Where Every Family Matters

Hire a “Homework Therapist” or Tutor?

Watch for the "red flags" when it comes to your child's drop in grades — she may need more help than you know.

The school year’s end is quickly approaching and some of your child’s grades aren’t so good. You monitor the school’s portal so you know his scores well (too well!) and now you’re feeling concerned. Only, be careful not to transfer the worry you feel about his performance to him. He already feels disappointment about any poor grade. A recent article suggests hiring "homework therapists," too. So, what's next? Hire a tutor or check out all the fuss over these "homework therapists?"

“The best way to help a child who feels unsuccessful in school is to give him opportunities for success outside of school,” says Teresa Flores, Ph.D., center director at Sylvan Learning Center in Murfreesboro. “Parents can also praise their children for positive academic behaviors. Even if they struggle in school, it is important to praise their efforts,” Flores adds.

But if the “red flags” are obvious (not doing homework, losing assignments, etc.) and your family’s schedule is crazy busy, some one-on-one attention from a tutor can work wonders. Sylvan offers tutoring as do several other local places. The Tutoring Center in Franklin features one-on-one instruction with structured guidance, for instance. Your child’s teacher may offer help, but there are often other students there, too, and one-on-one time is very limited with teachers. Perhaps the best thing to do is to e-mail your child’s teacher for suggestions. She can at least point out your child’s difficulties and help you know if tutoring is warranted.

“It’s important to talk with children and their teachers to get at the root of the issues to work on it,” says Flores. No matter what, make sure your child knows his school work must be a priority.

“Parents can encourage their children to be academic-minded by providing supplemental educational activities,” Flores says. “If parents emphasize and value education at home, the child is likely to be influenced by that.”   



  1. CHECKLISTS. Write down what’s needed for each day and check it off.
  2. CLUTTER. Once a week, clean out the locker, desk, backpack, etc.
  3. ROUTINE. Use a set time for school work, as much as possible with your other activities.
  4. CALENDAR. Write down all quizzes and tests & check your calendar daily.
  5. SUPPLIES. Have a spot for pencils, a sharpener, a hole punch, markers, pens, a ruler, etc.
  6. SPOT. Table or desk? Pick the spot and stick to it.
  7. PLAN. Develop the habit of knowing what you need for the next day the night before.
  8. SUPPORT. Accept gentle reminders to write things down, review checklists, etc.


Kids who don’t think they can do math are mistaken, says Bob McNamara, assistant center director at Mathnasium in Franklin. When a kid tries to tell him he’s not a math person, McNamara’s quick to respond. “I say, ‘You’re not a math person yet,’” McNamara says. “Any student can be a math person if given the confidence and opportunity to succeed. One of our mantras at Mathnasium is we make math ‘make sense,’” he adds.

McNamara also says it’s really helpful for parents to do math activities with their kids when they’re little to help them learn simple math functions. “It’s very important that parents are involved in preparing their children in the basics of math such as mastering simple operations and other math facts,” McNamara urges. “A strong foundation enables effective growth.”

Keep it playful with little kids and be careful at home not to say things like, “Our family’s never been good at math,” or “Girls aren’t good at math.” Commentary like that gives kids an escape from success, says McNamara. And, if your child doesn’t learn simple functions early on, it can create gaps that lead to frustration and lack of confidence. All kids need a math foundation to build on.

“So much of education is confidence and building on successes,” McNamara adds. “With the cumulative nature of math, a foundation is imperative.”

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