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Homework worries? Help available

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Churches and other community groups are stepping in to help students who are struggling with homework.

Organizations such as Johnson County Learning Centers and Whiteland Church of Christ have started tutoring programs for students who need help with homework or studying for tests beyond what is available at school and at home.

Schools offer a range of help already, including peer tutoring, a homework hotline and the chance to work with teachers before and after school. And when parents ask Johnson County Learning Centers director Dawn Underwood where they can find tutoring for their children, she tells them to check with their school first.

But not every elementary, middle and high school has a way to provide an extra hour of tutoring each week.

Whiteland Church of Christ’s program started last year after youth group leaders Mickey and Angie McDaniel started looking for an outreach project for the church’s teens. Many of the church’s members have children at Break-O-Day Elementary School in New Whiteland who needed help with homework and other assignments. So the church’s youth group started providing help to any of the school’s first- through fifth-graders, according to Angie McDaniel and minister Ronnie Hewitt.

The church eventually started asking other members to volunteer for the program, so now when students come for help they could work with a high school student, a retired 84-year-old, an engineer, teacher or financial planner, McDaniel said.

“A little bit of everything age wise and a little bit of everything profession wise as well,” McDaniel said.

About 20 students from Break-O-Day and Whiteland Elementary School get help from the church’s volunteers, and elementary school students from other school districts can participate, as well, Hewitt said.

Johnson County Learning Centers typically has about 10 students from across the county working with tutors from Franklin College. The college students are all education majors who are recommended by their professors, Underwood said.

Underwood also wants to see the learning centers’ program expanded to ensure that more elementary, middle and high school students who need help in their classes receive it. If the number of students receiving assistance through program rises, the learning centers will find more tutors through the college, she said.

“We are prepared to take on a lot more students,” she said.

Some of the students working at the learning centers meet regularly with a Franklin College student throughout the school year, while others come for help before tests, Underwood said.

If a student’s parent approves, then the college tutor can contact the student’s teacher to get details on any difficulties the student is having in class. Underwood said parents are also encouraged to sit in on some of their child’s tutoring sessions so they can learn more about the lessons their child is trying to understand.

“Ultimately that would be our goal, that we can teach parents to work with their children in whatever area they’re struggling with,” she said.

But officials at Johnson County Learning Centers and Whiteland Church of Christ are concerned that not all families can afford the costs associated with other tutoring services. The church program is free. Parents of students seeking help from a Franklin College student will pay $15 per hour.

Another option for parents trying to reinforce their children’s math, reading and writing skills is the Sylvan learning center, where licensed teachers use assessments to see what lessons students understand and where they struggle before creating specific education plans for those students, director Shawn Sullivan said.

Lessons at Franklin’s Sylvan center start at about $45 per hour, and most families pay an average of about $100 per month, Sullivan said.

Find a tutor

Here are the details of some area programs that provide tutoring:

Johnson County Learning Centers

Who is eligible for the program: Any kindergarten through 12th-grade student from any local school district

Who are the tutors: Education majors from Franklin College

Where and when: Hourly session are available, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., Mondays through Thursday, 66 Water Street Arts Cafe in Franklin

Fees: $15 per hour; $75 for six hours; $145 for 12 hours

Sylvan Learning Centers

Who are the tutors: Licensed teachers

How it works: Students take an assessment that gauges what lessons and subjects they understand and which ones they can use help in. Sylvan teachers then create a detailed education plan

Fees: Begin at $45 an hour, but can vary by student. Average cost is $100 per month

Whiteland Church of Christ

Who is eligible for the program: First- through fifth-graders from area school districts

Where and when: Whiteland Church of Christ, 6720 U.S. 31 North, 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays

Fees: None

Who are the tutors: Volunteers from the church

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