By Tracey Dowdy
Students in my neighborhood don’t go back to school until after Labor Day but my little friend Lydia started first grade the first Wednesday in August. No matter the start date, for most families back to school means a major change in routine and those first weeks can be as frustrating as eating soup with a fork. These apps can help you get everyone up to speed and back on track for the start of the new school year.
Several moms I know use care.com as their go-to for sitters and nannies, but they also use it in ways I hadn’t thought of. Since many of the families in my area are two-income homes, getting kids to and from after school activities is a challenge. That’s where care.com comes in. Users can find someone to drop off or pick up kids from school or soccer practice, hire a tutor, walk the dog, check in on your elderly parents, or even catch up on your laundry. They even offer services for families with special needs children. The app is free and the service starts at $39 a month. Caregivers rates will vary depending on experience and the service offered.
Teachers do their best but for many students, focused, one on one instruction is the difference between success and failure. Wyzant is an online database of expert tutors making “private tutoring accessible and affordable, in person and online.” Simply plug in the subject and your zip code and WyzAnt will bring up a list of potential tutors in your area. The list includes biographical information, education level and a photo. You can communicate with the tutor and review feedback from other users for free and even run a secure background check. You set the parameters – how often you want to meet, where, and at what time.
Search for help with virtually any subject: test prep, phonics, organic chemistry, art history, or even private music lessons. WyzAnt has tutors “within 10 miles of 93.7% of the US population” so chances are you can find one in your area, and online tutoring is also an option. Payments are made through WyzAnt after each session with most tutors charging between $30-$50 per hour, though keep in mind rates will vary based on factors such as education, experience, and the subject being tutored. Plus, WyzAnt promises a money back guarantee – they cover the cost of the first hour if you’re not 100% satisfied with your tutor.
Signup.com is a PTA parent’s dream. As a “coordination resource”, signup.com provides users with organizing tools for everything from field trips and fundraisers to volunteer schedules and collecting for teacher gifts. Sync the app with the website and you’ll be able to access your account and schedules across platforms. You can upload logos and photos, access over 1500 themes, create and send unlimited emails, announcements, and thank you notes, collect funds plus any other features essential for classroom volunteer management. Premium plans allow you to add waivers, virtual check in, custom URL’s and tracking of volunteer or participant hours. The basic service is free, premium starts at $9.99 a month, and the Campus Plan for K-12 is $99 a year.
Thirty-five million students, parents and teachers use Remind, a free messaging app that allows direct communication among parents, teachers and students without sharing phone numbers. Students do not see teachers’ phone numbers nor do teachers see theirs. Users create a profile that allows them to communicate with individuals or with groups via text messages – students without smartphones receive their messages via SMS. Granted, not all students have phones, but many do, so it’s easy to send reminders, schedule changes and keep up to date. The app is free for iOS and Android devices.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.