the effort was made by the kid. So it’s not known what was learned and not learned in class for those answers that were wrong. It doesn’t send the best message because the kid knows he/she learned a few things and the worksheets were not able to measure it.
    However, if those same worksheets were used as a homeschooling aid, the results would be quite different. The parent would be able to detect what and how much is being learned. Other tools could be used. Questions could be framed differently. The stumbling blocks could be identified and addressed that would make it possible to get the right answer. The kid would feel a sense of accomplishment and be motivated to learn more. I think there’s a place for worksheets as part of learning. Some kids, as you say, are going to like them better than others. Maybe they could be viewed (as well as other curricula) to be similar to Wikipedia – a place to start and branch out from rather than a means to an end.

  6. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    The title doesn’t seem to fit the topic. Perhaps it should be “What if your child loves worksheets and you suck at math?”

    For the rest of us, the answers come easily enough: just teach your kids math. There’s no shortage of curricula available (I recommend Singapore). Eventually they get far along enough that they can start courses at community college or extension school.

    There’s only a problem with this if you are so innumerate you can’t explain the math or figure out whether the kid got the right answer. In that case, hiring somebody to pinch hit seems like a good choice.

  7. Jacky Tullier
    Jacky Tullier says:

    This discussion sums up what I think is part of the core of educational issues: there is no one answer. The choices aren’t black and white. My 12 year old daughter loves worksheets. We also provide her a math tutor twice a week because she is ready for “high school” math (whatever that means) and there is just no way we are qualified to teach it.
    My son is like me, math is not intuitive and we struggle with percents and decimals and fractions. For him we use a combination of resources as I talk about in my blog, http://wp.me/p2WAuj-7, but just this week, the tutor was helping us with one of the “worksheets” in the Guinness Book.
    And that worksheet showed me some weak areas to work on.
    I’ve always viewed worksheets as simply an aid-what part of the material do you understand and what part needs more work.
    Teachers are limited on their time resources because of demands our society has placed on them. So worksheeets can be a shortcut to moving to the next unit. And saying, “little johnny doesn’t understand percents, you should work with him more.”
    And that’s part of the reason we homeschool. Classroom teachers are limited in their time. The in home tutor is expensive but the one to one for our daughter is worth it. And he gives her work sheets but she has to solve the problems to answer the riddle.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a great way to look at school – that it’s a way to explore learning tools. Another argument for homeschooling, of course, because the world is full of tools for learning and classroom with a teacher/student ratio of 1:25 is very limited in terms of exploration of learning tools.

      Penelope

  8. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    Athena’s Advanced Academy offers an online course using the new Beast Academy 3rd grade math program.

    Beast Academy pairs a comic book format that is particularly “boy-friendly” with challenging math practice from the folks behind the Art of Problem Solving middle- and high-school math series. Right now only the 3rd grade books are out, but the 4th grade books are being written now and should be available later in the year.

    The Athena’s class is not within our family’s budget but certainly costs quite a bit less than hiring an individual tutor.

  9. sylvia
    sylvia says:

    As a tutor, I’ve found that my most important role goes beyond teaching specific material or skills. What my students and their parents find most valuable is my ability to increase self-confidence, awareness of strengths, and how to locate and use resources to improve one’s skills. (It’s helpful for a kid to know if worksheets are his/her resource/tool of choice.) It’s important to keep the “big picture” in mind when choosing a tutor or tutoring service.

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